It began almost 20 years ago, with the picture of a wreath in Woman’s Day magazine. It was an evergreen wreath, accented with balls of STYROFOAM Brand Foam rolled in richly hued spices – mustard, cayenne pepper, sesame seeds, oregano, etc. I thought “here is a designer who can work magic with STYROFOAM Brand Foam!” I called the editor and she gave me the designer’s name, Kathleen George, and ever since, I’ve had the privilege of watching Kathleen work her magic.
Through the years, Kathleen has been one of the industry’s most successful and prolific designers, with her designs featured on the covers of dozens of magazines. Paper crafts, mosaics, home décor, garden art, children’s crafts – you name it, Kathleen has designed for all categories. I’ve thrown a lot of crazy ideas at Kathleen, and somehow, she always makes it work.
While Kathleen and I have worked together all these years, we’d never met – until this summer! I was so excited when a family vacation gave me reason to plan a detour to Amherst, MA, to meet Kathleen. I would finally have an opportunity to talk with Kathleen in person, and to see the home, studio and gardens I’d heard her talk about for years.
On the much-anticipated day, Kathleen, in her trademark apron, and her husband Steve greeted us at the door of her restored Victorian home. We entered the gracious and beautifully preserved home and I immediately noticed the parlor ceiling with the wallpaper mosaic I’d heard so much about. It was just one of many of Kathleen’s stories that came to life that afternoon.
After lunch on the porch, we toured Kathleen’s studio and wandered through the gardens, admiring several ponds, waterfalls, and perennial beds. A screened pavilion, perfect for picnics, is tucked into a corner. The stone terrace behind the home is accented with Kathleen’s pebble mosaics, another project I had only envisioned till that day.
Kathleen built the studio behind her house so that she could conduct craft workshops. Those lucky enough to live in Amherst, MA, experienced her creativity firsthand. Her favorite classes were those for children. “I learned to let kids take the lead, and motivated them with love and respect.”
Kathleen has empowered millions of children and adults through her art, whether it’s in person or through the printed page. “I consider myself the facilitator,” explains Kathleen. “I let my students go wherever their art takes them. The power of creativity is that it takes you wherever you need to go and it makes you whole.”
Kathleen remembers her own childhood as a time filled with “making things”. After receiving a Masters degree in elementary education, Kathleen taught second and fifth grade for several years, and then launched her design career as she raised her two daughters. (One daughter is now a novelist and playwright, and the other a poet and professional chef.)
“My mother was my biggest supporter, and she carried my work everywhere and would sell it right out of her purse,” says Kathleen. “One day, she met the craft editor at Woman’s World, and told her all about my work. That’s how I began my career in publishing.”
“I became known as the ‘finisher,’” explains Kathleen. “Editors frequently called me to clean up other peoples’ designs – projects that were left incomplete or not designed as planned.”
Today, Kathleen no longer teaches classes, and is devoted to volunteering in her community. “The small things we do for those in our community are a sure way to make a difference,” says Kathleen. “Many of the strategies I learned in the classroom – appreciate others, be creative, let people follow their own paths, also work when volunteering,” she explains.
From the beautiful gardens that surround her home, to the art studio behind her house, Kathleen George has spent a lifetime inspiring others. I feel very privileged to have worked with Kathleen for so many years, and to finally have the opportunity to meet her in person. I am looking forward to many more long conversations with Kathleen, talking about crafts, homes, families and life.
Hundreds of Kathleen’s designs are featured on http://www.styrofoamcrafts.com . I wanted to share a few with you, and it was really hard to choose which ones. Here are just a few of my favorites, from cute crafts for the kids to sophisticated home décor. The photos link to the project instructions, so if you’re so inspired, click through and create!
And finally, a heartfelt “thank you” to Kathleen. I couldn’t do my job without you!