After decades immersed in the worlds of fashion and design, legendary magazine editor Marian McEvoy is now turning out fanciful artworks that have won her a new cult following.

By Deb Schwartz Annie Schlechter and Jessica Thomas
August 06, 2019
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Always impeccably turned out and ever gracious, Marian McEvoy, the longtime Paris fashion editor for Women's Wear Daily and former editor in chief of House Beautiful and Elle Decor, would like to make a couple of things clear. First off, she is not an artist. "I'm a craftsperson. Artisan is a word I might be more comfortable with. I know artists, and I'm not one." Title aside, she is in a position any maker might envy: Represented by KRB, a respected NYC boutique, she makes one-of-a-kind works, including cork and botanical collages and floral illustrations, that consistently sell out, enabling her to devote herself to her craft full-time.

Second, though she spent her 20s in Paris and London writing for the French edition of Vogue and palling around with Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, she is not, she says, a style icon. "Certainly I grew up in the world of fashion and enjoyed it, and I think I did very well for myself in that world, but now I'm more at home in a room with a glue gun or a pot of glue or a felt-tip pen," she says.

Marian's eye for design and prowess with a glue gun (captured in her 2005 book Glue Gun Decor) extends to a pair of flea market chairs she decorated with pieces of suzani, a Central Asian textile, that she cut out and glued onto the cushions. Similarly, a medallion from a Middle Eastern tapestry emblazons the periwinkle love seat in the guest bedroom.

At 71, the former bon vivant and self-professed party girl now leads a disciplined life. She rises daily at 6:30 a.m., makes strong coffee, putters around the house a bit, then starts working at 8:30 a.m. and continues without stopping until 4 or 5 p.m. "I don't like working at night," Marian says. "I like the light of day, the birds singing, you know, that whole thing." She is well-positioned for light and birdsong. Her workspace, a tiny shed behind her small 18th-century house, sits in a colorful garden overlooking the Hudson River north of New York City. In addition to solo projects, she is working on plate designs for interior designer Christopher Spitzmiller and a collection of fabrics with designer Kerry Joyce.

At an antique table she transformed with lacquer paint, Marian creates floral illustrations using the felt-tip pens she stores in chipboard canisters. She found the lamps on eBay and trimmed the shades. Storage baskets and hanging tassels offer easy access to materials. She sources pressed flowers and leaves from around the world via Etsy.

In the evening she has people over (cooking for and entertaining groups of friends at least once a week) or works on her illustrations, covering paper or paper lampshades with felt-tip images of fantastical, graphic, sinuous, entirely fictional plants. "I've always liked to do things with my hands. I've got good hands," she says. "I'm a do-it-yourselfer—always have been—but now I'm able to do it full blast, which is wonderful. It's absolutely wonderful. I've never worked harder or with more pleasure."

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