Thursday, April 26, 2012


Many people who’re classified as “hobbyists” are authentic artists and artisans who care more about their art or craft than they do about high-powered marketing. Marilyn (“Toni”) Blackwell is one of those gifted artists. While in Florida last week, I visited with her several times and toured what she calls her “comfort zone” in Babson Park, Florida. Toni was featured on one of my blogs a few years ago, but after touring her home the other day, I decided that her skills weren’t confined to decorating the note cards, glassware, vases, candles, and terra cotta pots that I had written about -- she even has a penchant for organizing personal objects, like jewelry, clothing, and scarves, in an artistic way.

Some of the photographs here show how she uses her organizational talents to arrange closets, shelves, and racks that reflect her appreciation for beautiful objects.

Toni also uses her decorative art skills by dressing in unique clothing and wearing bright jewelry that she has inherited, collected, or designed. She creates many of her earrings and bracelets, sometimes decorating dress sandals, and wears all of them with more flair than less artistic people would exhibit.

Toni is a native “Yankee” from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and a transplanted Floridian who graduated from Webber International University in Babson Park and worked as an administrative assistant to executives at Florida Power Corporation (now Progress Energy) for thirty five years before retiring in 2002.

After taking an art course that taught her “one stroke painting,” Toni began working on terra cotta pottery; however, she now uses her technique on most any blank surfaces she finds while scouring for objects at flea markets and crafts stores – glasses, pitchers, trays...she even eyes blank walls that might be made brighter with murals and has painted several in Florida homes. Her primary subjects are flowers and plants, which she paints using acrylics, but she has become interested in a technique similar to watercolor technique that utilizes acrylics on larger canvasses than her glassware and pottery.

We enjoyed the tour that shows Toni’s decorative talents and brought home a pitcher to add to our collection of a flower pot, a breakfast tray, and a Florida palm painted on a wood surface that we have in our Sewanee home. We’ve used the breakfast tray to transfer food from the kitchen down to the dining area for several years, and the colors haven’t diminished from cleaning. The vivid red, yellow, and purple flowers are a better wake-up call than a cup of Louisiana coffee!

This blog’s photographs are included because they may be helpful as a “how-to” visual for people who have trouble making the most of space in their closets and on shelves. One of the closets occupies the space that was a former bedroom, but I didn’t photograph the closet, so readers can’t see how many changes of clothing Toni owns!

Toni attributes her love of beautiful things and her sense of color to her paternal grandmother, “Gacky” Thomas, who nurtured Toni’s (her first grandchild) interest in aesthetics, flamboyant clothing and jewelry.

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