I was recently asked, “what is your real story”?  The question took me aback and as I read my bio on the main page of this web-site it became clear that all the usual information provided really omits all the rich details.  The question made me think about my early childhood and I am just now beginning to discover that it was perhaps unusual if not amazing.

I grew up in British Columbia, Canada but more importantly I was raised by hard working immigrant parents who left the United States for Canada for complications in immigration status, I was born 4 weeks after their border crossing. I was extremely fortunate that my parents were not overly protective when it came to me trying new things - I learned how to use an electric hand mixer at age 3, a sewing machine at 4 and a band saw at 9 - for me it was creative heaven.  There were opportunities at every turn to be creative, one year my father bought 50,000 cowrie shells, they sat in huge crates in our backyard and after school my brothers and I would paint and dip each one in muriatic acid to “carve” them - it was the 70’s, it was completely normal.  My parents bought a corner grocery store and life took a different turn - long hours standing behind a sales counter and register after school selling cigarettes, candy, boxed and canned goods - I knew every cigarette brand all the way back to World War I!  The experience taught me great work ethic and the importance of customer service - it was the best playground ever!  Ten was a magical age - I found a book at the local library by “Wilton” on cake decorating.  I immediately gravitated towards cakes, but then again I loved food and to me “what was better than decorated food”!?  I spent hours pouring through the details of over sized cake construction and made hundreds of sugar flowers, pulled, sculpted, molded - anything related was fair game.  Not long after I was making huge wedding cakes - some 8 feet tall loaded down with sculpted sugar flowers - many were electrified with water fountains!  We would load up our Volkswagon van and deliver cakes sometimes across the Canadian border as far away as Seattle, Washington.  I loved the process of creating, producing and selling, in retrospect it set the stage for a business focused art career.  Today the mastery of those tube skills learned as a child and the years of cake decorating is the magical component in the creation of our hand sculpted wallcovering.  

My father eventually opened a plastic extrusion factory, where my brothers and I were exposed to all facets of plastic production including tool and dye making, bending large sheets of plastic into sculptural forms, creating modern furniture and lighting, all skills that I still rely on when working in the design industry.  After high school and a couple of years trying to be a business and economics major, my journey continued in New York City where my training at the New York Academy of Art  and the kindness and support of many individuals provided the necessary foundation and tools for what has become a life-long career in the arts.  

It is with gratitude that I share my story - the wonderful part is that the great journey continues and we invite you to check in regularly for more exciting news and events at MJ Atelier.

 

Maria Apelo Cruz

MJ Atelier 

More about.....

05/29/2017

Doing one of our favorite things - SAILING!  
Filming in our studio

12/01/2016

In Memory of our dear friend Mr. William P. Dailey

1967 - Age 3, the year I learned to use an electric hand mixer

5/10/2017

I was recently asked, “what is your real story”?  The question took me aback and as I read my bio on the main page of this web-site it became clear that all the usual information provided really omits all the rich details.  The question made me think about my early childhood and I am just now beginning to discover that it was perhaps unusual if not amazing.

I grew up in British Columbia, Canada but more importantly I was raised by hard working immigrant parents who left the United States for Canada for complications in immigration status, I was born 4 weeks after their border crossing. I was extremely fortunate that my parents were not overly protective when it came to me trying new things - I learned how to use an electric hand mixer at age 3, a sewing machine at 4 and a band saw at 9 - for me it was creative heaven.  There were opportunities at every turn to be creative, one year my father bought 50,000 cowrie shells, they sat in huge crates in our backyard and after school my brothers and I would paint and dip each one in muriatic acid to “carve” them - it was the 70’s, it was completely normal.  My parents bought a corner grocery store and life took a different turn - long hours standing behind a sales counter and register after school selling cigarettes, candy, boxed and canned goods - I knew every cigarette brand all the way back to World War I!  The experience taught me great work ethic and the importance of customer service - it was the best playground ever!  Ten was a magical age - I found a book at the local library by “Wilton” on cake decorating.  I immediately gravitated towards cakes, but then again I loved food and to me “what was better than decorated food”!?  I spent hours pouring through the details of over sized cake construction and made hundreds of sugar flowers, pulled, sculpted, molded - anything related was fair game.  Not long after I was making huge wedding cakes - some 8 feet tall loaded down with sculpted sugar flowers - many were electrified with water fountains!  We would load up our Volkswagon van and deliver cakes sometimes across the Canadian border as far away as Seattle, Washington.  I loved the process of creating, producing and selling, in retrospect it set the stage for a business focused art career.  Today the mastery of those tube skills learned as a child and the years of cake decorating is the magical component in the creation of our hand sculpted wallcovering.  

My father eventually opened a plastic extrusion factory, where my brothers and I were exposed to all facets of plastic production including tool and dye making, bending large sheets of plastic into sculptural forms, creating modern furniture and lighting, all skills that I still rely on when working in the design industry.  After high school and a couple of years trying to be a business and economics major, my journey continued in New York City where my training at the New York Academy of Art  and the kindness and support of many individuals provided the necessary foundation and tools for what has become a life-long career in the arts.  

It is with gratitude that I share my story - the wonderful part is that the great journey continues and we invite you to check in regularly for more exciting news and events at MJ Atelier.

 

Maria Apelo Cruz

MJ Atelier