“I’m delighted to say my jewelry and three paintings have been accepted into the new clothing and art gallery, Michael’s on the Boulevard on St. Armands,” wrote Marcia Louise in a text she sent me after a recent interview. “This feels like the best news of my life…other than having a baby!”
Born in Rockville Center, Long Island, NY and a lifelong resident of the state, Marcia Louise, a jewelry designer, artist and instructor, experienced a divorce and health issues that made her long-time wish of relocating to the Gulf and warm weather a wise decision. Like so many of us, this is ‘paradise’ after fighting the bitter winters up north, particularly if you’re reaching retirement years and the aches and pains that come with it. And, she said, “my first memory of childhood was of an ocean wave…I love the sand, salt, sun… I’m just so happy to be here.”
Why are so many artists and alternative healing types attracted to this area? Some say they’re drawn to something in the sand – the quartz has healing qualities, as does the salt water. For Marcia, who has been collecting unusual gems and rocks for decades in order to craft her jewelry, it was the resort-like environment of Anna Maria Island that captured her interest during a vacation here and made her think she could easily sell her wire wrapped sculpture jewelry on the island. After all, she was doing well in two consignment shops in Syracuse, NY. It had to be even better here, she thought. And after two years as a Bradenton resident, things are starting to percolate for Marcia, not without all of the twists, turns and adjustments people must make in establishing themselves in a new community.
Marcia, age 64, recalls having a passion for art when she was about 10 years old, doing paint by numbers and making sculptures with clay. “I always loved tactile creative work…even cutting out paper dolls, which was big in the 50’s.” While her parents discouraged her from pursuing art as a career, she did later delve into it in New York. She took courses at age 20 at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. She lived with and studied art for seven years with Walter Velez, a commercial illustrator who studied anatomical illustration from Burne Hogarth (known for his syndicated Tarzan Sunday comics for more than a decade).
“That really woke up my desire to be an artist. I was obsessed just watching Walter,” Marcia recalled. She took business courses and became his sales rep, lugging his portfolio to galleries and he worked for Essence, CBS Records, Random House and today specializes in Sci-Fi book covers. “He came up in the Village with Pollock and William de Koonig…I was in awe of him, and for myself, at that time, didn’t really have the confidence to call myself an artist.”
Marcia took a job at Syracuse University as an administrative and editorial assistant, partially because working there meant she could take free classes. She took every art related class she could, including painting, ceramics, art history, poetry and creative writing. She submitted one of her first pieces to “On My Own Time, a corporate-sponsored art event that enabled the employees of the corporations to display their work. “It was encouraging, and fun to get to know other people doing art.”
Marcia continued to paint from home and married at age 38; had her “late life miracle” son Vincent Gottfried at age 42; came down with fibromyalgia in 2000 and was struggling even with demands of painting – set up and prepping – and wanted to pursue jewelry design which didn’t require as much out of her physically. She took a bead stringing course with Jackie Meadows in 2005 and was on her way to designing jewelry. She poured herself into Preston Rauther DVDs (a master wire sculpture artist) to master her wire wrapping technique and was literally hooked.
After making gifts for friends, acquiring thousands of dollars of unique and unusual gem stones, beads and supplies, she now has turned her sights to getting serious about selling her art. And as with most any artist you talk to, she said, “It’s so difficult to take your own work into a shop and say, ‘isn’t this beautiful?’”
She has also continued her acrylic painting and pastels in smaller scale, and as fate would have it, her paintings are selling at Cedar Reef Fish Camp in Venice where they decorate the walls. “That kind of cemented my conviction that I am an artist. I’ve always been an artist. And ‘the plan’ is to make money at it…I have much to learn about the business end of it.”
In addition to landing a spot in Michael’s on the Boulevard on St. Armands, Marcia was recently accepted into the juried show of Art Center Manatee members for her “Sea Farer” sea turtle painting. She also teaches her wire wrapping jewelry design classes at the Art Center where students learn to make pendants, rings, bracelets and earrings.
“In a seven-session course, you progress from advanced to intermediate,” Marcia said. “It’s a medium that anyone can learn, no matter what level of creative ability. I like it because it relies heavily on hand manipulation…it doesn’t rely on soldering and you use very few tools.” Her next class sessions start May 6 and another July 5 at Art Center of Manatee.
Marcia’s goals are to continue to seek galleries and shops to carry her jewelry and paintings and to create series of her acrylics and pastels, such as tropical fish and sea creatures including mermaids and starfish. Her style is “animated realism with a touch of whimsy.” Her inspiration comes from nature.
“We see beauty and we want to recreate it,” Marcia said. “We limit ourselves by trying to reproduce it exactly…that stifles creativity.” She went on to explain, “We learned from Renaissance artists…art today is accepted as a personal expression and personalized style isn’t necessarily photographic realism.”
In giving advice to others wanting to become an artist, she said, “Don’t try to force yourself into a mold. How you move a brush or a pencil is the result of your personal nervous system. I believe artists can use many mediums to express their creativity…one builds on another.”
She continued, “Art is tremendously healing – when you’re creating you’re in a type of meditative state. In that freedom from stress, it allows your body to heal.”
Marcia’s work can be viewed at Michaels on the Boulevard, 24 N. Boulevard of the Presidents; at Art Center Manatee in Bradenton; at Cedar Reef Fish Camp in Venice; and under “Sterling and You” on Facebook and Etsy. Call her for information on purchasing, consigning or commissioning her work in acrylics, pastels, or wire wrapped sculpture jewelry at 315-243-8088. Or email at sterlingandyou @ gmail.com.
Photos by Patti Pearson