One-of-a Kind Designs Delight
To say Mona Groban is an eclectic artist is an understatement! Our paths first crossed about 20 years ago when I owned a craft gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina.
A close friend had met Mona at the St. James Court Art Show in Louisville, Kentucky, where she bought a pair of Mona’s fabulous hand-painted leather shoes. Following my friend’s introduction, Mona sent me a small, hand-painted change purse, and I began carrying her handbags in my shop.
Today, Mona is known for her upcycled, hand-sewn, fun, and funky clothing line that she sells on Etsy. However, it’s hard to tell her full story because she is always juggling any number of paint brushes and projects at one time.
For instance, she has a love affair with houses, and after buying one and “fixing it up” in Wisconsin, she decided blizzards were no longer for her. She moved to North Carolina, bought a large house by the beach, and, of course, fixed it up.
She also bought a cottage and painted it. But she had a lot of paint left over, so she purchased a 1966 Plymouth Fury convertible and painted it in bright colors and wild patterns. You get the idea. She paints leather goods, houses, and even cars!
She sold the leather goods at art fairs across the country. Her inventory always included several styles of comfy shoes like Mary Janes, clogs, and sandals, as well as a few “sexy shoes” with high heels.
Imagine the challenge of having every style in every size. Mona was on her feet all day helping her customers try on shoes, and at night, she painted more to fill in for the ones already sold.
She was also an expert at marketing. In the days before social media, it meant designing postcards and sending them to hundreds of her frequent customers.
For Mona, it was a natural progression to start designing, painting, and sewing clothes. She remembers being just 7 years old and making her own clothes and hand sewing a small clutch bag to match.
She now collects all sorts of fabric, from thrifted men’s shirts to women’s jackets and T-shirts, and without using a pattern, she snips and sews them together in unpredictable ways. She may add paint, words, appliques, handmade buttons, or decorative stitching, all to “fabulize” a unique piece of wearable art. You can see her work at etsy.com/shop/monapaints.
Mona currently lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina, where she owns three cottages that she renovated and “artified.” Her home and studio are in one, and the other two are popular rental properties in this cool mountain town.
She surrounds herself with art projects, and some of them are huge. A few years ago, she painted the total outside of a 72-foot mobile home, adding color and shape to its entire surface. More recently, she hand-painted a gorgeous, large leather couch in the style of Matisse.
When she is not sewing or painting, you might find Mona kayaking, hiking, or traveling. She uses her small camper van to take the “road less traveled” to visit her sons in California, stopping at interesting sites both ways. She loves visiting her daughter in Ireland. At home, Mona is always on the go, enjoying live music, many friends, and the beautiful mountains.
The small, leather change purse Mona gave me many years ago is a testimonial to her work. It is certainly colorful and fun.
And considering I have used it constantly for about 20 years, it looks almost new. Mona’s work is like Mona herself — bright, interesting, and definitely one of a kind!
About the Author
Diane Sulg is executive director of CRAFT and founder and co-chair of American Craft Week (ACW). She is a handmade advocate who provides valuable information in her one-day seminars titled “All About Wholesale” at wholesale shows throughout the United States. Diane is the former owner of Maddi’s Gallery, in Charlotte and Huntersville, North Carolina.