Sarasota artist with most cancers makes paper flower backyard | Sarasota

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Sandy Payson has all the time been drawn to flowers. 

They’re a logo for all components of life — celebrations, weddings, births and deaths. There’s one thing she enjoys about that.

It’s onerous for her to not examine them to her personal scenario. Payson was identified with ovarian most cancers six years in the past, and within the time since has undergone a sequence of operations and chemotherapy procedures to maintain it at bay. 

She’s discovered one thing that’s made it higher. Piece by piece, web page by web page, Payson has created a paper backyard within the consolation of her dwelling. 

The Sarasota resident orders coloured paper, cuts them into patterns and organizes into an unlimited backyard of artwork that reaches the highest of her ceiling. 

The flowers are one in every of a form, they usually’re hers. They’re additionally, she hopes, one thing by which she will be remembered.

“Flowers follow us through life,” Payson mentioned. “They’ll come up through a crack in ice or through hot sand. You can always find a little bit of beauty pushing up. Even if it’s coming out of desolation.”


The flowers have a number of variations and colours relying on what Payson looks like making. (Photo by Harry Sayer)

Payson hails from Philadelphia after transferring to Sarasota within the Seventies to attend New College.

She spent years working eating places and delis along with her husband earlier than divorcing and beginning a brand new chapter. Ten years in the past she met her accomplice, Robert Merrill — they had been each just lately divorced — and hit it off. 

They moved in collectively and tended to a various and far-reaching assortment of crops, flowers and different horticultural parts on their property. Payson additionally purchased different properties and flipped them, she says it was a very good outlet for her must be productive and get issues completed.

“Before I got sick, you’d be amazed,” Payson mentioned. “The work was good for me. I enjoyed seeing something become something beautiful.”

She knew one thing was incorrect round six years in the past when she began creating abdomen points. She ultimately turned to a health care provider who gave her the most cancers prognosis — and estimated she’d seemingly have three to 5 years left to dwell.

“It was completely devastating news,” Payson mentioned. “(I was) zombielike.”

Payson has been many issues by commerce however has all the time been an artist by ardour. She sometimes created summary constructs out of clay, spending numerous hours within the workshop in her again yard creating the concepts in her thoughts’s eye.

It grew to become tougher to do when she developed most cancers. Clay and pottery will be heavy and Payson quickly discovered herself too drained to mould shapes or keep within the warmth when working. 

It was a dire loss throughout a tough time, and Payson began eager about different avenues to specific herself.

“I’ve always done some kind of crafting,” Payson mentioned. “I can’t help myself, I’m always cutting paper or doing something.”

She quickly discovered her reply in an image e book of vibrant, vivid flowers that she found thrifting at a store. What’s extra is that the e book had good, stable paper inventory — excellent for crafting.

Payson ordered paper and copies of the e book to tear out the pages and create her flowers. It began as one thing in the midst of the room however has unfold outwards to have grow to be a veritable backyard in and of itself. The paper artist figures she will make 20 flowers out of 1 e book.

There’s no sample to the artwork, Payson largely seems at flowers she likes and tries to re-create them with paper.


Chemo remedies left her sluggish and drained, with out vitality to do a lot. But she might nonetheless lower, craft and type the flowers for her backyard and would just do from her chair because the hours handed. 

“Cutting is meditative,” Payson mentioned. “I feel this wash of feeling like I’m a little girl with my dolls. That feeling never happened before (the garden) but I’d realize how happy I felt.”

For Rob Merrill’s half, he’s been a relentless determine by Payson’s facet. He’s helped her throughout her remedies and makes positive to cook dinner and clear for the each of them. 

“He treats my artwork like I’m Picasso,” Payson mentioned. “We made an agreement (early in the diagnosis) that we would try to save the unhappy stuff for the very end. We want to focus on the happy stuff.”

They determined to dwell, they usually’ve lived properly. In between operations and chemo, they’ve traveled to Europe for months and made reminiscences residing the perfect they’ll. And via all of it, the backyard has slowly grown.

Payson just lately hit six years since her prognosis — she’s outlived her physician’s estimate — and has since ceased chemo remedy. 

She’s been instructed by her docs that future remedies wouldn’t be healing and she or he’s determined as an alternative to be put into hospice care.

“I’m not going to live longer and I want to be happy,” Payson mentioned. “I’ve fought and made it past the five years.” 

When she dies, she needs the flowers to adorn her casket at her ceremony of life celebration.

Payson admits individuals typically discover the concept morbid, however she finds a magnificence to it.

“I showed someone (the garden) and she gasped and cried,” Payson mentioned. “Her mother had passed away months before and she was grieving. She walked in and had a moment of happiness that wasn’t tangled up with the grief. It gave her this feeling she should be happy again.”


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