Susan Mayberry

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Susan Mayberry is a Queenstown artist with an eclectic set of mediums. She makes her living primarily as a muralist. She also accepts commissions for faux finishes, and oil paintings. And she produces fine art crafts.

When I spoke to Susan in her studio she told me about her beginnings as an artist.

Susan Mayberry:
"I studied at the University of Maryland at College Park, and studied art and art history. And, I studied African art and modern art. I studied painting and wood sculpture mostly. And, I am fascinated by all sorts of processes I think."

"But I started working on a big house, a mansion, with a company. They were renovating it. They were doing all kinds of amazing, wonderful painting. We spent months in just one room layering, adding detail. That was quite an experience. There are a lot of places that I have worked that are quite inspiring to have been in. But, that brought me over in this direction, toward the Eastern Shore. And, uh, then I met my husband and moved over here."

"And I have been fascinated by nature and everything that I have discovered after moving here. My kids went to school here in Queen Anne's County. They got involved with a birding program. So, we traveled around the shore a lot, down to Cambridge, and then participated in the World Series of Birding in Cap May New Jersey. Which was incredible. So, I am constantly learning about nature, and everything in this are: the culture, the history, the nature. It's all fascinating."

Faux finishes are surfaces painted to look like stone or wood. Marble finishes were quite popular for a while and now Susan says the fashion has shifted so she finds herself creating metallic finishes like brushed gold or pewter. Each project is an opportunity to meet someone new and learn something.

Susan Mayberry:
"Generally the faux finishes that I have done, the paint is rolled on. Then it is taken off in a negative fashion, with a rag, or plastic, or paper, all sorts of different things that you can use to, uh, to manipulate the paint, move around the wall as quickly as you can. [Laughs] I've done some interesting plaster techniques, like Venetian Plaster, which is very labor intensive. It's a lot of layers."

"Most of the time people have a good idea of what they are looking for and I am able to work with them. Usually I provide sample boards of the idea they've come up with, whether it is a textured wall or an idea for a mural. I tend to, uh, err to the subtle side of things. So, I'll provide them with a drawing, and an idea of what it will cost. It's really fun. And, it's wonderful to go into their homes and make something that is new or beautiful, and make them happy."

"I do approach things from an intellectual perspective, and then I try [laughs] to not let it interfere too much with the process and let my emotions or the spiritual ideas flow, or take over. I would say that light and ethereal is the way I would like to come across; and detailed. I like to layer a lot of shear colors so that it's subtle and it just brings about a warmth that you can't necessarily see right off the bat."

"I will pull up photographs. Yeah. My memory is such that it's not really in tune so that I can pull that right out of my head. [Laughs] I like to have a visual reference and then I will come up with a drawing and use that to work from. I think in the past I have done things from my imagination. I think as an artist you always struggle back and forth with you know… I've tried plein air outside too, just for my own self."

Susan also teaches her crafts.

Susan Mayberry:
"I've taught children's classes locally. And, that was an interesting experience on the Gunston campus. And, the kids really enjoyed being outside. That's what we discovered. I've also been teaching some classes at the local arts council. I taught a cloud painting class and paper marbling."

Susan also makes ornaments from blue crab shells left over from steamed crab feasts. These are cleaned, dried, painted and then finished with an enamel resin. The paintings are usually of animals and birds. Her clever designs make use of the crab shells points to accentuate feathers or fur. Nature is Susan's biggest influence and this is evident in the other crafts she makes particularly sea glass mosaics.

Susan Mayberry:
"Well, I've collected a lot of sea glass locally. My children and I did. And, I wanted to find a way to use it. And with my love of nature, I decided to make the designs in the shape of the animals and critters that are around the bay, and just have fun with it. I started to make them and then in 2007 our town, Queen's Town, had its 300th anniversary. So, they had a great big festival and craft fair. So I sold them there and I've been making them ever since."