Athena Magazine

Fashion, lifestyle, passions

The making of an artist: Mem’s Pocket Palette April 22, 2009

Submitted by Marjorie Cunningham, owner of Marjorie’s Cracked Plate Jewelry and manager of the Reclaimed to Fame Market.

One of the talented merchants in the Reclaiemd to Fame Market is Mem of Mem’s Pocket Palette.  Mem’s story is a fascinating and inspiring one and she has shared it with us.  Stop by Mem’s shop to see her innovative one-of-a-kind creations!

My name is Memory McDermott and I was born and raised in Colorado. My love for found objects and collecting started at an early age. My mom said that I would stuff my diapers with rocks, rolly pollies and anything else I could find that was not attached to something. (As a child I had to empty my pockets before I was allowed through the door.)

“We were raised in a small town, and the dump was down a dirt road along the river about ½ mile out. I started walking that dirt road on a daily basis by the time I was seven. In the summer time the other girls would play with their Barbie Dolls, and I would be at the dump filling my bucket and pockets with treasures.

“While other kids were making mud pies, I was making little bowls and animals. (I’m not really sure if they actually looked like bowls or animals, but that’s what I was making)

“I remember at eight years old this old man in town was watching us one day and he offered me 50 cents for my mud bowl. My very first sale and I was hooked! After that I would go from door to door in our little town with my “famous art” on a cookie sheet and sale to the locals! Everyone thought it was cute, so I did make a little bit of money until my mom and dad found out what I was doing. They were not amused and did not see “the cuteness” in my salesmanship or art. (They obviously had no eye for talent)

“I was never your typical kid, nor did I care! I was completely happy sitting in a tree high above the ground watching other kids go crazy at an outdoor birthday party. I say this because several years ago one of our neighbors died, and their kids came across a picture of me sitting in a tree at a birthday party and sent it to my parents. I was six at the time. I remember those times well, and I also remember that my mind would go crazy. I would watch, listen and think of how many things I could make from the napkin that had just blown off the table or the silly hats all the kids were wearing, and this has never changed about me. I still watch, listen and observe while my mind goes crazy creating things that sometimes come about and other things that get shuffled to a corner in my mind that only seems to be a distant memory of things once thought of.

“I loved the late ’60s and early ’70s! Going to college in Southern L.A. was one of my favorite times! I felt happy, free and political. That time in my life fit with my personality more so then any time since. I function the best when I have a cause. Everything was changing and the world was exciting and I wanted to be a part of it. I loved the freedom those times offered to create and be yourself and I took advantage of it, creating, experimenting and becoming a mother! Life was grand and I was a part of it.

“I could not tell you everything about my life without writing a book so I will skip all the details and tell you that getting a divorce, raising a child on your own with very little child support changes your thinking and your way of living. I soon found that I could make a better living as a construction worker then I could as a “therapist”. (Not to mention I don’t do well with whining) First of all I am petite. I am only 5’ and weigh 103 lbs. but growing up with two brothers I became tough. This is leading to the rest of my life. I became Union Carbides “First Woman” underground miner. I was a driller, and I loved it! Six years after my son was born I had my daughter and continued with construction work. When one job ended I moved on to another so our lives were spent on the road a lot. I worked for Brown & Root, Gary Refinery, Sturgeon Electric and on and on….

“In 1987 I had a brain hemorrhage that changed my life forever. . My son was 13 and my daughter was 7 at the time. They told my family to bring my kids in to say goodbye, that I would not make it through the night, obviously I did (we think, that’s still on the table) but I was in a coma for fourteen days in intensive care and after that a little over a month in the hospital. When I went home my parents came to take care of me for about 2 months, my son quit school to take care of me and my daughter went to live with my brother and is wife some time after where she remained until she graduated. It took me a long time to learn again and to be half way normal again and I was full of anger. I did not see the miracle that everyone was talking about. I spent hours, days and months in a dark room where I could only have two visitors a day and only for 10 minutes at a time. I was full of depression and despair!

“At some point I began to dream again of making things. I would spend hours creating in my mind, making something from an old object or painting a beautiful picture. It was those things from my childhood that kept me going. It was the creative side that softened the anger and gave me a reason to get well so that I could use this time to create.

“During this healing period in my life, which was a good eight years I made things, became a drug an alcohol counselor, opened my own shop and learned a new way of living. I always had a house full of homeless people, which actually started long before all of this and I soon was on a mission to make hats and scarves to pass out to homeless people every winter. (I still do that)

“In a six-year period before I came to Texas I was asked to manage a non-profit organization that was going under because of previous management. They only had 63 paid up members, rented their building and were losing money fast, forcing them to eventually close the doors. I told the board of directors that I would do it only if they stayed out of my way and let me do what I felt was best. I told them that the first thing I was going to do was use a donation (a lot in the city that was donated) as a payment on a building. I sold the lot and bought a huge, huge building for $150,000. They were horrified. I promised them that we would have it paid off within one year. We DID, one year to the date! We put on plays and dinner shows at the Hilton and eventually in our own building, we raised money through various activities at the club, had a monthly Las Vegas night that always brought in a lot of money and by the time I quit 6 years later to move to Texas they had plenty of money in the bank, 10 well paid employees and 892 paid up members. I tell you all of this because I believe after all of these years that a creative mind will take you a long ways if you let it.

“During these years I also got back into herbs, which I studied as a child with my grandparents. I sold my own line of tea for years then wrote a book with all the recipes. The only one I did not include was the Hair Growth Tea as I still have plans of marketing that.

“As I mentioned earlier, to tell my entire story would be a book, which this has become so I will quit with this last entry.

“Today I have two fantastic kids that are amazing adults and one beautiful granddaughter and they all live in Austin! I am also married to a man I met after moving to Texas. We have been together for 8 years now and live 70 miles Northwest of Austin so I am able to see my kids and my granddaughter often.

“I spend most of my days now just enjoying and taking care of our crippled deer and any other animal God sends our way. I still dumpster dive (hubby is over the shock now) and I still have my days but all in all…. my joy comes from being able to create and the hope that every day I have made a difference for someone else in this lifetime.”