One reason Carol Mathers, the newest associate artist at Lorton's Workhouse Arts Center, may look familiar is because she just finished her second stint as their receptionist.
"I've been hired and fired (from the Workhouse) several times. When you work for a nonprofit that's always a possibility," said Mathers. "The first time I was upset, but the second time I said, 'No problem! I'll just go back to volunteering. I'm retired and I'm on a penchant. You're not going to get rid of me.' I love this place and I want it to be a success."
Mathers' art: She makes resin, glass, wood and mother of pearl-based jewelry. Her pieces range $8 for silver-plated earrings to $50 for a pendant.
Mathers, a native of Barstow, Ca., is a self-described Army brat who moved 12 times before the family settled Springfield. She graduated from Robert E. Lee High School and attended Radford College before starting her career with the government. She worked for nine years in personnel management for the Army in Ft. Monmouth, NJ, and then spent 17 years in personnel management at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Art always fed my soul, kept me going," said Mathers, who also sculpts and paints.
Mathers has lived in Lorton since 1991, and remembers hearing sirens coming from the Workhouse's original occupant, the Lorton Prison.
"We'd hear the sirens go off when somebody escaped," she said. "So, in 2008 after the prison closed we had no idea what they were doing with the space. There was no sign or anything, but someone told me that the prison was the new arts center and that I should volunteer."
The transition from employee to artist means a new future for Mathers. As an associate artist, she can show her work at the Workhouse, but does not have a studio.
"My goal is just to keep growing," she said. "Artists want to push and challenge themselves. It's scary, but you have to try new things, because there's only so much time on earth. I'm playing catch-up and I'm having a great time."
You can see the work of Carol Mathers at the Workhouse's Vulcan Gallery in building W-16, in building W-9 and in the gift shop.