Mel Smith adds painted wit to nondescript furnishings
In the world according to Mel Smith, horses dance till the pigs fly home,and lizards make friends with the cow.
No, it's not some fairy tale gone awry, but fancifully painted furniture by the 28-year-old Fells Point artist.
For the last year, Ms. Smith has been covering chairs, chests, telephones -- just about anything she can get her paintbrush on -- with her witty designs.
"Sometimes I feel trapped by so many ideas, like I'm out of control," says the art director of Image Dynamics, a local advertising and public relations firm.
It all began when Mel (short for Melinda) Smith needed a chair for her kitchen. Rather than opt for a nondescript model, she scoured flea markets, bought a North Carolina Shaker chair and painted it black and white with cows all over.
Tomlinson Craft Collection in Mount Vernon recently began carrying her work (priced between $75 and $200).
Ms. Smith cites just one drawback to her pursuit: "I think I've ruined just about everything I own by way of clothing."
When Flozella Riddle Clark was a child, the same thing always got her in trouble -- giving away candy at her mother's store.
She laughs as she confesses it now, more than 60 years later, but believes such incidents foretold her future.
"I was always trying to give people something they didn't have," says Ms. Clark, a social worker and businesswoman who will receive a Distinguished Black Marylander award from Towson State University today.
During 30 years as a social worker, she placed more than 60 black youngsters in adoptive homes, a feat she still considers her greatest accomplishment.
"In the '50s, it was hard to place black children. You'd go to sororities, churches, community meetings and use all the personal charisma you had," she says.
After a successful career in the field, she turned to real estate, in part because she found herself frequently lining up housing for families.
In between, she was active in the NAACP and picketed hotels and theaters that discriminated against blacks.
"I was a fighter," she says. "But it looked to me that I had to be the spokesman for people who wouldn't speak up."
At 71, the West Baltimore grandmother refuses to retire. "Sometimes I think I should just sit down, but I don't think I can," she says. "There's more to do."
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