"My pillows are not to be sat upon or leaned upon," warns lulu Meyer (yes, she goes by lulu, not Lulu).
Don't be alarmed; despite her order, which is delivered with a chuckle, anyway, Meyer is warm and approachable. And the pillows she's talking about are hand-painted silk beauties that would tempt an owner to frame them for display rather than toss them on a sofa.
Meyer is the artist behind Fluffs by lulu, a line of fun pillows made by hand painting designs on silk-a painstaking process because of the tendency of the colors to run over the smooth surface-and then attaching the painting to a hand-sewn silk pillow. One mustard pillow, for example, features the funky form of a female acrobat on a striped red and yellow background, framed by a border of blue fluff. Another design, on a textured black pillow, shows a woman's wistful face, partly obscured by the black netting, feathers and silk flowers of her hat.
Meyer paints acrobats and circus performers, society women from the past (one pillow features Marilyn Monroe), and other glimpses of female faces and forms. Meyer has loved fashion since the days she spent at the home of an aunt who sewed elaborate doll's clothes for her four daughters, and is imbued with a sense of style from a mother who loved to decorate, cook and entertain. She draws her inspiration from the European fashion magazines she culls for interesting images to sketch, then hunts for gorgeously colored silks for her canvases and pillows. Meyer is not afraid to play with iridescent crayon or glittering baubles and a dazzling array of trim ranging from lace to fringe, silk flowers and butterflies that she collects from her travels.
"That's what I love about it; you don't get bored," she says. "It reminds me of going shopping for a fabulous outfit."
An Ohio native, Meyer studied art in college, though her father only allowed her to do so provided she also armed herself with a useful degree in education. She then married and moved to Puerto Rico, where she had her two children; she muses that the azure of the water and vivid scarlets of the bougainvillea introduced her to her love of wild color. "I'm certainly not a beige person," she jokes.
After a divorce, she moved back to Ohio where she found her way back to art. She and a friend rented studio space in a huge warehouse in Cincinnati, and Meyer began painting portraits in pastels. She also painted fashion women's pictures that were used in studio and salon advertisements.
Five years ago, she took a graduate course in painting on silks and fell in love with the medium. She moved to Sarasota three years ago and began teaching drawing in pastels and painting in acrylic and oil at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts, and painting on silk out of her home studio on the north end of Longboat Key. The pillows and bolsters, which she started to make a year ago, sell at Art Uptown Gallery, Izabella on St Armands Circle and the gift shop at the Longboat Key Center for the Arts. Meyer also takes custom orders from clients who either want one of her whimsical pieces to match their décor, or as keepsakes, such as a girl's portrait on a pillow to commemorate her sweet 16, or a painting of a grandchild's feet on a pillow with baby's first shoes as an embellishment.
"The pillows are a combination of everything I like to do, all sorts of painting," says Meyer. "None of it is dull. When you find something you can do day in and day out, that's a gift in itself."
Meyer's pillows start at $125. For more information, contact Fluffs by lulu at (941) 387-8202 or www.fluffsbylulu.com.