Artist Jill Mayo Provides Paper Playhouses for Our Imagination 

Written by Meghan E. Gattignolo

What is more charming than a miniature model? A tiny house full of intricate details is at once both inaccessible and immersive. The viewer can pore over all the tiny things – itsy-bitsy jars on shelves, tiny presents by the fire – but be too big to touch. The experience creates an opportunity for a perspective we don’t often get in real life. One creator has made a tiny world in which our minds can play, on display at the Museum now: papercraft artist extraordinaire, Jill Mayo. 

Jill has been a creator all her life. She started painting and drawing as a teenager and fell in love with the process of making art. As an adult, she found her calling in teaching a wide variety of art forms. Jill was a dance and culinary instructor for several years. Today, she continues to teach watercolor, acrylic painting, paper jewelry-making, clay sculpting, paper-crafting and more. “I love teaching and sharing my knowledge of art to my students and having them experience how much fun it is to create something wonderful,” said Jill.  

Alice in Wonderland Wagon

The Apothecary Wagon

Creating wonderful things is certainly a skill Jill possesses. She loves to tell stories through her work, and it’s easy to get lost in a fantasy world while enjoying one of her creations. Some pieces look as if they’re pulled fresh from a storybook land. Her Alice in Wonderland Wagon, for example, combines elements of a scene straight from the original story, created almost entirely from paper. Other creations are based on more historical themes. The Apothecary Wagon recalls a time when people got their medicine from the back of a wagon in a way that “captures the wonder” of the past. As Customs House Museum & Cultural Center patrons know well, it’s fun to enjoy art and learn a little history at the same time.   

One element of Jill’s work that inspires her new creations is finding materials that jumpstart her imagination. Certain colors and prints of paper have the greatest influence on what she will build next. Her Into the Woods house is a prime example. The paper itself, with patterns that include leaf imprints and tree trunks, was the inspiration to create this quaint and cozy pop-up, book-like house surrounded by trees. Jill even decorated the inside, “so the viewer feels like they found a small cottage in the midst of a beautiful forest.”  

Into the Woods

Steampunk Wagon

Paper Dreams is a dynamic exhibit with so many different elements to enjoy, but Jill isn’t done yet. She’s currently working on a collection of fine artist houses. The artists in her purview stretch from the 1300s all the way through to the 1970s. Her goal is to show the “scope of diversity in each artist’s era, but within an artist-inspired mini house.” Jill has already finished a few of these mini houses, and they are included in the exhibit. See if you can guess which artists she has paid tribute to so far when you check out Jill’s show. 

Jill Mayo: Paper Dreams is on display in the lobby of the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center until January 28. 

Meghan E. Gattignolo

Meghan E. Gattignolo is a freelance writer and longtime Clarksville, TN resident. She loves to obsess about historical subjects and annoy her family daily with unsolicited random facts.  Meghan holds a History B.A. from Austin Peay State University and lives in town with her husband and two daughters. 

Becky Wood, Technical Writer, edits each blog post. Maegan Collins, Marketing Communications Manager, prepares photographs and visual images as well as prepares the blog posts for the web.

Back to Blog