Our Interview with Mary, age 23, Michigan
By Kristen, age 19, Massachusetts
& Stephanie Lynn, age 24, Massachusetts
Mary Winkler's successful Etsy business, perhaps better known as Acrylicana, sells everything from cupcake cell phone charms with faces on them to graphic prints with collage designs. Doughnuts, sushi, clouds, and stars - Ms. Winkler turns these edible and abstract objects into bright, beautiful works of art, giving them life and faces on each one. When she is not making and designing items for the Etsy shop she started in 2007, she is promoting her work and making art for her DeviantArt page.
Mary may be 23, but she stays in touch with her childhood spirit, and this is reflected in her art, with gorgeous and bright pastels that make one wish her work were edible! We recently interviewed Mary for Sweet Designs Magazine.
Tell us about yourself and your style of art. What makes you stand out from other artists?
I'm currently 23, out of art school, and living in the Detroit area. My artwork is the outpouring of whatever's kicking around in my head, which seems to be rather a lot sometimes (hence all the collaged pieces). I like focusing on fashion, bright colours, kids' themes, and a sense of wonderment. I want to push myself to create more pieces that convey that joy and awe you have for everything as a kid. I remember just being, "OH MY GOODNESS, IT'S MORNING!" as a small child. I want to bring more of that to my work, along with creating an adult edge to some of it, though I think they'll be kept a bit separate.
I don't know what separates me from others. Just being me, I guess. I'm not saying you can't tell my work from the crowd, because I do believe you can. I just don't think I have a bit-sized idea of what the 'IT factor' of Acrylicana is. Likely because I'm too close to the work. It's just a whole lot of me and my view of the world or whatever's inspired me. Not sure how much more unique you can get than your own perspective.
Who or what has influenced you to pursue your art? Your DeviantArt profile says you love '60s pop art. Has this era given you inspiration for your work, and if so, how?
I was raised on art and creating things. Pursuing it as a career wasn't my first choice when entering college, but it has always been my passion. One day I woke up and decided I either stop taking art classes and buckle down with my major (behavioral sciences) or apply to art school. I chose the latter, and here we are, three and a half years later.
I do love '60s and '70s pop art. It's a huge inspiration to me. The form, colour, subject matter - it was all so whimsical and brilliant. Artists like Peter Max, Margaret [Walter] Keane or Macoto Takahashi painting their colour-invested worlds or sweet little girls/animals or fashion. It's all so brilliant. Little drawings on tea cups I've picked up from thrift shops or kitschy knick knacks all have that funky look to them. I think a lot of my work is pretty apparent in being heavily influenced by those art eras.
What sparked your interest in creating accessories and prints based on sweet treats?
Sweets are pretty. They taste alright, though often way too sweet for me these days, but they are SO gorgeous. They hold a lot of that nostalgia factor too. If I paint in some jellybeans, a lot of people can relate to a time in their life when they first tasted them or saw them in jars at candy shops or in gift baskets. Sweets are comforting and child-like, bright and colourful, and really relatable.
Sometimes I get criticism from viewers, saying I shouldn't only draw or paint foods that are unhealthy, but I'm not showing a lifestyle or dictating a diet (that's just silly). It's about depicting fantasy, and again, that wonder and awe of childhood when sweets were just AMAZING. Just the idea of them. Bringing that to adults again in a different way, either in the form of wall art, jewelry, or accessories with my take on a simple cake is such fun for me.
I really liked your use of bright hues and pinks in your designs, without being too flashy. What are your favorite colors to design with?
It's hard to choose my favourites. I really enjoy high key colours. Right now I'm digging the combination of violet, pink, yellow, and teal for some sweets-inspired custom shoes I'm painting up. The combination wasn't what was first intended, but once the violet and pink were there, I had to add the other colours to make it feel right.
Was it hard getting your Etsy shop started? What sort of challenges have you faced along the way?
No, it was pretty easy. I just opened my shop in the beginning of '07 and put in jewelry pieces I had made for local craft shows that hadn't sold that season. It was slow going at first, but after learning new methods of creation, marketing myself, and pushing for my illustrated work to be the dominant force behind the shop, it's gotten going a bit.
The biggest issue is dealing with an unhappy customer or a lost parcel. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it always bothers me a great deal.
Writers get "writer's block". Have you ever had "artist's block"?
Sure thing. I just work through it. Or take a small break. I'm constantly going, creating, working. So sometimes it only takes a day spent with friends slumming through Royal Oak, Michigan, or talking over coffee to snap me out of it. Other times it just takes a day of really looking at recent work, figuring out where I'm going from there or where I've failed and how I can bring it up to a higher standard. Just rework those creative juices and keep moving!
What advice would you give someone who would like to start their own independent shop?
I don't know what it's like if you just want to be a retailer versus selling your own artwork. If it's the latter, the best advice I can give is to be passionate about your work, know your audience, present your work as best you can (quality photos, descriptive write-ups, an interesting shop front), and market yourself. You cannot expect customers to find you without a push.
What is your favorite sweet treat to recreate? To eat?
My favourite to draw is probably cupcakes or cakes. A lot can be done with them colour-wise and with the addition of different elements. My favourite to eat is baklava. Nothing beats those flaky layers, nuts, and honey.
What do you do when you're not creating your new works of art?
Marketing my work, accounting, paying bills - all that grown-up stuff.
What are some of your other interests, hobbies, and activities?
I rather love going out dancing with friends or pounding the pavement looking through shop windows in some of the kitschier parts of town. Nothing beats trying on hats and getting inspired by dresses and rhinestone brooches at Paris in downtown Royal Oak or having little business lunch meetings with artist, model, and photog friends to collaborate in the future.
Are you currently in school?
Nope, I'm out of school now.
What do you think the future will bring for you?
Hopefully a good, long career as an illustrator.
Where can readers see more of your work and learn more about you and your business?
www.acrylicana.com - It's got all the links to Acrylicana you need (gallery, shop, Twitter, contact, Youtube channel), and will soon house the full website, blog, and more.