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In meeting an artist named Mef Gannon, the very first question that comes to mind is: What kind of name is Mef?
“Nothing mystical,” she says. “But I do get that question a lot. When I was a little kid, a dear friend made up whimsical names for her sisters and me. Mine was Mef, and it just stuck all these years. My real name is Mary, but Mef works because it has that certain uniqueness.” As a truly individual mixed-media artist whose art quilts and wall hangings can include beads, fabric, paint, thread, needle-felting, hand-embroidery, machine stitching an, according to Gannon, “so much more,” an exclusive nomenclature seems a must.
As a youngster growing up in Morris County, NJ, Gannon always had her hands in “some form of art or music” until the 1990s, when she discovered beading and fiber arts. “It was a whole new adventure,” says Gannon. “My heart was so excited by the range of colors in beads and textural possibilities of fabric and thread.” It was during that time she started to ramp up her knowledge of the beading and textile world and in particular improve her skills and technique.
Gannon describes herself as “mostly self-taught,” although she does have a few years of “college courses” under her belt. “I love taking workshops and I’ve signed up for a few online courses,” she explains, “but much of what I know, I taught myself. Sometimes you find great tutorials on YouTube. There’s always something to learn.” To further her craft, she’s participated in workshops at Peter’s Valley in Layton, NJ where she has experimented extensively with textiles, freeform crochet and wet felting, to name just a few. “I get very inspired working in different mediums,” states Gannon. “There’s so much to choose from. I get bored easily, so I’m always experimenting.” For Gannon, the successful unification of different art mediums into one piece through an entirely intuitive path is what gives her the most satisfaction.
“I very rarely plan or draw out a design unless it’s for a special piece and needs to be precise,” explains Gannon of her process. “I work more on gut instinct. I’m currently working on an art quilt that pays homage to the color turquoise and all its related shades. First I make a quilt sandwich, which is a top piece of fabric with batting in-between and a backing fabric. I machine stitch the layers together. Now I have what I like to call my canvas to start creating on. Then I go back to my fabric stash and rip and cut up a bunch of strips—I like raw edges—and then I just start sewing them down in no particular order or pattern. Then I might dye some old lace and cheesecloth with ink and paint and add that. Next I’ll add beads, cords, crystals, maybe some buttons, words or a whole poem. I add elements as needed. I usually get a feel if something isn’t working or when the project is done.”
Price depends on the size of the work and the time it takes to incorporate the various mediums. The beading alone can sometimes take weeks to complete, and an entire art piece might take a couple of months to complete. Smaller stitched pieces can take a few days and some finished works start at as low as $40 per. When people view her work she just loves overhearing, “I would never have thought to do that!”
According to Gannon, it was friends, family members and the Beatles who encouraged her to follow her heart in the world of art. “I’ve been pretty lucky to have encouraging friends and family along the way. I’ve been inspired by so many musicians and artists over the years. There wasn’t one incident or person that made me leap up and claim my artistic place in the world, but I will say that seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show was pretty impactful on my young mind. I knew deep down inside that I was going to listen and look at the world differently from then on.”
For the past six years, Gannon has resided in Shohola, PA, where she draws inspiration from the Delaware River Valley. “I am truly blessed,” she states. “I get to wake up every morning in an area known for its lush landscape and nature. The Delaware Valley is amazing and so are the people. There is a very welcoming artist community here.” Her cats Kitty Boy and Muffin, whom she refers to as “real trouble makers and yarn stealers,” keep company with Gannon as she creates. Her future plans include expanding into mosaics and enameling though, according to her, “Some people don’t like the idea of me with a blowtorch.” And yet, with her diverse background, drive and resourcefulness, she is sure to succeed.
“I’ve always had a job, usually in retail,” Gannon says of the many ways in which she has supported herself along the way. “I’ve also done waitressing, pet sitting, craft fairs, and secretarial. I’m also a musician and have played in bands, trios, duos and solos since I was in my teens. But when you get older, you want different things. I can see me living an art-centered life from now on. I have been given opportunity now to make that happen. It’s a new journey I’m happy to be on.”
To view Gannon’s work visit The Artist Market Community Center, 114 Richardson Ave., Shohola, PA, or online visit www.artistsmarketcc.com or www.barryvilleareaarts.org. Her own website is www.mefgannon.com.