A LABOR OF LOVE
There's something about Mary…..her contagious laughter, her magical garden and her bright colored paintings on the back of old glass windows that keeps folks coming back.
Mary Paulsen grew up in Sunset Beach, NC, as one of ten children born to a local shrimp fisherman and his wife. Mary was a red-headed mermaid who loved nothing more than playing in the ocean and the coastal creeks with her brothers and sisters. After losing her beloved father to the sea at age 11, Mary became responsible for looking after her five younger siblings. The 10 “little rascals” ended up knowing what it was like to be poor and to go to bed hungry.
Money, food, and toys were scarce. When her younger sister’s only doll fell and broke her china head, Mary set to gluing it back together. It wasn’t long before all the neighborhood kids were coming to Mary to fix and repair their broken dolls. She would find the once-loved and now forgotten and unwanted dolls that had been tossed in the trash, and she would rescue them and put them back together.
Years later Mary's beloved ocean took from her one more time, when her first love and husband was killed while tonging for clams off of Bald Head Island. Like her father, he was a shrimp fisherman. He left her with two very young children to raise-- and for 25 years, Mary and her southern smiles and red curls served fresh, fried seafood in Calabash, NC-- "The Seafood Capitol of The World."
One morning in the summer of 1996, God told Mary to go out into her front yard to build a village for her collection of 6,000 dolls. Her village would go towards helping to Feed Hungry Children throughout the world.
Like Noah building his ark, Mary set to work despite her lack of carpentry skills, armed only with love, faith and a non-stop sense of humor. God had put a blueprint in Mary’s head, and Mary followed it to create a village that consisted of a chapel (which she was later married in), a little Red Schoolhouse, a Soda Pop Shoppe, a Train Depot, a Library, a General store, and a Make A Wish for Jesus Fountain.
Neighbors would bring their unwanted goods to Mary’s yard instead of the local dump, and Mary would transform them into bright, happy, “Gonna make you smile art”.
In 1998, Mary got another calling from God. This time he told Mary to paint on the reverse side of old glass windows. Never trained in art, God put the images in Mary’s head, and Mary painted them.
“My husband and my mother in law were makin’ fun of me, tellin’ me I should do somethin’ that was gonna turn into somethin’ and I told them I was, and sure enough I had it sold before 10 o’clock the next mornin’ at 80 dollars. That was my first one. They said my God, get her more windows. Help her. Get her paint and get her windows.”
“Everything that I do, like the windows that I recycle—all the tin cans and the glass jars and the wood pieces that I cut using pieces of scrap wood, all this, I say “Even if they throw it away later, it’s going out of this county. Brunswick County ought to be very happy! I’ve saved the landfill a bundle.”
Located just 5 miles from the ocean, Mary’s garden has survived numerous hurricanes, with winds gusting up to 150 mph that have barely touched her garden. If someone needs money to help buy food, medicine, or diapers, Mary will buy their goods, even if the trade isn’t fair.
People love the funny, weird titles that she gives to her art- like her 'Bad Hair Day" series. Mary’s paintings now hang in all 50 of the United States, and in numerous other countries throughout the world.