This 93-Year Old Artisan is Still Doing What She Loves

July 19, 2019
By Alyse Wagner - American House
Life at American House

Mary Lou, who calls American House Riverview her home, is 93 years old.

She grew up in Pennsylvania where her passion for crafting came at a young age.

Mary Lou liked to spend her free time making various crafts as a child. 

She later met her husband and, after the Korean War, they moved to Michigan. Once settled, Mary Lou took a part-time job at Greenfield Village as a craft specialist. It was a perfect fit for her, as she has always had a passion for crafting, especially fiber arts.

Mary Lou soon discovered her love for Macramé, which is a form of textile produced using knotting techniques (rather than weaving or knitting), to create lacy-patterned decorative and useful articles.

She first began teaching herself the techniques. 

She later spent five summers in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, taking Macramé classes from Joan Paquet at Arrowmont Craft School. Mary Lou also received graduate credits from the University of Tennessee.

During the 60s and 70s, Mary Lou taught the art of Macramé and thoroughly enjoyed it.

“I was the first teacher in Detroit to teach it, and did that until it was phased out,” she explained.

Several of Mary Lou’s Macramé pieces are featured in Virginia Harvey’s book, Macrame: The Art of Creative Knotting.

“One of my favorite memories is meeting Virginia Harvey,” she shared. 

Mary Lou also excels in the art of Origami and is considered to be a Master Origamist. 

“I was a closet folder for several years. I found out that some of my weaver friends at the Village were also folding, so then we would get together every once in a while to fold. I’ve been doing it for over 50 years now,” she laughed. 

Mary Lou participated in the Festival of Trees, a volunteer led organization dedicated to supporting medical research at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, for five years. 

Each year, she would craft an origami money tree which had $300 on it, and she once received the Gold Medal for the Most Creative Tree.

Today, Mary Lou continues her love for origami and belongs to a group that meets once a month in Ann Arbor.
She smiled and added, “When you like something, you never give up on it.” 

When asked what piece of advice she has for new crafters, she said, “Learn on your own with books, or find a good teacher to get you started. You have to like what you’re doing and like to share it. Be sure to buy good tools for you craft.”

 


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