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Fantastical Fun with Marissa Mavroudas

Picture this: It's March 2020, the world is falling apart. We're all instructed to stay inside and hide from one another until this thing blows over. All the fun stuff we like to do is canceled. No shows, no parties, no events. We watched movies and tv shows from our blanket forts, learned to make sourdough bread, maybe started a garden while we waited to see what would happen. It is in this anxious and uncertain environment that something bright and fun and whimsical splashed onto the scene.

The Fantastic Fun Shop made its debut online, in April 2020. All playful graphics in an ice cream shop color palette, it offered up printable coloring pages, embroidery patterns, and custom greeting card designs. Cheeky, pandemic-themed notecards popped up alongside colorful odes to pizza and birthday cake. Who was the mastermind behind this cheerful rainbow-generator in these dark times?

I had to know.

That's how I met Marissa, an Oregon transplant from the east coast, and the mastermind behind the rainbow-sprinkled online store that is the Fantastical Fun Shop.

Marisa grew up in New Jersey, but says she has long been enchanted by the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest (Ah. Tale as old as time...)

She and her spouse packed up and moved to the Pacific NorthWonderland juuuuuust before the 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic hit. While perhaps not the best introduction to her new home, Marissa insists that it was a great decision.

"Living here for over a year now has been inspiring, healing, and most certainly full of adventures and exploration."

She says the move has enabled her to able to "rekindle my strong bond to nature and further develop my inner artist here on the west coast, and for that I am extremely grateful."

What were you like as a kid? have you always been artistic?

"I have always enjoyed expressing my creativity and creating things," she says. Marissa remembers hours spent sitting at her desk with her “how to draw” books as a child, trying her best to follow along. "Any type of crafting activity or kit was always a favorite activity." She also says that her art installations started early: "One of my favorite creative memories I have is arranging various toys and objects on top of my dresser to create a sort of monthly display. I would switch up the items and arrangement periodically, changing the installation depending on my mood, an upcoming holiday, or changing season."

Like many young artists, Marissa jumped ta the opportunity to take art classes in school.

The art classes were "my place of relaxation, learning, and inspiration." Marissa explains "that experience really showed me the calming and therapeutic aspects art making can bring to one’s life." As a teen she took all the art classes her school had to offer and went on to attend college to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Merchandising.

After a couple years working a Big City Job, Marissa "felt a yearning to learn and practice more art making and also to escape the hectic energy of the city." She went back to school where she discovered a love of ceramics. She graduated with a Masters degree in Art Education and became a full time elementary art teacher.

After four years of teaching, the time came for that big move to the West Coast. "When we arrived I was itching to get into a ceramics studio, but classes were cancelled due to the pandemic." Bummer, right? Not to be deterred, Marissa decided it was as good a time as any to open a greeting card shop on Etsy. She says it was a way to stay creative, make some extra income, and spread the joy of sending and receiving snail mail. (And boy, and I a sucker for snail mail.)

Even as in-person art classes haven't been possible, Marissa has still made time to explore her art practice. "Recently, I have been able to pick up some brushes and work on my painting skills." She says, "the more painting I do the more I learn about my own style and purpose which seems to be less about accurate representation and more about energy and color. I have also always had a strong connection with my inner child that seems to be coming out in some of my recent work, which makes me smile."

It makes the rest of us smile, too.

Do you have a designated making-space to work on your projects?

For her painting and card making, Marissa has set up a studio in her apartment’s second

bedroom. "I am so grateful that I can use this space as a sort of art retreat where I can go work in my own little world with all of the distractions or lack of them that I want." She enjoys using her studio as a retreat, getting the most out of her art-as-self-care approach. "When it comes to less messy crafting or digital drawing, I can many times be found snuggled on the couch with a good documentary or television series playing on the TV as I work."

What do you need in order to be productive?

In perhaps the most relatable response to this question I've ever heard, Marissa simply replied, "Coffee is always a big help."

Once she has downed her first iced espresso of the day she says she's motivated and ready to roll! She also likes to play some music to get into the creative mood. "I enjoy playing instrumental music or songs in another language as background music to nurture my creativity without distracting myself with words."

As Marissa builds her confidence in painting, she says she is most productive in the peaceful solitude of her studio. "I am a pretty private person and that seems to hold true when it comes to my art making process as well."

What's your organization style? Any tips to share? "I like to pretend I am organized, "Marissa confides. "I have all of the containers, shelves, storage I need but once I am in the middle of something the organization goes out the window." Ha! I bet more than a few of us can relate. But it's not always a mess. Marissa shares that she does a thorough clean and puts everything back in its place whenever the mood strikes, "which could be a few days... or even weeks."

But whether it's cluttered or cleaned, she still keeps her space as a sacred retreat, a place where she can relax, play, and experiment. "I usually let my imagination take the lead while 'playing' with my paints and other supplies. Even if I am using personal photographs or images for inspiration, I tend to choose colors, textures, and other artistic elements intuitively instead of initially planning everything out."

How do you stay inspired?

At this point in her art journey, Marissa enjoys the therapeutic potential for her practice. She enjoys being able to let go, follow her intuition, and free herself to wherever the creative muse takes her. "I usually like to feel a sense of control in most of my everyday life which can become exhausting. Painting whatever, however, and whenever I want has become a way for me to take a break from that thought pattern. So as of now, I make art for me, and for the benefits it has on my well-being. If others can find joy or a sense of freedom in my work as well, then all the better."

All the better, indeed.

Many, many thanks to Marissa for answering my questions and for sharing her story. If you would like to keep up with Marissa's creations, you can follow Fantastic Fun Shop on Instagram and Pinterest. Pintables, coloring pages, greeting cards, and other fun things are available in the Fantastical Fun Shop on Etsy, Thortful, RedBubble, Society6, and Teachers Pay Teachers.

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