Catherine G. McElroy
From the time she was a small child, making clay ashtrays decorated with buttons in kindergarten, Catherine McElroy has been driven by the urge to create. Her artistic journey has wound its way through a variety of landscapes and media. Progressing from her “clay period” in elementary and high school, in college she became interested in textiles, focusing on fabric and clothing design. She made all of her own clothes and soon was hired as a dressmaker, sewing a Designer's couture fashion samples.
In 1985 she left Southern California, where she had been born and raised, to explore the colors and culture of the Southwest, settling in Flagstaff, Arizona. There she found an apprenticeship as a silversmith, making sterling silver buttons. She found this work to be satisfying, as she was drawn to the reflective qualities of silver. The effervescence of her creativity was not satisfied with simply making buttons, however, and soon she began designing and creating her own line of jewelry, producing unique pieces from silver, copper, red brass, with semi-precious stones from designs inspired by the natural world. She initially marketed her jewelry at craft fairs throughout Arizona, but as the popularity of her work grew she graduated to marketing through a representative at trade shows and in catalogues such as “Coldwater Creek.” Her jewelry could be found in stores from Alaska to Vermont and even the Virgin Islands.
While continuing to work diligently on her jewelry, sometimes crafting as many as 180 pieces in a single day, in 1995 Cathy moved with her family (husband Mo and daughter Lydia) to a very small, rural town in the far reaches of Northern California (Etna, pop. 781), where cowboys still roam the streets in boots dusty from riding the range. Cathy continued with her flourishing jewelry business, taking time out now and then for renewing trips to Mexico, where she and her family sailed on the sparkling waters of the Mexican West Coast.
In 1998, driven by her continuing urge to explore new forms of artistic expression, Cathy took a class in watercolor, given by a local master, Christos Spontilydes. She idly experimented with this medium from time to time, but became more inspired while in Mexico in 2000, where she met a woman who hosted a weekly painting group on her boat. Her interest grew and she began to paint more frequently. In 2002, after a disappointing trade show, she gave up her jewelry-making completely and turned to painting. Starting with images of flowers from her garden, she soon found herself flooded with ideas and a passion for painting. She states, “My inspiration comes from my environment, imagined or real. Almost every morning after my cup and a half of coffee I will sit down to paint, always thinking ahead to the next piece. Subjects and colors constantly swirl in my head.” Cathy's work is known both for its detail and almost photographic representations, as well as her wry wit and outright humor. In person, Cathy's hearty laugh can warm the coldest winter day, and this laughter is evident in many of her whimsical and charming images, such as a bear bewildered by bubbles, or penguins dressed in high heels.
Ever driven by her creative muse, Cathy still experiments with beaded jewelry and with papier mache creations, including Louisiana “Ooo-dats” and mushroom hats. If it's a Cathy McElroy creation, it is certain to bring warmth to your heart and a smile to your face!
To view Cathy's artwork, you can find her online at www.catherinemcelroy.com,
Member since 2012
Region: California: North/Central
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