- Meg Mitchell is an artist who lives in Canada sells hand painted pillows and totes on Etsy. She does this so that she can go to Paris every year. In Meg’s words: “It’s my little reward & my place to enhance my creative juices “. For more than 25 years, Meg recruited women for management and board of director positions. She now works on her art full time. “Priscilla Mae et al” was born in her studio in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Canada. She captures the spirit and voices of women of all ages through an artful celebration of images and tidbits of feisty female wisdom.
You say on your about page that you have decided to make this phase of your life “a window of self discovery” . Could you expand on that for all my readers who don’t know you yet.
- When I turned 60 several years ago, I decided that this decade was going to be for me because if I didn’t do it soon, I might run out of time. I had run a successful consulting company for over 27 years as an executive recruiter placing women in management and board of director positions. I was able to make a large impact on Canadian corporations to open up avenues of opportunity to capable women in business and government. Also, I had raised my son as a single mom and got him off to university and onto his life. And then, I decided it was my turn. I didn’t know what the second part of my life was going to look like but I know I wanted to try something different. I have always loved home decor, and fashion and I certainly knew women well. In my search for what I might do, it occurred to me that midlife women were overlooked in many areas of life, including retail. Women over a certain age were made into charactertures. Youth is praised and the focus of the media and products are made for the younger woman. Midlife for many women was feared, not celebrated. I decided to paint midlife women on small pillows with a fun quote on the back that artfully celebrated “women of a certain age.” My first series was called “Midlife Madonnas.” They sold out constantly. I got started by packing all my special pillows in the back of my car and driving around to all the high end retail stores in the Toronto area. I’d walk into a store with big baskets of fun women pillows and their quotes and the customers would gather around and laugh. Most of the owners were midlife women themselves and they too liked the pillows because they were different. Luckily, my business started off like a shot. Midlife women were looking for gifts for themselves and their friends and this group of women had the money to buy them. I am constantly re-evaluating my life and thinking of activities and ideas I want to pursue. Going to Paris on a yearly basis is one thing I love, writing a blog is another, traveling and doing things on my own at times continues to give me the confidence I need to keep trying and living the life that I seek. Sometimes being afraid forces me to reach outside my comfort zone and look at and live life more fully.
Could you tell us about Priscilla Mae? Who is Priscilla Mae? And why did you call my company Priscilla Mae et al?
- For many months, I tried to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. One night, I was sitting on my porch with a glass of wine or two and enjoying the absolute peacefulness of the evening. I was thinking about my Mom’s life and whether she had ever sat and dreamed of what her life could have been. She was a brilliant and wise woman but who lived at a time when women didn’t have as many options to decide the direction of their life. Mom raised our family and she did a wonderful job but she had so much more in her. My mother died many years previously and I was having some difficulty remembering what she looked like. So with my wine glass in hand and a pencil and paper, I began to sketch away to try and bring back my mother’s face. The faces kept coming but they were younger pictures of my Mom and maybe they incorporated a bit of me. It was a wonderful night and the time just flew by. Before I knew it, there were dozens of faces all over my porch floor. Not just faces of my Mom or me but lots of faces of women. Funky women with big hair, bedroom eyes, funky earrings, great hats with feathers…they made me happy! It came to me then. Draw what I know…women. And call this new endeavor, “Priscilla Mae et al,” in honor of the first and most important woman in my life .. my Mom.
What are your dreams as a “woman of a certain age” ? I’m one of those women as well so would love to know!
- My dreams are ever changing but the one dream that encompasses all of my ideas is that I keep trying new things and playing around with new ideas and that I don’t become too comfortable with the status quo. I try not to be concerned with what the world thinks about what I do or who I am. I see so many women stay “within the lines” to please their husbands or partners, their community, etc. I did that too at one point in my life. But pleasing people never really pleases all the people and I think we end up sick, or very sorry and wondering where our life passed us by. I have a dream book. I cut out pictures, articles or write my dreams in this book. I’ve done this for over 30 years and almost all the things that meant a lot to me, I’ve accomplished or tried. Something as simple as painting big roses all over my bedroom wall because I felt like it. Friends were appalled that I would do this in my home bit to me, it’s only a wall. It was a two week fun project with great music blaring in the background. Will I keep the roses on that wall? Probably not. I have some new ideas I want to try. The way I figure it …. why should anything last longer than me? It’s only a wall!!!!
How long have you been doing your art full time?
- I started Priscilla Mae et al over 8 years ago and most of the time, it is a full time love affair. I have, however, gone up to 6 months not stepping into my studio because I was totally burned out. Granted, I do feel that Protestant Work Ethic guilt when that down time occurs but I know that I’ll be back there when the spirit moves me.
How do you get your inspirations?
- Movies, blogs, internet, books, tons of magazines, sitting in outside cafes in Paris, television, fashion shows, meeting women, my dreams….. Carrying a camera is one of the best new ways for me to be inspired because it makes me constantly aware of my surroundings. Even having a blog keeps me on “inspiration alert” because you always need another new post. That pressure can be both good and not so good.
Is what you paint, part of your personality?
- My painted women make me laugh and give me lots of pleasure. They incorporate all the things I love and most important, I get totally lost in the pleasure of the creating them. I’m not sure they are a part of my personality. I think they may all be just great friends. When it’s not fun anymore, I won’t do it.
What advise do you have for aspiring artists?
- I am not a trained artist as most of you can tell but I’m not afraid to try something new. I love it when women buy my pillows. Sometimes I am surprised but I’m always grateful and the fun of it all keeps spurring me on to try new creations. My biggest thrill was being asked by ELLE ITALIA magazine to feature one of my pillows in their September 2009 fashion issue. That was a cool moment.
- Do what you love and don’t worry about whether someone likes it or not. If they do, they’ll buy it. If they don’t, they won’t. Others will find and feel your passion if you create from within.
Thank you Meg for answering my questions!