Creative Cowgirls, Kindred Spirits

WAXAHACHIE, TX — Nearly four years ago, Cindy Mayfield and the late Tina Wright had a wild idea that came from their desire to attend the Silver Bella Art Retreat held annually in Nebraska. “Honestly, we couldn’t afford to go,” Cindy said, explaining that the weekend event brought “crafty” women from all over the United States together. “Tina and I had one of those ‘Lucy and Ethel-type moments’ when we decided to host our own event.”

That missed event was the blue print the two close friends followed when planning the first Paper Cowgirl Art Retreat in Waxahachie in June of 2008. “It took nearly eight months of planning, but we pulled it off,” Cindy recalled. “We kept it small because we didn’t want it to get out of hand.”

Before the first Paper Cowgirl Art Retreat, both women had a fear. “We feared we’d throw a party and no one would come,” Cindy confessed. Their concerns were put to rest when they quickly filled the 20 slots available. Cindy has always served as the “carnival barker,” while Tina served as one of the art teachers. “Tina taught us the art of soldered necklaces,” Cindy said, smiling as she explained the necklace Tina made especially for her. “They are geared to the person you are making them for. Mine has a ‘C’ for Cindy, a red button, the word ‘goddess,’ a princess crown and one of my personal business cards.”

What was once just a fun necklace has become a piece of priceless artwork Cindy will cherish forever. Not long after the second art retreat in 2009, Tina found out she had colon cancer. Since the cancer had already metastasized, there was nothing the doctors could do but make her last months as comfortable as possible. At her passing, the plans for the third year had been laid, but Cindy was not sure she would be able to go on without Tina. “I’m glad I continued,” Cindy said with tears in her eyes. “It’s good to carry on what we started together. I may have been alone in body, but Tina was there in spirit.”

One day, four classes and 20 ladies who initially met through Internet blogs have grown into two-and-a-half days, 12 classes and close to 100 ladies. What began at a local craft store has grown to include the meeting room, board room and convention center at the local Hampton Inn & Suites. “Offering ladies a weekend of relaxation where they are encouraged to tap into their creativity, allows them to become the person they were meant to be,” Cindy said, explaining how important it is to have balance in life. “Women are born with this natural need to create. We are exercising the creative muscles God gave us.”

The annual retreats would not get off to a “smashing start” without what the ladies in the group refer to as “swaps.” Swaps are when the ladies begin to share their craft ideas with one another. There is always one lady designated to be the swap hostess. “The hostess comes up with an idea limited to 10 people,” Cindy said, explaining the most recent swap craft was a giant Rodeo Queen sash. “Only girls in Texas could come up with such an idea.”

The sashes proved to be lots of fun as the ladies glued words, antique frames with old photos, crowns, flowers, feathers — anything to tell a story and make the sash personal for the lady creating it. “It was simply amazing what they were able to come up with,” Cindy added. The swap time provides a welcome opportunity for the ladies to artistically bond with one another, while taking their creativity to a much higher level.

The most popular classes to date have been the ones on resin molds and computer digital art. “Each teacher is handpicked,” Cindy commented. “They come with their own presentation ideas. They are extremely talented individuals. It’s their love of art that brings this congregation of crafty women together.”

The weekends would not be complete without the scheduled breaks in creativity. Everyone shares lunch as a group at The Dove’s Nest, while one evening they make arrangements to meet at Catfish Plantation. To date, many women have come away from these two eateries with newfound inspiration. “It seems everyone just loves the vintage style,” Cindy said, confessing that she is partial to that style, too. “Anything to do with lace, ribbons and old black and white photographs seems to be a hit.”

Tina was from Wichita Falls, Texas, and she came to Waxahachie to help bring a wild and crazy idea to fruition. Continuing to host the retreats is the least Cindy feels she can do to keep Tina’s memory alive while staying focused on what the weekend was initially intended to do. “It’s about getting together,” Cindy stated, “and doing what women have done for centuries — learn a skill while finding their artistic selves in the process. It’s all about kindred spirits.”

Editor’s Note: For more information about upcoming Paper Cowgirl Art Retreats, E-mail Cindy Mayfield at [email protected]

Written by Sandra Strong