Seize The Day


Seize The Day.  We have all heard that saying a million times, but what does it really mean in our lives?  For some of us it might mean to really be present.  For others it may mean reaching higher, running faster, or working harder to make a dream come true.  For me, seizing the day is about making each day count while moving closer to my crazy compelling vision of the future.  This vision of the future includes relationships filled with love, work that creates a positive impact, creating art that brings beauty to the world, inspiring myself and others, traveling to amazing destinations, laughing 'till it hurts, communing with nature by growing and nurturing plants, conversations that uplift me, developing my spiritual side more, music that moves me, adventures that amaze me, and fully embracing the every day simple moments that create lasting memories.  Crazy…. probably.  Compelling…. definitely.  That's how I plan to Seize The Day.  How will you?

P.S.  The original 8x10 of this is still available on my website.  So are matted prints.  Come check them out!


August 09, 2015 by Mary Sterk

New Art & A New Website (plus a special discount for YOU)!

I'm so excited to unveil our new website at!  We have been working hard to create a site full of visual interest, explosions of color, and ways to get inspirational art right into your hands.  And I'm pleased to announce that it's finally ready!  To celebrate I am offering 20% off all orders from now thru August 1st.  Just use this code at your checkout - SXO4ETGQAUIM  You can even use it on brand new art that has never been see before - like the piece above, Create A Happy Life.

Create A Happy Life was born out of an art journaling experiment.  I love working in my journals and often create rings that I think are "canvas worthy"….but they are in the middle of a journal!  So I have begun playing with the idea of 3 layers of creation for one color palette.  I find the materials I want to use and do an art journal spread in my own journal, a similar one in a journal that I will eventually sell, and a canvas in the same color palette.  The result has been fantastic and fun…and has created this beautiful vintage looking piece above.

I hope it inspires you to Create A Happy Life!  Come on over to my website and check out the new and featured art, along with your old favorites.  Don't forget to use your discount code!!


My Little Art Corner In The Big Apple

A Just Mary Designs solo show in New York!  Who would have thought that one day I would be sitting in my studio in South Dakota reminiscing about my art show in New York City!


The day started out with a long anticipated meet up with the amazing Sydney Stone of Stylaphile, the sponsor of my show.  Finally meeting face to face was so fun, and let me tell you - she is even more fabulous in person!  

I packed up my art boxes and we headed to the Caelum Gallery in Chelsea to get things set up for the show.  It was so fun to walk into the space, scope out the layout, and then begin to arrange the art.  Sydney's husband, Carlos, helped hang the art and then arranged the lighting so that each piece was strategically lit beautifully!


By 6:30 we were ready to roll with champagne, white wine and dozens of bite size cupcakes Baked By Melissa - delicious little morsels that are all the rage in the city.


 Our first guest happened to see the sign outside the gallery, and to our delight enjoyed the art and visiting for quite some time!  As the night progressed we had as steady stream of people peruse the art and enjoy the exhibition.  I even was fortunate enough to sell a few pieces!


The most amazing part of it all, however, was not the show itself.  It was not the excitement of traveling to the big city and being fortunate enough to share my work in an up and coming gallery.  It wasn't even the making of a new friend in Sydney.  The most amazing part of the show was the likemindedness of the people who gathered that night.  These people were here to celebrate body positivity.  To encourage the world to embrace our bodies - curvy & thin alike - just the way we are.  One guest commented several times about how delighted he was to see such uplifting and inspiring messages in art, and that positive themes were not what he was used to in the art community.  What I walked away with Saturday night was more than just an awesome show on my art resume, I walked away knowing that we had made an impact.  That we had brightened a small corner of a big, big city.  That we had brought a bit of beauty and positivity into an often jaded and cynical world.  For one night, my art lit up a gallery in New York City.  And I hope the memory of it shines forever!


 (To find these images check out my Body Fab-YOU-lous Collection!)

Special Announcement - Just Mary Designs Is Heading To New York!!!

Exciting news my friends!!  I have been invited to do a solo show in a pop up gallery in NEW YORK CITY!  I can barely contain my enthusiasm!
the New York City debut
of Mary Sterk’s “Body Fab-YOU-lous” artwork
SATURDAY, JULY 11TH | 6:30 – 9:00 PM
The Caelum Gallery in Chelsea
508 West 26th Street, Suite 315
Champagne | Wine | Refreshments
I hope you can join us if - and if so please rsvp!
How did this come about you ask? I would have to say thru the power of like minded folks who connect on the internet.  Several years ago, the amazing Sydney Stone, owner of Stylaphile reached out after finding my art on-line.  We realized that creating body positivity was a passion for both of us - mine thru art and hers thru fashion.  And so an on-line friendship was born!  You can read Sydney's fabulous guest post here that she wrote for my blog.  This past spring, Sydney reached out to inquire as to if I would be interested in doing a solo show in New York sponsored by her company Stylaphile.  My answer wasn't just yes - it was Hell Yes!
Here is the full press release - and some thoughts about art that inspires!
Mary Sterk’s Body Fab-You-Lous Art to Debut at Chelsea Gallery on July 11th June 22, 2015 New York, NY.   Stylaphile, a popular fashion blog that encourages women to love and accept their bodies, is sponsoring body-positive artist Mary Sterk’s first gallery showing in New York City. The one-night only exhibition will be held on Saturday, July 11th from 6:30–9:00 pm at the Caelum Gallery in Chelsea, 508 West 26th Street, Suite 315.
Mary Sterk, owner of Just Mary Designs, is a mixed media artist from Dakota Dunes, SD. Her work is a colorful explosion of paint, ink, collage, photography and inspirational text. Mary’s many collections of art can be found on-line at
Stylaphile creator and editor-in-chief Sydney Stone became a fan of Sterk’s artwork a few years ago after the two connected online. “Mary’s Body Fab-YOU-lous artwork speaks to women and reminds them that they are not a number on a scale…they are so much more, “ stated Stone.
“I want my work to inspire people to believe that a brighter future is possible. My Body Fab-YOU-lous line was born as I wanted something beautiful to inspire my own journey towards body acceptance and self love. I believe this art line will resonate with any woman struggling with body image or weight challenges, and inspire them to find peace within themselves at any shape and size. In finding and believing in our own beauty, we create space for amazing things to happen in our lives!” says Sterk.
Having suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager, Stone created Stylaphile ( as a way to deal with the dichotomy of loving fashion and trying to love her body at the same time. “The fashion and advertising industry are still sending a negative message to women that they have to look a certain way and be a certain size,” says Sydney. “I want to change that message. I want to help women see themselves in a different light, and I believe Mary’s art does a great job of that.”
July 01, 2015 by Mary Sterk

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

Come one, Come All!

It't that time of year - time for another amazing local art show at the Benson Building in Sioux City, Iowa!  Join us April 24th from 5-9 as 9 talented artists open their studios for one great night.  Come enjoy the art, snacks and wine.  Take home your favorite piece!  We have a variety of painters, stitch artists, photographers and even a filmogropher! Burner Show 2015 Spring Poster
April 12, 2015 by Mary Sterk

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!!