Today we are highlighting A Life Sustained sponsor Mary Zoom!
Mary Ellen sews sustainable accessories for adults, children, and the home out of recycled fabric.
In her words, "My name is Mary Ellen Coumerilh, and I love to make things. I live in a small town in very rural western Kansas - pioneer country. I am married to my high-school sweetheart, and we have two boys and six (yup, 6) grandchildren. We also have a cocker spaniel mix named Bosco. I guess you could say he is the family mascot."
Having grandkids is fun - It's like the big do over. Plus, I have 4 little girls that I can make cute and pretty things for, which I never got to do raising 2 boys. Sewing for girls is a lifelong dream come true.
My studio is in a little house that was built in 1910, which I am in the process of renovating. Of course, the first room I finished is my sewing room, which is in the front room. I put my sewing machine is in front of the window - that way I can watch the neighborhood go by as I sew. The house we live in is right next door, so all I have to do is walk a few steps and I am in heaven.
|"The sewing machine is my grandmother's, and it is sitting in the studio kitchen."|
Tell us about your journey to becoming an artist/maker of things.
I come from a family that has always fostered creativity, so the idea of being creative has always been normal for me. When I was 5, my grandmother helped me make my first doll dress. She also later taught me to embroider. My mom taught me to sew and by the 5th grade I was actually able to sew clothes that I could wear in public without too much embarrassment.
I continued sewing and when I was a sophomore in high school, I made my first "recycled" outfit, a pair of slacks remade from a brown wool tweed suit that my Dad no longer wore.
Sewing and making are just part of who I am and what makes me tick. I can't imagine a life without sewing. Sitting at the sewing machine, listening to the clickety-whirrr sound it makes and watching a creation take shape, is the best stress reliever I know.
What inspires you?
I find that I am most inspired by every day living, the humdrum stuff of life. My best designs and ideas seem to be those that I crafted to solve a problem or make life easier.
I am also inspired by the pioneer women who came here to Western Kansas. I personally know women who lived through the dust bowl days of the 1930s. Spending time with these women and listening to their stories of life on the farm, how they worked in the fields along side their husbands and how they built a home and a living from whatever was around, is very inspirational. These women used and reused everything!
Why is it important to you to use recycled materials in your work?
Our family has always been “sustainable” even before sustainable was the thing to be. I was never bored because my mom kept any paper that had a blank side in a box, and that was our drawing paper – no sketch pads for us! She also kept every scrap of fabric and that was my supply source for projects for quite a long time.
Using recycled materials in my work is a form of stewardship. A steward understands that he or she is taking care of something that doesn’t belong to them. It is the same way with me – While I live on this earth now, I feel that I am only borrowing it. I want to steward what is around me in a way that the generations who follow me will be able to enjoy their lives even more than I do now.
Tell us about your favorite piece in your shop and describe your process in making it.
My very favorite piece in my shop is the Pioneer Spirit necklace that is made from a vintage quilt. As I said, I am very inspired by the women who set up housekeeping as pioneers. I happened upon a tattered, authentic, vintage quilt that was handmade by one of these women. It was unusable as a quilt, but once it was washed (although the pieces were torn and frayed) I knew the quilt could still be used for something! It sat around in my studio for about a year until realized I could mount little pieces on the back of a glass tile to make a necklace.
The picture on which the necklace is displayed is cropped from an original glass negative of a photograph of a young pioneer woman dressed in her finest, standing in front of her soddy. See the determination in this young
woman's face? Women like these inspire me!
Mary Ellen is generously giving to one lucky A Life Sustained reader a children's art smock! Every eco-friendly smock is a repurposed cast-off shirt or blouse that has been redesigned into a children's art smock. Only 100% linen or cotton shirts are used. They are sturdily constructed and are designed to take the wear and tear that any budding young artist can inflict. They close at the neck with hook and loop tape, so your child can put them on and take them off "all by myself".
To enter the random drawing to win, just leave a comment on this post.
Get two additional entries! First, you can Follow A Life Sustained through Google Friend Connect and second, you can add Mary Zoom to your favorites on Etsy.
Be sure to leave a comment for each "extra" so that they can be counted. Comments will be closed and a winner will be chosen in the evening of October 15.
And the lucky winner is...ImpossiblyAlice!
"I love the smocks! My toddler is just about ready for the fun and messy art stage!"
Thank you Mary Zoom!