The Artful Life of Mary Reynolds

Work from Mary’s Talavera Travel series

Mary Reynolds has always lived an artful life but, at 46, she made a conscious decision to create art fulltime. A self-described “hopeless collector of found and vintage objects,” the Ithaca artist’s early efforts were decorative painting, creating assemblages, collages and, much later, drawing. As a child “I found drawing so difficult that I decided that I couldn’t draw and quit trying,” Reynolds says.

It’s a good thing she got back to it. Reynolds’ colorful drawings, often featuring whimsical animals, are now carried in nearly 40 galleries and shops. In Ithaca, her work can be found online through Marmalade Mercantile or at 15 Steps American Crafts’ downtown gallery.

The artist’s process begins by hand-drawing in pencil, outlining the image in ink before scanning the drawing into her computer and digitally correcting with the Photoshop program. The contrast feature darkens the outlines, fixing faint or missing lines. The color palette function is employed to “paint” the images, with options to mix her own hues. Drawings are created in themed series and produced as wall prints, notecards, journals, pendants and magnets.

Besides drawn art, Reynolds decoratively paints and re-purposes furniture and other items, such as frames. Her assemblages, utilizing drawers or boxes embellished with found objects, find new life as unique wall shelves or as quirky sculptures. Reynolds is also designing her own fabric line of purses, pillows, totes and aprons.

Evolution of an artist

Reynolds was born in San Antonio in 1947. She (and her brother) was relinquished to relatives when Reynolds was 3. By 8, family members William and Cecilia Terry adopted and raised Reynolds as their only child. Childhood interests were crafts, sewing and music, all encouraged by her adoptive parents. They bought her a piano and nurtured her artistic leanings with weekly art store visits. The little family also traveled around the southwest in an Airstream travel trailer. Reynolds’ current Talavera Travel series features vintage trailer images inspired by those memorable adventures.

Marmalade Mercantile carries pendants and magnets from this iconic series. “Since we sell vintage inspired merchandise, Mary’s vintage campers fit right in! They speak to our sense of adventure, fun and wanderlust,” says Debra Moree McKinney, co-owner. “We love Mary’s work.”
While pursuing a music education degree at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Reynolds met fellow student and trombonist Hal Reynolds. She became his piano accompanist and then his wife in 1967. The couple has three children:
Emily, Daniel and Sean.

They moved many times: Hal served in the Navy and then pursued a career as a college music professor. Reynolds taught piano lessons and was a stay-at-home parent but later worked in various marketing, public relations and fundraising positions. Sometimes she was able to use her graphic design skills professionally. At home, she sewed and decoratively painted furniture and objects.

Art on hold

“One reason I didn’t pursue my art sooner was because my children were a priority,” says Reynolds. The most important thing to Reynolds was her children and her family.

By 1988, they made their home in arts-friendly Ithaca where Reynolds began to express herself more artistically, even entering a painted table in an art show. As her children grew up, she gradually inched toward her desire to create art all the time.

In 2003, Reynolds flew to San Antonio to care for her ailing father who later died. It was then that Reynolds made the decision to follow her dream to pursue art fulltime.  It didn’t take long for dream to become reality. In 2004, Reynolds assisted another artist at the Buyers Market of American Craft wholesale show. Next year, Reynolds was accepted into the same show. Her booth featured painted mirrors, frames, walking sticks and screens. When she took her first order, Reynolds recalls thinking she must actually be an artist.

Art unleashed

“When you shift and begin to call yourself an artist, that is when the true magic happens,” says Alice Muhlback, a prominent local artist and Reynolds’ mentor and friend.

Reynolds, who admired Muhlback’s style, began drawing in 2007. Reynolds’ first image, Crow Looks In, remains in her Feathered Friends print series. She’s been prolific ever since. Retail shows like the local Clothesline Festival in Rochester and national Country Living Fair showcases all her art forms to individual art lovers. Wholesale venues, such as American Craft Retailers Expo (ACRE), links her print work and products to galleries and shops. This year, Reynolds has been invited to the prestigious Dallas Market Center show, exposing her work to more than 200,000 wholesale buyers across the globe.

“Sometimes friends comment that I am so busy,” says Reynolds “but what they are seeing is what it is like to live an integrated life where my work, my passion and who I am all come together as one expression. I can’t imagine anything better.”

Advice from the artist

ACRE NEMary Reynolds is inspired by author Jack Canfield’s declaration that “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Reynolds took the leap of faith to pursue her dream. Here are her tips for fledgling artists.

• Decide what you want and make a plan to go after it.
• Find another artist who is doing what you want to do and ask lots of questions.
• Don’t spend so much time talking about it that you expend all your creativity before you start making.
• If you are interested in wholesale, go visit the big shows to see what it is about. Sign up to assist
someone so you can learn the trade firsthand.
• Do things that scare you a little (or sometimes a lot) and stretch you out just beyond your reach

Visit or contact the artist at


by Nancy E. McCarthy

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