Mary Pal, Glebe artist and shopping spree winner!

By Gillian Campbell

Textile artist Mary Pal. Photo courtesy of Mary Pal

Glebe textile artist Mary Pal did not realize that she had won the Glebe Shopping Spree for days after she received the call from the Glebe BIA. “When Christine Leadman called me, she said, ‘Now don’t get excited, but your name has been drawn in the Glebe Shopping Spree contest.’” Mary Pal laughs, “So I didn’t get excited! I just thought my name was one of several that had been drawn and that they would be doing another draw to determine the winner.” When she went to the Glebe BIA office, she was very surprised when they gave her $10,000 in travellers’ cheques to be spent at Glebe BIA businesses.

As a Glebe resident for over 20 years, Pal knows and loves the Glebe well. She has made a point of spending her prize money at as many of the businesses and shops in the Glebe as possible. With so many great shops and restaurants to choose from, she has had a lot of fun over the past few months. Sandals from Glebe Trotters, beautiful Group of Seven mugs from McIntosh & Watts, and pedicures from Third Avenue Spa are just a few of her splurges.

The shopping spree money has been a welcome distraction for Pal, as she has been busy lately pursuing her career. Pal is a textile artist who creates gorgeous works with fabrics and cheesecloth. She loves the tactile aspect of working with fabrics and experimenting with art that incorporates fabric and stitch.

“Homeless Love” by Mary Pal. Photo: courtesy of Mary Pal.

The cheesecloth technique she developed creates an amazingly light, almost chalk-like effect that works best to bring out the character of mature faces that have wrinkles and personality. Through the layering and positioning of the cheesecloth, Pal can capture the mood and tone of a subject’s face. These portraits have a nuanced and delicate touch that brings the character of her subject to life. For example, her work “Homeless Love” captures not only the harsh cragginess of her subjects’ faces, but a sense of humour and attachment to each other as well. In Pal’s work “Musing,” you can see the calm and pensive mood of the woman. Her stillness and repose provide an interesting contrast to the liveliness and energy in “Homeless Love.” No wonder these works are in particular demand.

Pal is also a dedicated art teacher. Her workshops in fabric and textile design are popular around the world. She says her students love creating art with cheesecloth and are surprised at how versatile and interesting the effects are.

“Musing” by Mary Pal. Photo: Courtesy of Mary Pal

“My students love the immediate gratification they get working with cheesecloth. It doesn’t take long to see how their ideas translate into art.”

Pal has only recently turned to creating works with cheesecloth. She is a talented quilter, with several of her quilted works featured prominently in Glebe buildings. Her triptych of quilts depicting daily life in the Glebe hangs in a place of honour in the Glebe Community Centre. This work highlights the Glebe in all seasons, from tulips and bicycling in the spring to skating in the winter. Its colours and images brighten the space around it and are an important reflection of Glebe life.

Another prominently displayed work is an apple tree hanging at the Glebe Centre. The Centre commissioned this work to thank its staff, some of whom have worked there for 25 years. The tree has leaves that can be added or removed. Each staff member’s name is featured on a leaf, and different leaf colours and apples on the tree reflect the staff member’s years of service. Pal chose an apple tree for this work because apple trees grew on the site of the Glebe Centre over a hundred years ago.

Pal loves living in the Glebe and often takes walks to Brown’s Inlet, which she finds peaceful and inspiring. “I love the willow tree at Brown’s Inlet,” says Pal. She is holding it in the back of her mind as an inspiration for a future work. [See back cover of the March 2013 issue of the Glebe Report for a photograph of the willow.] It is this type of beautiful space, along with the vibrant community life and character-filled buildings, which makes Pal so fond of the Glebe. “It is a wonderful community for an artist to be based.”

These are exciting times for Mary Pal, with the worldwide interest in her art (one of her works was displayed in Taiwan), the demand for her as a workshop teacher, and the added thrill of winning the Glebe Shopping Spree. For more information about Mary Pal’s art, visit her website at

Gillian Campbell is a writer and editor who contributes to the Glebe Report and assists the production team with proofreading.

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