The custom art of Mary Ann Haven surprises and delights her clients, invariably leaving them wanting more of her work.
By Rachel Haynie Photographs by Jay Browne
Fine artist Mary Ann Haven wanted art owners to love what they purchased, continue relating to the pieces for a long duration of time, and become more knowledgeable about art in the process. So she developed the process – one that would enhance all three objectives.
“In speaking with prospective art buyers, I simply refer to this as custom art,” said the versatile artist. “When I am approached about a piece of art work, either one I have already painted and that someone has seen on the 701 Center for Contemporary Art (701CCA) site or on my Houzz.com site, we have a starting point for a discussion. With existing pieces as reference, often including ones individuals or couples have found on their own and have images of, we talk about what they like about what they see, in what setting they envision displaying a new piece, the scale considerations regarding where the piece will hang, and, lastly, budget.”
Those who have responded favorably to Haven’s process and the opportunity of taking ownership of a piece of art they had a hand in shaping range from first time “real art” buyers to interior designers satisfying the demands of their discerning clients. Knowing what to ask and being a very good listener have helped Haven build a solid following of patrons who now are more fluent in the language of art. For them to become repeat clients is not unusual.
Haven said: “Usually, prospective clients have seen something in my body of work that caused them to contact me. When I'm asked to create something special for an individual, family or business, I take careful note of the environment in which the artwork will be displayed, mood and size requirements. I ask questions to help me establish a feeling for what will be successful.”
Client Carol Plexico recalled, “When we first started the process with Mary Ann, I felt I didn’t have the words I would need to describe what I wanted.” Plexico was in search of a special piece of art, one both she and her husband Ben would like well enough to invest in. “When Mary Ann said, ‘We can go through the process together,’ I began to breathe easier. I met her during 701 CCA Open Studios tour at her studio and saw some of her work. I also visited her site and saw more of her art that I liked very much.” The two agreed to continue their dialogue.
Haven arrived at their first meeting with a color wheel. “We were very open to her style and, although we liked works we found on her site – from 3-D to portraits, realism to abstracts – and in a number of different mediums, we had something very specific in mind for our bedroom,” said Plexico, whose home on Lake Murray has water views from nearly every window, knew the painting would pick up light and change colors as each day evolved. “What she painted for us brightened up the room with lavenders, greens, gold, blue and white.”
Surprised at how easy their communications went with the artist, the Plexico’s next surprise was that Haven encouraged them to hang the finished painting in their bedroom and “live with it for a few days. If we wanted anything about it changed, she was willing to change it – all within the original budget.”
The painting immediately brought on a sense of peacefulness for the couple. And yet there was an underlying emotion. “We discovered in our conversations that we shared with Mary Ann some recent losses in our lives," Plexico recalled. “We had both recently loss our mothers. The painting that she produced, and the process we shared, made us feel we were on a journey together.”
The painting was given the name “Passages.”
Like Plexico, Wanda Loftin also found Haven’s work on her website. “I was re-doing our dining room and had been looking in the usual places but hadn’t found the special painting I wanted to complete it,” said the Hampton Leas resident. “When I called Mary Ann, I was a bit daunted, but I found her very easy to talk with. I told her we wanted something reminiscent of sunsets we had enjoyed together, particularly off Patriot’s Point, just across the bridge from Charleston.” As far as composition of the painting, Loftin said Haven got that right the first time. “Getting the colors just right wasn’t easy, but she kept listening, kept altering the piece.” The finished painting is a joy for the Loftins to behold. “Every time we look at it, we think of those sunsets we’ve shared.” The Loftins named their painting “Chasing Sunset at Patriot’s Point.”
Shared memories also motivated Dr. Quico Albert and his wife Sherrie to commission Haven to create a custom piece for them. “We have been fortunate to travel together a lot and we have collected some art. But we wanted something to remind us of the first trip we took together – to New York. Time Square was what we had in mind.”
After listening carefully to the Alberts and reviewing the space in which the painting would go, Haven created a piece whose colors depict Time Square at night, in the rain. “She really captured what that first trip meant to us; she got the feeling we wanted conveyed. We feel very fortunate that we were allowed to make the painting our own by describing how we wanted it.” Albert said they gave the painting to themselves as a Christmas gift.
Ashley Petty had a graciously-heavy client load as an Irmo interior designer when she met Haven. “Something about her made me feel peaceful the first time I spoke with her, and as a yoga practitioner, that’s saying something,” said Petty, whose own interior now accommodates two small children. “She and I hit it off and began working together on projects; in fact, she stepped in and calmed me down at a critical point of a project when I was about to give birth and again when my son was only a week and a half old.” Petty said Haven worked seamlessly with contractors. “She has the ability to please everyone! Once clients had anything she had worked on for them, they invariably wanted more.” Petty attributes part of Haven’s success to her communications skills. “She is eloquent in speaking and I have loved seeing her thoughts become works.”
A graduate of the University of North Texas University with a BFA degree in Interior Design, Haven attributes her ability to translate what art patrons and collectors, designers and contractors are attempting to convey to having worked with myriad people throughout her career. “My studies in drafting, art history, layout and design helped me pursue work involving murals and trompe l’oeil, a form of extreme realism that appears three-dimensional on a two-dimensional surface. Such projects brought me into contact with workers at various artisan levels.”
She also feels her travels have informed her sensibility of language – about both her work and her communications. “During a trip to northern Italy, where I was out of my language comfort zone, I became fascinated by the surfaces of the old plaster-covered buildings. Everywhere around me I saw multi- colored, cracked, aged layers of plaster that looked, to me, like abstract paintings. Upon returning home I was inspired to attempt these random qualities with paint on canvas. This has grown into a great love for spontaneity and continuous discovery that is part and parcel of abstract expressionism.
Yet Haven’s inspiration also comes from parameters determined by the interviewing process, “so once I can see the client’s vision and am in the studio, I can work from inspiration. Every time a commission is completed successfully, I feel it has been a collaborative effort.”
See more of Mary Ann’s work at Houzz.com