When local artist, John Mayes, begins a new project, it’s like an intense game of cat and mouse. Mayes turns and manipulates his creations with the skill of a surgeon and the soul of a poet. When I visited his studio in d’Iberville, I was met with the smells that all artists know. The scents of fresh sawn wood, heated raw metal, plaster and sweat mixed with paint permeated the tiny shed where Mayes brings the impossible to life. From a few small pieces of leftover counter top corian the artist quickly turns out a sculpture of undersea life that is bound for a wealthy client’s private gallery. Mayes works on consignment and doesn’t have many pieces placed in galleries at this time. “I would love to put a few pieces out there to see what the general public wants. I had a lot of art that sold in South Florida and in some big city galleries. I’d like to get to know some local gallery owners and maybe do a showing on the coast,” Mayes said.
Mayes has been an artist all his life and is most proud of a few little things that he says are his best work yet…his kids. “They are my heart and my breath. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have these precious gifts in my life,” Mayes said. The one year old twins keep Mayes and his Business and Life Partner, Sarah, busy. Together, the two own “Decorative Difference”.
With two older children from a previous marriage for Sarah and two other older children from John’s first marriage it gets a little busy around their house. That makes 8 people that love life together. “Sarah is the one that knows where everything is and how to get the paperwork done. She is as much a part of ‘Decorative Difference’ as I am. She does what it takes to let me be free to create. She handles the business end of everything! She basically keeps me in line, works her job in a local restaurant, helps me on various jobs for clients and runs a shipshape house all while taking care of 6 kids!” Mayes said.
Those who love art, in all forms, are the ones who flock to Johns’ works. The Kentucky native has been told that his art is unlike anything here on the coast. Whether a client needs a mural on an office wall, a Tuscan themed dining room, a painting of a tiger to give to an LSU or Auburn fan or a sculpture to grace a huge foyer, it is John Mayes that they turn to.
In 2000-2004, John and his dad owned M&M Millworks where they turned out replicas of antique furniture and even created custom furniture often from sketches or photos. “My mom and dad are artists too and I was creating almost from birth. My motto is that ‘Art Creates Culture’. I love the wood working aspect of being an artist. I really like the detail work and the look on the clients’ faces when they see the final product,” Mayes said.
Mayes’ talent was noticed by Italian artist, Jay Iarussi, who specializes in decorative art. He completed a four year apprenticeship with Iarussi and has worked in New York, Napa Valley, California, Houston and Florida. Some of the work that Mayes worked on with Iarussi ended up in actor Robert Redford’s condo in New York! His work as an apprentice at The Palace Café Downtown Houston won him Interior Designer of the Year in Southern Accents Magazine in 1997.He has been recognized also in Veranda Magazine.
When asked why he remains on the coast instead of living in a big city atmosphere he is quick to note that his family is the primary reason he stays where he does. “Oh, I know I could make more money in a huge city with lots of art galleries and such but it is important to me that I keep my children here in this area so they can grow and thrive in a community that nurtures their whole self. There is no other place on earth like south Mississippi and this is the perfect place to grow up and stay grounded in what really matters in life,” Mayes said.