Mutual Muses

Cape Cod Life  /  August 2021 / ,

Writer: Christina Galt

Since we met all those years ago your friendship has been a precious thread – refining, enriching and strengthening the fabric of my life.  ~ Maya Angelou

© Susan Wallace Barnes

If we rewind back to 2006, when Cape Cod LIFE had its July issue on stands, you’d flip through the pages to find an article on Marjorie (Midge) Dey and her shell art. Little did Midge know that article would spark a chain of events that would lead her to a friendship born out of shared admiration and artistic pursuits. This is a story of two women on separate coasts who formed an unbreakable long-distance friendship. As famous American playwright Tennessee Williams said, “time doesn’t take away from friendship, nor does separation.”

“I have always been grateful for Cape Cod LIFE connecting us, especially since Sue lived in Carmel, California,” says Midge. In 2006, Cape Cod LIFE did an editorial piece on Midge, “my background has been in retail for over 25 years. I love design, organization and the creativity behind this field. Shells are my art medium and my business has evolved into original shell art designs from the shells that I gather. I also have a line of items that have my art designs printed on them.” At her retail gift shop on the Cape, she also sold the whimsical calendars Susan (Sue) Wallace Barnes has been designing since 1993, but they were sold through a representative, she explains “I had no contact with her, but when Cape Cod LIFE wrote an article on my shell art, Sue saw her art images hanging in my studio and reached out to me. Who knows if our paths would have ever crossed without the conduit of this beautiful magazine that had Sue as a subscriber,” shares Dey. 

“Our friendship became a joy, a technicolor adventure, a generous and fun-filled friendship.” Their friendship has continued throughout the years not only with phone calls and mail, “I swear she keeps the USPS going,” laughs Midge. But both have also spent time in each other’s homes and have enjoyed traveling together along the California coast, Nantucket and Cape Cod. “Sue always receives inspiration from her trips that is reflected in her calendars and art. In 2008 I arranged a trip for the two of us to Iona, Scotland. This amazing time solidified our friendship with shared experiences and the journey itself. Everything about this trip is as fresh in our minds today as it was then–it was so special.”

Midge has always had a deep love for words, “I’ve always been the note taker,” she laughs, but her friendship with Sue sparked her more whimsical poetic style of writing, “when I am with her the words flow and I write on everything and anything I can get my hands on–even cocktail napkins! My writing truly blossoms when I’m writing for Sue’s artwork.” Midge explained that Sue is always saying “keep going,” she nudges her and others in their lives in their creative pursuits. 

© Susan Wallace Barnes

“I’ve always wanted to write a book, so Sue and I kept in the back of our minds that someday we would create a book together.” In 2020, the opportunity to finally focus on the creation of a book presented itself to the women. “It became important to me to create something positive in the midst of the pandemic crisis. Perhaps it was my way of dealing with tragedy, challenges and life, but I needed to stay busy, especially creatively busy. Sue says, ‘art saves lives’ and perhaps that mantra was my reality.”

Beach Bound was completed on the Cape, using WATERMARK and Paraclete Press. “Our meetings were with masks, steamed eyeglasses and staying socially distanced,” Midge remarks. “I was grateful for the understanding of these two businesses as we collaborated with respect throughout.” Dey sought out the assistance of Marie Williams at WATERMARK in Chatham to help her set up the book, working on the project for a year. “She and I sent numerous copies back and forth to review, tweak and edit. Frequently we met in her office so I could review the design and see the pages come to life. Beach Bound would not be completed without her able work. Working with Paraclete Press in Brewster was the next step to getting Beach Bound printed. “They were of great assistance in reviewing the proof and finalizing it for publication. It was always gratifying to meet with these professionals as they taught me so much about the book printing process.”

“Two of our friends, Carol Wright (Orleans) and Beth Maury (Nantucket), helped with the edits,” explains Midge. With Sue on the West Coast and Midge on the East, she needed other eyes on this project, and they were willing and able to assist. “Both of these ladies helped in more ways than they will ever know.” And as of today, Beach Bound has been placed in 15 stores, on and off the Cape. “It has been my pleasure to present it to select gift shops and a few bookstores. I do not intend to saturate the market, but I do wish to have it in the perfect stores–where I either have a relationship or wish to create one. As a retailer myself for over twenty years, I understand how important placement and relationships are in retail. I love to work with independent store owners and support them in any way possible.”

Beach Bound is truly a labor of love, creativity and friendship, “friendship is an important part of my life. I have been blessed with so many friends, but this friendship with Sue began when we were older women and that is significant to me,” she shares. “We did not have the connection through our children, through physical location or through an activity we shared. Our connection was an appreciation of each other’s work. I was aware of Sue through the calendars sold in my shop and she became aware of me and my shell art through Cape Cod LIFE, and as I note in Beach Bound, ‘my life has never been the same.’ We had to figure our friendship out without the aid of technology because Sue doesn’t use a computer and prefers communicating the old fashioned way. We have exchanged gifts, hand-written cards and numerous conversations almost weekly for over 15 years. In spite of our ages and the physical distance between our coasts, this friendship has continued and is honored by Beach Bound.” Sue has the philosophy “let the universe take care of you” and perhaps that is exactly what was at work when it brought these two special women together.

Christina Galt is the editorial assistant and digital coordinator at Cape Cod Life Publications. 

Beach Bound can be purchased at Marjories.com or found locally at The Mayflower Shop (Chatham), Nantucket Looms (Nantucket), The Spotted Cod (Sandwich), and Oyster Island Emporium (Osterville)

Susan Wallace Barnes Calendars can be purchased at SusanWallaceBarnes.com.

Christina Galt

Christina Galt is the Digital Editor at Cape Cod Life Publications. Born and raised on the Cape, Christina has always had a love for the ocean and everything "Cape Cod." She found herself the perfect home away from home at the University of Rhode Island and double majored in Sociology and Gender & Women’s Studies. After graduating, Christina came back to the Cape and started her journey at Cape Cod Life. She spends most of her free time with her family, especially her chocolate lab Sadie, and enjoys spending summers on her family’s boat.