Mercantile Celebration Vendor Spotlight: Cassandra Clark Illustration

Cassandra Clark is an illustrator and custom designer in Laurel, MS. She's the daughter of Dawn and Jerry Marcellino, as mentioned in our previous tour of the Marcellino Home. Cassandra, or Cassie, grew up in Laurel, Mississippi as a sister to six other siblings. Though their family home was often crowded and booming with activity, she was naturally drawn to the quiet and detailed work of sketching and drawing from a very young age. She drew inspiration from local architecture, the Lauren Rogers Museum, books at the Jones County Library, and her Christian faith. Soon she discovered that it was more than a hobby; it was a gift that she wanted to enhance, a field of study in which she wished to deepen her knowledge.

"I've always been interested in art from an early age. I was always drawing on my parents' windowsills, and around the home, so they tried to redirect that hobby to paper," she laughs.

"I always made things, and I didn't think about it. It was always a part of who I was, but it wasn't until my junior year when I considered a path for my college career. My parents encouraged me to study art, but I never thought about it as something that I had to be. It was just something that I did."

Cassandra would attend Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, to major in Fine Art.

She says, "I had a drawing professor who took me under his wing. He knew I was talented, but he helped me focus on the technicalities of my skill. I took a ton of drawing courses and art history. I stuck with art all four years, which is crazy because it felt like a shot in the dark for me, but no one else around me was shocked."

Cassandra would graduate and spend her first two years after college to teach art classes at Laurel Christian School. She taught middle schoolers, elementary classes, and even an adult drawing class at the museum down the road from her childhood home, the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.

"Teaching reignited this passion in me after my senior year of college. I saw how it could open doors for conversations with people; it's a great leveler. No matter the age, first grade through adults in their eighties, everyone is interested and drawn to beauty."

Cassandra created her first Etsy shop and began drawing historic homes around Laurel as a side business. She made notecards and gained commissions, as others started to notice her work, including one graphic designer and a local artist in the area.

"Erin Napier and Adam Trest were a big help to me during that time. Erin reached out, and I had her speak to my art classes about her process. She helped me figure out how to make prints and invited me up to her studio apartment. It was kind, because I was new at everything and had never thought about selling my art before. Adam Trest gave me a free watercolor lesson, because I never took one in college. He invited me up to his studio, we made an art trade, and he showed me the basics. Their support encouraged me to keep creating."

During those two years in Laurel, the city she grew up in transformed into a different sort of home. It became a place where she was a teacher and an entrepreneur. Little did she know that her love for people would develop a passion for ministry and Biblical counseling.

"Teaching expanded my mind and showed me how people develop and grow, which I think plays into why I grew interested in ministry. I considered art graduate school, but I loved working with people. I thought about being isolated in a studio all day, and I realized that my greatest inspiration doesn't come from within or being alone. We're often told to look inward for beauty, but that falls flat. I taught my students that true beauty comes from outside of us because when you look and create from things around you — people, places, whatever it may be — that's the highest form of art. People were always my greatest inspiration, and so, I went to seminary in Louisville, Kentucky."

During her time at seminary, she focused on her work but never quit creating. She unintentionally gained attention in her classes, as she focuses best on a lecture while doodling or drawing. Her classmates noticed, and she began to draw caricatures of her friends and even began getting commissions. Eventually, a professor reached out to see if Cassandra would illustrate a Children's Bible that he was working on.

Soon Cassandra would meet her husband, graduate, get married, and move to Connecticut to fulfill his new position. After a few years, they felt led to move back south to Laurel. 

"It's been different moving back. I've been away for a decade, and I've changed in that time, but Laurel has changed, too. The supportive community hasn't changed at all as far as the arts go. We're thankful to be ministering here. It's a great little town, and it's been fun to revisit the themes and concepts with my daughter that got me started with making art."

We're so glad that Cassandra is home and creating in Laurel again. Please give her a warm welcome and support her local business at the Mercantile Fifth Anniversary Celebration on December 4th! 

Shop Cassandra's artwork here