I would like to introduce you to Mary from Uncustomary Art. She is colourful. She creates street art installations. And well, she is simply pretty awesome. In today’s Spread the Love feature, she shares some thoughts on her ways to make this world a little bit brighter. Enjoy!

What was your first street art project? What motivated you to do this?

My first street art project was yarnbombing a parking meter. I had signed up to be a part of a yarnbombing contest in Baltimore, and there was a deadline, so I had to follow through! I had always been intrigued by yarnbombing and had made a goal to do five installations that year, but didn’t realize that the very first yarnbomb would send me spiraling into a world of street art that made me happier than anything else.

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What has been your favourite street art project so far? Why? 

My favorite projects are always the ones that are interactive. I love engaging with strangers, whether it’s through a table I set up in the middle of the street or by reading the words they wrote down for me on a board I hung up and left overnight. I did an installation called “Hold The Phone… What’s Up?!” which included an old rotary phone for a photo-op, and a box for answers to the question “What’s up?” I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited to read something as I was to go through all the submissions. It was such an easy and vague thing to participate in, and I got some really wonderful responses.

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Can you tell something about people’s reactions to your installations?

I love being able to watch my installations being utilized. Whether it’s just seeing someone stop for a second to admire a yarnbombed pole or actually taking the time to write something down, it fills me up with excitement. The people who “get it” are usually very happy and surprised. However, there’s always the people who think that it’s stupid, unnecessary, or just littering. I’ve had many things stolen before I got a chance to come back to them, and items have also been defaced. I try not to let that discourage me, but sometimes I can’t help it! The good definitely makes up for the bad, though. Receiving an e-mail from someone who found something of mine is the highlight of any day.

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When I handed out 1000 paper cranes to strangers, it took me some effort to step over my fear in order to connect to strangers. Do you ever experience anxiety from stepping out of your comfort zone and doing things others don’t? If so, do you have any practical tips that help you deal with it?

Sometimes it takes a little energy to rev up and get started, but once I break the ice by talking to the first person, it becomes easier and easier. I’m an outgoing person by nature, and I really love interacting with strangers. The only thing that scares me is that someone might be rude or mean to me. Sometimes I take it too personally. My advice is to always try, even if it feels weird. So many projects can’t exist without the element of participation, so be brave for the greater good!

You host monthly community events, like your sidewalk chalk flashmob and human rainbow. How did this start? How do you find people to join you? 

 When I quit my day job, I knew I wanted to use my time to be more involved with the community. I’ve decided to host at least one community event per month, and it’s gone well so far! I promote the events on my personal and professional Facebook pages, and make posts on other social media very location specific (hashtags, etc). Everything I do is in Baltimore, Maryland, so it’s generally a waste of time to target people across the country or overseas for local events.

I’m very interested in large group activities, though. Flash mobs have always intrigued me, especially once I was a part of one. And the human rainbow is an idea that I had when I was ten years old! I’ve orchestrated it three times now, and I really appreciate friends and followers spreading the word so that more people can participate!

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I wish more people would actively try to make the best of their direct environment. Do you have any advice for anyone reading this who might want to attempt making a street art installation, but is not sure where to start? 

Think about your interests and what you’re good at. First, try something that’s closest to your comfort zone, because it’s likely that the act of going out and doing that thing in public is going to be a little jarring to you at first! Make the transition as easy as you can for yourself. If you enjoy it, you’ll try more and more things!

For me, the rush of trying to go unnoticed is wonderful, but it could also cause a lot of anxiety. I have never been stopped by any authority figure, but if I was, I would cooperate and take down whatever they asked. Yarnbombing public property and setting up a table without a permit are technically illegal activities, but the police also have priorities. The idea of flashing lights pulling over to stop me from adding crepe paper to a bus stop shelter seems rather absurd to me. Go find the real crimes! ;-)

If you’re just getting started, I would recommend Keri Smith’s book “The Guerilla Art Kit“. She has a lot of ideas and tutorials on how to make your environment a more fun place to be. Re-claim public space and make things more fun for your neighbors. I also offer beginner street art kits in my Etsy shop.

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If you haven’t already, check out Mary’s blog for much more fun and inspiration! And if you would like to be included in this guest post feature as well, check out the guidelines and shoot me an e-mail. :)



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