Monica Morris

Dear Readers, most of us are familiar with the old adages “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure.” In today’s column we’re going to meet Monica Morris, a Ladysmith resident who finds potential beauty in things that others might regard as unusable castoffs and re-creates them as items that are beautiful, fun and useful. 

A relative newcomer to our area, Monica hails from Illinois. She studied art therapy at Mt. Mary College in Milwaukee, and completed her degree in 2007, when she was already a two-time grandmother. Monica’s work as an art therapist has been focused on special needs children, helping them to express their feelings through art. She is currently substitute teaching and doing graduate studies in what she terms “cross-categorical special education. Whenever possible she helps support the “Toadally Artsy Kids” program on Saturday mornings at Toad House in Ladysmith. 

Monica says she likes to do art that “expresses her.” In particular, she enjoys finding old clothing , furniture and other cast-off items at thrift stores and garage sales and making something new and often unusual out of them. As an example, she cites finding old sweaters and turning them into pairs of boot warmers made from the sweater sleeves. She also remakes old fabric hats, often decorating them with felted flowers and designs she creates herself, and additionally makes handbags, gloves and other wearable items from recycled clothing. Monica calls her hats, bags and wearables “Do Over Duds,” and uses the tag “Momo” for all her creations. She says her decorated hats are what she’s best known for and considers them her trademark.

In her art therapy training, says Monica, she learned to create art out of whatever materials were at hand. Now, using familiar materials in unexpected and often unique ways is not only central to her own eclectic art but also something she encourages her students to do. When looking at old or used objects she constantly asks herself, “What can I do with this ? Can I find a new use for it? Could I do something totally different with it?” This readiness to try new things has led her to such diverse artistic endeavors as using a special kind of acrylic paint called chalk paint to decorate chairs, lamps and rugs, to experiment with nature photography, and to work with felt in a variety of ways. 

Besides her felted hats and other wearables, Monica creates felt paintings, which she describes as felting a colorful design onto a wool background. This is the type of art she most enjoys doing, she says, because of the subtle way the felt fibers can be blended to create exact colors and shadings. Monica adds that she often attaches hand-stitched objects to her felted paintings to give them depth.

Monica’s felted hats, bags and other “Do Over Duds” are available at Toad House, 711 Lake Avenue W. in Ladysmith. Examples of her work can also be seen on her newly developed Facebook page titled “Momo’s Musings and Art” at www.facebook.com/DoOverDuds.

by Pegeen Snoeyenbos