Meet your merchant: Artist creates works to inspire women, promote healing
The year 2010 was hard for artist Marylou Falstreau. Someone close to her was struggling, and she poured her heart and soul into the crisis.
“I was trying to help, fix, and save this person,” she said. “I lost all sense of myself.”
But it was during this dark period that Falstreau had a dream that would change the course of her life.
“I dreamt I was sitting around a big conference table with a group of women and it felt like there was some information there that I needed,” she said. “It was a very serious discussion.”
When she woke up, two words came to her — “women” and “hourglass.” It was at that moment that Falstreau decided her art should become more spiritual and “women-centric,” with a theme of empowerment.
“When you’re struggling you don’t generally get pats on the back from others,” she said. “Too often you find yourself feeling shame and isolation. I realized that I was the one who needed to give myself a pat on the back. The dream reminded me to come back to myself. It launched a new mission of discovery for me — a journey of healing and awakening.”
The shape of the hourglass has nothing to do with the shape of a woman, said Falstreau. Instead, it represents something that can be turned over at any time — an opportunity to start again. One always has the freedom to choose a different direction or perspective. Life, she said, is an “inside job.”
“The neck of the hourglass represents the present moment,” she continued. “If you blow it, just turn it over — giving yourself permission to begin again. It’s not about the shape, it’s about it’s about time and your relationship with the hourglass.”
That first week after the dream Falstreau began creating inspirational messages with accompanying images, such as, “One day she woke up and discovered she’d grown wings,” “One day she woke up and decided to love herself more than she ever thought possible” and “One day her desire for peace became so great … that she became peace.”
How it started
It’s been nine years since Falstreau created the “Women and the Hourglass series” of inspirational art for women. She has since used her own life experiences and challenges to create 67 images that “speak to the heart.” From her studio in downtown Grass Valley, Falstreau’s images using collage and acrylic paints can now be found in the form of two affirmation card decks, fine art prints, greeting cards, magnets, a coloring book, a story book and more. Many of these are now also sold in stores. Falstreau and her husband, Alan, now manage a wholesale business that connects with clients throughout the U.S. and internationally.
Between 2012 and 2015, Falstreau and her husband lived in La Quinta, Calif. It was there that Falstreau had a chance meeting with a spiritual counselor who worked for the nonprofit Betty Ford Center, an alcohol and drug addiction treatment hospital. The counselor was so taken with Falstreau’s images of affirmation that she asked to take one as a way to start one of her counseling sessions. Today the card series has become part of the Betty Ford program, as well as a part of other nonprofit organizations’ self help programs, such as those helping people heal from cancer, domestic violence and sex trafficking.
“They’ve taken my work and added their own message based on their mission,” said Falstreau. “I’m not a trained therapist — I’m just a human being who wakes up and discovers that another layer has peeled away and needs to be addressed. So be it if it helps other people. Ultimately it’s not about me — it’s about you and what you see. But I can’t be a brand — that’s like stepping into a box and staying there.”
“Through the vehicle of my art I say things ‘out loud’ that others are thinking and feeling. I am a truth teller. (My work) even speaks to women who are learning to love and forgive themselves, to be happy and have fun,” wrote Falstreau in a guest column for The Union in 2017. “Some of us are actually learning to say no.”
Despite being a self-professed introvert, Falstreau said she may soon shift her open studio hours from appointment-only to a couple of days a week, but the schedule is yet to be finalized.
“The biggest surprise was that in creating art based on a message to myself I’ve influenced and helped others,” she said. “My work has become a tool for transformation — one card can be a changing moment in someone’s life history. People have told me that. The more I show up for myself, the more I help others.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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“I grew up in Nevada County, in this beautiful place — I now have a love and appreciation for everything I do,” he said. “My goals are to be mindful, keep an open door and be compassionate if someone’s having a bad day. This is a school of fitness — we teach people how not to hurt themselves.”