On this inaugural edition of The Thersday Series, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Maria Pace. I have enjoyed Maria’s work so much over the years, often purchasing her textiles as gifts, and collecting a few favorites for my own home decor. She is both genuine and humble, delightful and deep thinking. I know you’ll enjoy her story, and I hope you’ll connect with her pieces and make one of them your very own.
Tell us about Maria Pace Designs.
I design custom printed stationery, fabrics and wallpapers from my original watercolor paintings. In my studio/workshop/storefront shop on Main Street in Orange, VA, I paint, design, and sell my stationery, wallpapers and fabrics by the yard, and sew and sell pillows, kitchen towels, baby blankets, lavender sachets and more!
At what point in your life did you feel called to your line of work?
I don’t think there was a specific point. It was kind of like connecting the dots of DNA, inexplicable inklings and attractions—like loving paper and old linens even as a teenager when none of my friends did—the uncontrollable, serendipitous flow of events in life, and little messages from my heart over time. Many of my ancestors and current relatives were and are entrepreneurs, and I always thought it would be neat to have my own shop. I have a desk in my office that belonged to my great-grandfather who was a shopkeeper, I use my great-grandmother’s ironing board and my great-great grandmother’s sewing machine for all my sewing. I love using their old tools, and I feel like their spirits are with me, helping me along the way.
When I was nine I started painting with the incredibly talented watercolorist Carolyn Emerson. I painted with her through high school and she has become a lifelong friend. Over the years, I always painted on the side for fun, but I was pursuing an education and career in writing. Around 2009, while I was spending some time in Italy and taking long walks along dusty roads in the countryside, I started to feel strongly that I wanted to shift my focus onto painting, and I started actively pursuing how I might be able to design fabrics and home wares from my watercolors. In in spring of 2014, I finally opened the doors of my shop at 132 West Main Street in Orange.
What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
There are lots of windows and plenty of natural light. My work desk and sewing machine are upstairs next to windows overlooking the street. For some reason I just love working up high, like a bird on a perch.
My mom has always been a wonderful example of exercising ingenuity—to always try to enthusiastically make something from nature or scratch rather than buy it already manufactured. Carolyn Emerson gave me the gift of painting, without which my life would be completely different. My landlady, Grayson Butterfield, is an all-around creative genius. Among other things, she sews, knits, decorates, gardens, regularly conceives outstanding ideas, and is an impressive mother and business woman. She is remarkably generous with her creative energy and her desire to encourage others who are pursuing their creative dreams. She has significantly helped and inspired me on my journey and continues to do so. And her office is right next to mine!
Name something you’re most proud of in your business experience?
I am so happy to be able to work straight from my heart. I paint things that inspire me and make things I would want to have and use. I am so grateful to be able to exercise that creative freedom every day and to make a living doing it.