You know, I don’t actually remember when I first met Mary Ann Crago. Usually, I recall how I first met the artists that I interview but there have been so many times that I have talked to or seen her art, that I can’t pinpoint our initial meeting. I do know that when I first joined CAW, she was a member and that was one of my first chances to see her unique work. Then she had a solo show at Tacocat and I was smitten!!! From there, we connected and I bought one of her magnets (‘badass’!!) at Oakland Nursery and then to her open studio sale a little over a year ago (got another piece there and saw her adorable little backyard studio. We’ve been in touch since then and, finally, I’m able to feature her in my blog!!! YAY!!!
She says she’s always been a creative sort. Recently, her mom returned a plastic tub of drawings and schoolwork to her from her childhood. It’s been fun and odd for her looking through that stuff as it seems like she’s looking at it for the first time, like a stranger’s stuff but it’s hers..LOL. ‘I made that.’ It’s both intriguing and overwhelming. She loved drawing and remembers watching her sister draw. She loved looking through her sketchbooks filled with charcoal drawings of horses. That led to a love of art throughout school. Then in high school she was strongly encouraged by my art teacher and that led to applying for scholarships.
Mary Ann grew up here in Columbus where eventually she won those scholarships in high school to help her attend The Columbus College of Art and Design. She majored in Fine Arts after a little soul searching and a few heart to hearts with instructor mentors at the time (Tolstedt and Kortlander). In the beginning I thought I’d do something practical like be an illustrator (ha!) or something and over time with encouraging words from those older and wiser I came to the conclusion that I what I should do is be true to myself and in doing that, I would not be an illustrator. I sucked at that and I did not like it. At the end of my 5 years, my thesis show was a collection of non-traditional landscape inspired watercolors that explored color, texture and simple contemporary design.
She left CCAD with a Bachelors in Fine Arts. She says she appreciates and understands that education way more now as an adult artist than she did as a young art school student. Some of it stuck and revealed itself again when she could relate… I am so grateful for that education.
Along the way, she worked at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Starting as a shelver at the end of high school and gradually working her way up and through various positions and branches.Eventually, she went back to school via a satellite program with Kent State to earn a Master’s in Library Science. Twenty six years later, here she still is… independent artist and Youth Services Manager at Columbus Metropolitan Library!
When asked to categorize her art, she stated that she thinks her work and experience is constantly building and expanding on itself in ways she never could have predicted. Over the years, she’s explored drawing, painting, watercolor, jewelry making, collage, fabric piecing and basic quilting just like so many other artists. Each time she tries something new or follows a new path, she thinks she comes closer to her true creative self and the work she’s meant to make. My works are intimate finely crafted mixed media assemblages that combine (carefully curated and collected) found objects, photos, text, paint, and hand-sculpted stitched parts and pieces. They are a culmination of past creations, experiments and experiences. They move me and have been described as soulful and that is amazing to hear and very fitting. The process of making them is both meditative and enlightening. The products are that of love. They are my babies. Recurring themes include strong female protagonists, birds & animals and guardians.
All the things. The desire to learn, grow and to be better, experimentation, viewing other artists’ process, spaces & work, nature, objects long forgotten, abandoned or discarded, words, music, loved ones (here and gone), beautiful late afternoon light, big blue spring & fall skies, good design, freedom and caretakers of her work…people who love it so much that they want to live with it every day (that humbles her as well and drives her to keep going).
She hasn’t learned anything formal as far as new techniques.Instead, she’s constantly exploring and pushing herself to experiment. Recently, she overcame awkward feelings towards her sewing machine (‘seriously, we’re friends now’) and a jigsaw. All techniques post college have come through experimentation, library books (surprise, surprise!!)and accidents and she’s pretty sure that pattern will continue.
Over the years since graduation, she’s had gallery representation at various times but she’s enjoyed choosing to go solo for the last 4-5 years.She particularly likes being in the driver’s seat and usually participates in 4-8 one day shows and/or festivals a year while also selling independently from that cute home studio.
Mary Ann’s studio
In the last few years she’s also had a couple of pretty amazing accolades: won Best Emerging Artist – Columbus Arts Festival 2015 and Best of Show – Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival 2014. Well-deserved!
Friend and neighbor, Allison, helping with studio sale
To end this year, Mary Ann will be taking part in a couple of shows: Craftin’ Outlaws Holiday Fair; December 10th, 12-5, Greater Columbus Convention Center and CCAD Winter Art Sale; December 3rd, 11-2, CCAD Loann Crane Center for Design.
See a brief description of her work and process here:
Something new for Craftin’ Outlaws!!
Contact info for readers:
My very own piece of Mary Ann’s work!