Thursday, December 27, 2012

Interviews as Inspiration ~ Mary Beth Shaw

This is the seventh of a series of Interviews as Inspiration. I'm inviting people I admire; artists, authors, people I know, and people I don't. It should be fun! and hopefully inspirational for both you and me. 

I met Mary Beth Shaw at an Art Unraveled art retreat, a few years ago, and loved her immediately because she's so very witty. Then I saw her beautiful, layered, textured artwork and loved that. THEN, she's starts a company called Stencil Girl Products and I find out how darn smart this woman is.
Mary Beth Shaw

Jane LaFazio: Tell us about your company, Stencil Girl Products, and how you got started. Where did the name come from.

Mary Beth Shaw: I have always loved stencils and often used my own hand-cut stencils in my work. Somebody saw them and suggested I have them manufactured so I could sell them to others. I had never even contemplated that but decided to give it a whirl. In early 2010 I took 6 of my designs and had stencils made. I took them out to ArtFest to sell during the vending event. There I was, sitting at a table, six piles of stencils in front of me. The doors opened, people rushed in and before I knew it, I was sold out. The next day people kept saying, "oh, you're that Stencil Girl....." hence the name. And now, I have a new book coming out titled "Stencil Girl" ~ a compendium of mixed media stencil techniques that will come out fall 2013

Stencil Girl: Mary Beth Shaw

JL: You have invited other artists to create stencils (genius), what gave you that idea? 

MBS: I had a few people approach me about having stencils made. And of course I could have done that, but I thought it would be really cool to collaborate with my artist friends and have a variety of stencil offerings. For each artist to have their own 'niche' is important to me. I adore seeing the variety!! 
artwork by Mary Beth Shaw

JL: Tell us about your own artwork. What media do you prefer?

MBS: I am really a mixed media person. I mean *really.* I will grab almost anything and throw it into my work. I enjoy the challenge of seeing what products will do and what sort of unique results I can obtain. Basically I use anything that is water soluble, meaning acrylic paints (rather than oil). But I also love to paint with encaustics too. (Mary Beth's first  book "Flavor for Mixed Media~ A Feast of Techniques for Texture, Color and Layers" shows many of her fave techniques.) 

Peace by Mary Beth Shaw

JL: How did you start as an artist? 

MBS: In 2000 I quit my insurance job. I thought that I wanted to write but found that I suddenly couldn't string words together in a pleasing manner. I registered for a one day collage class and it turned out that Ann Baldwin was the teacher. She simply blew my mind! I started to sign up for anything and everything she offered. I took some fundamental art classes at UC Berkeley SF Extension and that was a great experience. It was a very synchronistic time for me and things started to fall into place in such amazing ways. That is how I got my studio in Sausalito (we lived in San Francisco in those days). I don't think I ever would have had the courage to do it had we lived in the Midwest then. 

Mary Beth's artwork on display

JL: Balance? Making art, teaching art, running a business (marketing, planning, production) how do you do it, girl?  

MBS: Every year I used to say that my New Year's Resolution was to achieve balance in my life. A few years ago I decided to re-frame that idea and now I strive for harmony instead of balance. It seems that balance is terribly precarious, like all the stars must be in perfect alignment for it to happen. Making art, teaching and also running a is a lot, that is for sure. I tend to start each day with the biz stuff and try to get it out of the way. I have great partners in my husband and my son- in-law. I have these control freak tendencies, but I have simply HAD to let go of that and allow them to run certain parts of the business with little involvement from me. Like manufacturing, shipping, inventory -no way I would have time for that! Making art and teaching art are my greatest joys and it is so amazing to me that I get to earn my living this way. I cherish each and every minute of the day.

Starry Night by Mary Beth Shaw

JL: What would your advice be to someone who wanted to start a similar venture, like Stencil Girl? 

MBS: It is a lot of work. Not for the faint of heart, that is for sure. You need to spend money to make money for one thing and that part can be quite scary. Also, being in business for yourself is truly a 24/7 proposition. I feel extremely lucky that I love my work so much. My guiding principle (with respect to the business and really, I guess to life in general) is The Golden Rule. My husband and I truly believe in treating people the way we want to be treated.

For the Living by Mary Beth Shaw
JL: What your favorite part of your day?

MBS: I pretty much love every part of the day for different reasons. I meditate morning and night and those parts of my day are very special to me. Cuddling with my kitties is such a delight. Sitting down with my husband, John, at the end of the day is a ritual I cherish. Being in my studio is such bliss. Life is good.

Mary Beth's Studio Lores, in Saint Louis,Missouri 

JL: Give us some titles of your favorite books. Any kind~ fiction, non-fiction, or art related. 

MBS: A fiction book that I adored is The Night Circus. I want to read it again and I rarely repeat. I also loved Water for Elephants and Eat Pray Love.
Mary Beth's entrepreneurial paternal grandparents,
"The Hoffmans"
JL: Future plans and dreams? For yourself and your art, your business. 

MBS: I enjoy traveling and teaching. I will be teaching in Italy in 2013 and I was in France last year, I mean seriously, how cool is this!?!?! The opportunity to join with my students for these smaller and more intimate adventures is a true gift. I hope to be able to do more of this in the future.

As far as my art, I have so many ideas that I want to pursue, new bodies of work, etc. I will not run out of ideas any time soon.

I want the stencil business to grow into other areas, not even sure what they are yet, but I feel sure it will all become clear. (We just launched our Stencil Club.) It is important to me to establish an entrepreneurial legacy for my grandsons. My grandparents were entrepreneurs but it seemed to skip a generation with my parents. 

Mary Beth's entrepreneurial  maternal grandparents,
"The Blue Bird Can Sing"
You can read my other Interviews as Inspiration here:

Rachelle Archer, expressive arts therapist at a school for homeless
Cas Holmes, textile artist
Mary Beth Shaw, artist and Stencil Girl Products founder
Marcia Derse, textile designer
Lesley Riley, artist and author
Danny Gregory, artist and author
Judy Reeves, writer
Carlo Roberts, The Blue Walk travel company founder
Jane Powell, Random Arts owner  


  1. Lovely interview! I have heard podcasts with Mary Beth Shaw and she is just wonderful! Thanks for sharing! Hugs! deb

  2. Great idea. And thank you for posting the links to earlier interviews, so I can catch up now that I realize this is happening.

    I love the happy attitude of Stencil Girl! way to live.

  3. Great interview, Jane! I love when people take ideas to the next level and find a successful niche!

  4. such a wonderful and inspirational interview, along with that gorgeous art! I too have heard some of Mary Beth's podcasts, have the book and love mixed media! Thank you Jane and Mary Beth!

  5. Great article! Understanding another artists journey is really inspirational!



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