Spreading Love, Mary’s Way

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Mary England

Mary “Uncustomary” England. Photo: Kelvin Bulluck

Mary England doesn’t need a reason to celebrate.

As a mental health professional turned lifestyle blogger and Baltimore-based guerrilla artist, she finds many colorful ways to revel in life and spread her message of self-love.

Known as “Uncustomary,” a play on her name and reference to her commitment to individuality, Mary promotes self-acceptance as a declaration of power and the foundation of self-love. Her blog, Uncustomary Art, which reaches thousands of readers worldwide, touts a similar optimism in the crafts, advice, and interactive projects featured there. Personal experiences fuel Mary’s mission and motivate her to remain vibrant and upbeat.

“Coming full circle from being sad and depressed to being a happy person is a blessing, and I want others to know that we never peak—we only constantly improve,” Mary said. “I want to harness my Uncustomary demeanor and use it for good, whether through something I leave on the street, write on my blog, or send through snail mail.”

Mary England

Mary working on a new piece on Howard Street. Photo: Kelvin Bulluck

What she “leaves on the street” ranges from colorful to quirky, to uninhibited. Last year, dressed as a gypsy with a large, albeit origami fortune teller, she roamed the streets, offering to read people’s fortunes. Another time, after purchasing a vintage telephone from a thrift store, Mary stationed it in Fells Point with an adjacent sign reading “Hold the phone, what’s up?” and a pen, paper, and box for people to leave messages. By the end of a week, the box was full of responses. In January Mary posts paper on poles as a forum for people to pen their New Year’s resolutions. The response to her guerrilla art in Baltimore has been overwhelmingly positive.

Mary England

Photo: Kelvin Bulluck

“The great thing about Baltimore is that it is more open to guerrilla art,” Mary explained. “That kind of art can make people think or provide a way for people to comment on social issues, and this is way easier to accomplish in a city environment. Baltimore is full of weird, quirky people, and I’ve never felt marginalized by any of the community that I interact with here.”

Mary’s ability to stay colorful and optimistic is easily reflected in her style, which she describes as “a lot of color, a lot of haphazard nonsense.” Mary finds bright dresses, tights, and shoes at places like Forever21, Target, ASOS, WetSeal, and We Love Colors. The happier she is, the brighter her clothes, and the less they match. Current styles and body type do not concern her.

“Sometimes I dress like it’s the 90s, and I am completely okay with that. I don’t care what anyone else thinks—ever. If I want to wear it, then I do.”

Ultimately, her style makes it easier for people to approach her, whether online or in person. Followers know they can reach out to her for advice and support on issues related to body image, confidence, and self-acceptance.

“Products and media market our insecurities as a society, culture, and gender, but do we really need it?” Mary asked. “When you buy something, reflect on why you’re doing it. Does it make you feel better, or is it something you feel like you are supposed to have? Because you’re good enough already—you don’t need to do anything you don’t want to do or purchase anything you don’t want to buy.”

Mary hopes to perpetuate this message through her upcoming book, This Is About You, a colorful, visually appealing guide with a novel focus on self-love and a celebration of life. While self-help literature is not a new phenomenon, Mary finds many books on the topic too fluffy or formulaic. Her book encourages readers to begin where they are and incorporate its messages of self-acceptance in a way that fits their personal life journeys.

Photo: Kelvin Bulluck

“Self-love takes work.” Photo: Kelvin Bulluck

Thanks to a highly successful Kickstarter campaign that was 100% funded within eight days and surpassed its initial goal by about $2,000, This Is About You will be published through Mascot Books Publishing around Thanksgiving time, this year. Much of the campaign’s support comes from contacts she has made at blog conferences, online, and through her pen pal community. Overwhelmed and grateful for the success of the campaign, Mary plans to use some of the extra money to throw a book release party in early December. The campaign’s success clearly reflects the reach of Mary’s influence and the power of her message.

“Self-love takes work,” she said. “But I want people to realize that you can start anywhere. My book won’t be an outline, but a branching tree—what you’re doing is already good and you can work from a foundation that is already positive.”

As a professional writer and editor, Hanni Werner has worked on a variety of journalism and communication projects, mostly in and around Baltimore City. She is particularly interested in exploring the unique flavor of Baltimore—both its successes and challenges. Communities are built on the stories of individuals, and those are her favorite ones to tell.

  • http://www.uncustomary.org uncustomary

    Thank you so much for doing this for me, I’m thrilled with the outcome and it was incredible to work with each of you. I hope people appreciate the message!

  • Paula Pierce Brown

    Awesome! Mary puts the ‘B’ in Beautiful! Love her message, Love her style.