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Charting A New Artistic Course

As the world is trying to make sense of a global pandemic, many small businesses have had to close their doors as social distancing has become our new reality. One of the hardest-hit groups of the self-employed is professional artists and craftspeople who depend on art shows, farmers’ markets, galleries and festivals for their income. With the closure of stores, festivals, and events in the area, many artists are searching for other ways to show and sell their work. This is one of those times when being positive and creative can work to change your circumstances.

My friend, artist Mary Zlotnick, is one of those people. “I primarily sell my art through art festivals and markets, which have all been canceled,” she said. “This is a learning curve for us all, and I am trying to pivot again. During this time, I have also been reflecting, knowing we will evolve and help each other and our community. We will emerge, transformed.”

A positive attitude is inspiring during these hard times. Right when the COVID-19 shutdowns started, Zlotnick came up with the idea to start a group where artists could post pictures of their work and get their art out on the internet for sale. “Recently, I created a Facebook page to connect local artists with local buyers, called Starving Artists Collective, buy and sell group,” said Zlotnick. Currently, the Facebook page has over 270 members including artists and craftsmen local to Brunswick and New Hanover Counties. “We invite artisans to post one or two pictures a day of affordable but quality artisan products with a link to artisan information so that a customer can order directly. Think of this as an online art gallery/market and just another way to get your products viewed. We are all working together to help one another,” she said.

Being influenced by her mother’s batik art, Zlotnick had a strong love for textile work. Using dye and wax on textiles has been around for centuries. In Indonesia, batik (pronounced buhteek) is part of ancestral tradition. Wax is used on fabric to create a design that resists dye colors, creating a unique design and texture print. After the final dyeing, the wax is removed and the fabric is left with a design. “My mother was an art teacher and often created large batiks for companies — Springmaid and other local companies — so I had grown up around batiks,” she said. “My process starts with unbleached muslin, which I pencil in my design. I then use wax and dye to create an image. Then I use dye again, sometimes like tie-dyeing,” she said. “My mother had a huge influence on knowing batik. But I have been drawn to collage artist Romare Bearden and graffiti artist, Keith Haring. Maybe because they create outside the box. I love tactile work, clay, and fabric,” she said. “The beach area has had a lot of influence on my art. I love creating blue herons, mermaids, bicycles, pelicans, and flowers. However, I have created skylines and other designs. Lately, I have been attracted to painting on silk...using resist and dyes. I love how it has transparency and brilliance that I can’t get with fabric.”

Zlotnick is not a beginner at changing course in her life and work. She’s lived in many parts of the country, and she holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration, and also a Master of Arts degree in Public and Social Policy. “When I moved to Pawleys Island, SC, I had brought my holistic line of products I had developed while living in California, including an insect repellent, registered with EPA and sold at Ace Hardware,” said Zlotnick. “While living in Pawleys Island, I registered and named my brand, Authentic Pawleys Life®. I eventually moved to Sunset Beach to be closer to the farmers and art markets I was regularly attending. By 2017, so many people were creating holistic products. So, I pivoted and ended up painting batiks and now, silk paintings,” she said.

Making pottery is also very important to Zlotnick. In 2003, she also co-founded Beekman Street Art District in Saratoga Springs, NY and made pottery. Now she takes pottery classes with me at Brunswick Community College in Southport. “I have to keep my hands in clay, it is like breathing for me,” she said. “I cannot just create the same thing over and over. I love the element of surprise. With clay, there is the glaze and batiks it is how the dye will fall and mix. Sometimes I get an idea and have to follow it through,” she said.

You can reach Zlotnick by email at Check out her Facebook page@authenticlfenow, and her Instagram: @authenticpawleys. You can also reach her through her website:

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