Strong Women

Strong Women Strong Women

Strong Women - we all know some.  We all love one…. or more.  A strong woman can move mountains.  She can accomplish things that blow your mind.  She can be the CEO of a company, and tuck a little child into bed after scaring away the monsters in the closet.  A strong woman can be your best friend, your biggest advocate, and the backbone of your family.  She will tell you the truth - in a loving way - even if it hurts.  A strong woman knows how to be tough AND tender.  She might drive you crazy, she might boss you around, but she will always have your back. We want to raise our daughters to be strong women.  We want them to know that anything is possible and everything is achievable.  We want our daughters to know when to back down and to know when to take a stand.  We want our daughters to command respect, and to respect themselves enough to demand the right treatment from their partners, bosses and friends. This piece was commissioned last year by a dear friend of mine.  It was a gift for a strong woman in her life who had made a tremendous difference to her.  Just like in the paining, I raise my glass to the strong women out there "Here's to strong women - may we be one and may we know how to raise one!". P.S. - Look for details soon on a solo pop up show in New York City July 11 featuring Just Mary Designs Body Fab-YOU-lous line!!

June 13, 2015 by Mary Sterk

Fabric Journals? Fabulous!

Fabric Journal Cover Fabric Journal Cover

Last fall I took a class on how to make fabric journals.  I was hooked before the first hour was even up!  I learned some very interesting tips and tricks along the way that I will share in this post. IMG_1573 IMG_1574

First, we chose a color scheme.  The instructor of the class was all about vintage looks and color, so I thought I would give that a try.  It was actually a challenge for me, as I normally gravitate towards bright splashes of vibrant color.  But I soon found that the muted tones of the vintage look were soothing, and began to enjoy playing with the creams, tans, pinks and pale blues. IMG_1575 IMG_1576

The beginning of the process is about selecting the fabric or papers for the pages of your book.  A useful tip is to vary the size and the type of "page" you are using.  I chose felt, canvas, watercolor paper, tissue paper and cloth to make pages.  Our instructor cautioned against having me than 5 separate pages (makes 20 half pages) as your book will get quite thick.  Being a consummate rule breaker, I had to do a few more…. and later learned that she was right!  Once you have chosen the substances for your pages, it is fun to vary the size of them - little pages nestled into bigger pages creates a lovely visual effect.

IMG_1577 IMG_1578

The next step is to begin building the pages.  I gathered my lovely stash of vintage looking ephemera and went to town.  The most common building blocks of pages were lace, burlap, ledger papers, music, pretty scraps of paper and ribbons.  The fabric journals are so fun, because you can sew much of the design right into the books.  There is a trick to this though…. and it is planning your pages.  If you sew onto one side of the page, when you flip it the sewing will be on the reverse side.  That may be an element that you want to see, or it may be something you wish to hide.  If you want to hide it, you can sew your ephemera together, and then glue it down to the page, covering the existing sewing. IMG_1579 IMG_1580

I had fun adding some personal touches - like a check that my grandmother had written to me over 20 years ago.  I also added in birth announcements and fun little envelope pockets like the one above to store special mementos inside of. IMG_1581IMG_1582

Many of the pages have blank spaces in which to journal.  I added these journaling blanks throughout the book so it COULD be used as a journal.  I knew this one would be a book that I kept so I felt comfortable adding in my personal memorabilia and will add the journaling that is significant to certain events that happened in my life. IMG_1583 IMG_1584

On pages that were made from watercolor paper, I did a soft wash of vintage colors on them.  I also stenciled in soft patterns to add to the visual interest of the piece. IMG_1585

See how the smaller page nestles nicely into the larger page?  How fun!  Look at the white circle on the page above - that is actually a wax seal.  I dropped hot white wax onto the book and sealed it with a metal tool.  After sewing on, or gluing on my main elements I often added additional 3-d type of embellishments like brads, buttons, and metal ephemera.  This gave the book some heft as well as some additional layers of texture to enjoy. IMG_1586IMG_1587

This final page above has a butterfly attached to a bookmark I created to stick right into the paper pocket I had crafted.  Below is the back cover of the book.  After compiling all of the pages, I cut 3 small holes for a binding and bound it with heavy embroidery thread.  I hope you enjoyed learning about how I made this fun and fabulous fabric journal, and that the pictures brought a bit of beauty into your world! IMG_1588

All Geared Up...

Gears Gears

It's kind of fun to play with some new things, and the last two paintings I have done included gears!    I like the way they look on a canvas.  It makes me think about time passing and the mechanics of things working together.  Here is a close up of those lovely gears. IMG_0071 Playing with texture has become a hobby of mine.  I love it when a painting makes you want to reach out and touch it.  If there is enough texture, I think it draws the viewer in… makes you want to just graze the top of it with your fingertips. This next piece also features some gears, and it got me to thinking about how our minds work.  How the gears in our minds go round and round.  We can gear up for good thoughts and great lives.  Or we can gear down for depressing thoughts and loose the joy in life.  I certainly prefer the former!  And that is what this piece is all about.  These are the thoughts I hope that inhabit your mind!

The Gears In Your Mind The Gears In Your Mind

And of course, the close up for you! IMG_0078   Makes you want to reach out and touch - right?  Both of these pieces are available for sale.  Just click the links on the pictures to find them. I wish you a fabulous day and hope that the gears in your life are all turning in the right direction!!

Got Wanderlust?



Is your soul yearning to travel? Do you want to take an adventure to paint in the streets of Paris, wander thru the ruins of the Parthenon, or stand at the foot of the pyramids? Let your spirit fly free with this beautiful painting as it transports you to the world that is beckoning. I must admit to having been bitten by the travel bug many years ago.  I have gone on long journeys to Australia & New Zealand.  I have cruised down the coast of Italy.  I have painted in outdoor cafes on the streets of Paris.  I even converted a slice of my hotel room in Hawaii into a mini art studio.  To me, travel is as essential as breathing.  It's an escape, and adventure, an uncovering of what the world has to offer.  And…. it's just plain fun!

Me - painting in Paris!

Me - painting in Paris!

This 8x10 painting is heavily textured, using metals, fibers, papers, fabric and cardboard. You will want to reach out and touch it!

Here are some fun close ups

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May your travels take you on many beautiful adventures!

July 22, 2014 by Mary Sterk

Getting Excited About Surtex!

Marketing Postcard It's less than two weeks away - the largest Art Licensing Trade Show of the year - Surtex!!  I will be packing my bags and heading to the Big Apple to see if any of my designs would be a good fit to go on products you might find in the store.  This marketing piece I did above shows you how some of my designs might be used - from bathroom products to baby clothes! I will be debuting a new line there - The Delicious Line.  It's full of fabulous food!  I will also be bringing designs from the Body Fab-YOU-lous Line and my personal favorite, the Paris Line.  Wish me luck!  Who knows - in a few months you might find a purse or a kitchen towel or a make up bag from Just Mary Designs sitting on the shelf of a store near you!!

Sisterhood Is Timeless

Sisterhood Is Timeless Sisterhood Is Timeless

Sisterhood Is Timeless. No matter how old you get, or how far apart your lives take you, a sister is always there in your heart.  I have two incredible sisters - one in Chicago and one Boston.  Many miles separate us, but the ties of sisterhood run deep and strong.  I have learned incredible courage and resilience from my sister who battled cancer and won.  I have learned to open my heart to a new level of spirituality and inner growth from my sister who demonstrates living that way in her every day life.  And I hope that they have learned something from me.  As little girls we played together, fought with each other and grew into our individual selves.  As adults we developed our own families, pursued meaningful work, and grew to appreciate each others individuality.  As sisters, we will forever be tied together in our hearts. I hope this piece inspires the nostalgia of the older days combined with the vibrant color of today's life. May it remind you and your sisters of the love you carry for each other through the years.

My First Art Show!

Ready for a show! Ready for a show!

November 1st marked a momentous occasion for me - my first Art Show!  Here is my story….and the amazing lesson I learned from it! IMG_1466   About 6 months ago I took some space in the Benson Building - a fantastic older building in downtown Sioux City.  There are 9 artists with studio space there - and each fall and spring they band together to do a group show, the Benson Burner. The Body Fab-YOU-lous Collection The Body Fab-YOU-lous Collection[/caption] I spent lots of time getting ready for the show, even recruiting a friend with gallery experience to help me group and hang the work!  (Thanks Amy R!)   Waiting in the wings to be finished! Waiting in the wings to be finished!

The big night finally arrived, and I was ready with some delicious food and lots of good wine! Yum and yum! Yum and yum!

I was very excited - over 300 people came thru the studio during the show.  What a thrilling experience for someone who first picked up a paintbrush three short years ago. Some of my early work Some of my early work[/caption] I sold 9 paintings during the show.  I wish their new owners continued beauty and that they bring you joy!One of my wall groupings One of my wall groupings

Here is what I learned from this show… anything is possible.  I've been a left brained numbers kind of girl for a very, very long time.  3 years ago I listened to the little whispers in my head that would talk to me while looking at art.  They whispers said "You could do that….you just don't know how."  So I learned how.  And I did it.  And if I can do it, anyone can.  It simply takes a willingness to listen, and a fearlessness to take some action.  You all have that in you.  I do - and it led me to an amazing art show and the faith that anything - ANYTHING! - is possible!Part of the Travel Collection Part of the Travel Collection

November 23, 2013 by Mary Sterk

Trust Your Own Wisdom...

[caption id="attachment_1079" align="aligncenter" width="994"]Trust Your Own Wisdom Trust Your Own Wisdom[/caption]   All too often we doubt our own self, our own intution, our own internal wisdom. We tend to think someone else will have the answers - and seek advice from friends, family, experts or gurus.  It's so easy to just assume that we don't know the next step or the right answer.  But we do. Real wisdom comes from deep inside.  It is a mix of the experiences and knowledge that we have gained along the way.  It's not always easy to trust it - in fact it is much easier to look for answers outside of ourselves.  Often times that is simply so that we have someone else or something else to blame if things don't go right. When I need to know an answer or determine a direction - when I am unsure of my next step - I find a quiet space and simply sit with the idea or question.  I let it roll around in my mind.  Perhaps I will meditate, or maybe journal.  When I hear an answer, sometimes I like it and sometimes I don't.  But I always know that I can trust it. This painting is a lovely reminder that all of the answers are found right inside of you - its time to trust your own wisdom!

She Is Becoming....

[caption id="attachment_1046" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]She Is Becoming She Is Becoming
Prints Available Here[/caption] She Is Becoming.... Every woman lives through her own transformational journey. She grows, she changes, she becomes the best version of herself.  I have been on my own journey - changing and developing as I find my way within the world of art and creativity.  Sometimes this change is welcome and joyful, and sometimes it is challenging and painful.  But I do believe that all change leads towards the life we are desiring.  Often the path there is twisty and turny and different than what we imagined, but the journey itself is filled with moments of exquisite love, happiness and enchantment. When this painting developed into a butterfly, I knew it would become a painting about change.  The day I added the woman in the center of it, I knew it would be about transformation.  I had so much fun selecting the words on this - thinking of all of the things a woman thinks about as she grows into herself.  She thinks about beauty, grace, and fashion.  She feel sexy, alluring, and bold.  Chic and sassy are part of her makeup - and stepping into her vibrancy is so empowering.  I also had fun playing with the title.  She is Becoming.... something new.  And the word becoming also means beautiful.  A fun and inspiring little play on words. I hope she inspires you as you become the best version of yourself on your own journey!    

I'll Never Forget That I Love You

[caption id="attachment_1010" align="aligncenter" width="1000"]I'll Never Forget That I Love YouPrints Available Here I'll Never Forget That I Love You
Prints Available Here[/caption] "I'll Never Forget That I Love You" I was asked to create a piece for the upcoming Alzheimer's Association Wine & Chocolates Auction.  They told me their slogan for the night was "I'll never forget that I love you".  What powerful words.  I hope I did them justice. These eternal words inspired me to paint a piece depicting enduring love despite the loss of precious memories that are stolen when someone has Alzheimers. My goal with this painting was to convey the sharpness of the mind by altering the features in the face..... sharp features - sharp memories..... faded features - faded memories. I added words on her shirt to remind us that those with this disease may not be harshly suffering, they often have very tranquil hearts and light, flowering spirits. I have added letters, music & butterflies to the background. Letters and words are some of the first things a person learns. Every life has a score of beautiful music that winds through it's many stages and ages. Finally, the butterflies are there to show that as one stage of life ends, all of us may emerge into a new and lovely place where our soul can fly free. The softly blended heart between the two shows the love that is shared, now and forever. My hope is that this piece brings peace to your soul and a smile to your face while you remember the best part about loving your special someone who is challenged by Alzheimer's or Dementia.  Never forget that you love them.