Happy Birthday, Mom!

karen mom and meMy mom was a cooking and sewing teacher.  After graduating college, she worked in our hometown as the high school’s home economics teacher.  She couldn’t have been much older than her students and, newly married, she must have gotten a kick out of them calling her “Mrs. —–“. She worked there for two years, then stayed home to raise her five children for another 15 years.  My mom continued to sew, and cook, of course.  My father, the sole provider then, was no good in the kitchen (although he can cook a mean pasta sauce now).  She made a lot of my clothes when I was little, and all of our Halloween costumes (a tradition I have continued).  She was always a good cook, but I remember her baking the best.  My brother once told me he could always count on a few extra dollars on the days Mom packed cookies in his lunch because he would sell them to kids in his class.


#13 1976 colonial girl #12  Me in dress 1973 #11 Bill and I Christmas outfits 1979

When I was 13, my mom returned to work this time as our town’s middle school Home Ec. teacher.  She would eventually wind up teaching the children of that first round of students she taught. 🙂  My mom was voted favorite teacher that first year by my class — an award she would get countless times over in her career.  She was a good teacher; patient, kind, attentive.  Often a student’s first experience in the kitchen would be with my mom.  When I first got on Facebook and touched base  with some of those friends from middle school, they would inevitably ask after my mom.  Some told me they still use her chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Mom had to retire in 2003 after contracting a very rare disease that effected her spinal cord.  She’s been in a wheelchair since.  A lot of people, when faced with a life altering illness, change who they are and their responses to the world around them.  My mom lives with pain every day, but she still somehow manages to be the same person.  She is an inspiration to those who know her — living a life of faith and love.

This woman who inspired countless others has of course inspired me.  I, too, got a degree, worked in my field, then walked away from my career to raise my children.  As my mother before me,  I sewed and cooked for them and my husband (but Terry’s cooking has always been better than mine!)  And as hard as it was, I can’t regret that sacrifice because I know what it meant for me to always have my mom there. As she still is.  Her encouragement of my artwork knows no end.  When I have setbacks, she reminds me that many famous artists are rarely recognized in their lifetime.  {Like I could ever be famous! –but what faith in me!}

For her birthday this year I created my rendition of naturalist John Audubon’s painting, The Greenshank. The building in the background is of particular interest to my folks.  It’s the Castillo De San Marcos — a 17th century fort constructed by the Spanish when they occupied Florida.  It is in St. Augustine, their adopted hometown.  I sent it down with my husband and daughter, who were visiting in time for her birthday this year.  Within a day the folks had it mounted on the wall in their condo. 🙂

full sized quiltGreenshank image



I have always loved the process of transforming pieces of fabric into quilts. For years I collected scraps, just to be sure I'd have the right piece for the project at hand. Eventually, as my skills progressed, my hobby grew into art. I moved from simple quits, to 'landscape quilting' and then eventually onto portrait work. I am new to the art field and am self-taught, learning from my mistakes as well as from my successes. I create my images using only fabric and thread. I remain true to this limitation for two reasons; first, I love the challenge of finding new ways to depict ever more challenging subjects. Second, fabric work remains my true love. I enjoy the hunt for fabrics; where other artists might blend oil paints, I love finding that perfect shade or pattern for a specific need. I refer to my style as "gestalt impressionism" for one needs to take a step back from my pieces to get the whole picture. My view point changes by what is influencing me at the time. Recently I've begun to focus on the journey of the individual. I enjoy working on portraits of people whom I feel have lead interesting lives.

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Posted in Art Quilts
5 comments on “Happy Birthday, Mom!
  1. Betty Harris says:

    Ahh, Mary, your work is beautiful! And your mother sounds an extraordinary woman. You are blessed to still have her. Love and blessing to you and the family.

  2. Lisa Duff says:

    patient, kind and attentive- this is how i think of your mom as well. happy birthday mom joyce! what a beautiful tribute, mary. you and your mom have always meant one thing to me- LOVE.

  3. Karen says:

    Oh Mary! You have me crying here. I love you and Mom so much! Very nice work and very nice words. xoxox

  4. Mom says:

    Thank you Mary. We are so proud of you!Love.

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