Maryland Meadworks mural paints an old drink a new look
By Madison Burinsky
Maryland Meadworks celebrated its new mural with an art opening and reception on Aug. 29. The new mural put a modern spin on the ancient beverage, which is sure to satisfy everyone’s taste buds.
The mural was created by Hyattsville natives Harper Matsuyama and Cory Stowers, along with other muralists. While Matsuyama’s whimsical design became the final product, it almost wasn’t used at all.
Ken Carter, the owner of Maryland Meadworks, and Matsuyama’s father, said Stowers’ original design was renaissance themed. That design paid homage to the building’s prior owner, a motorcycle club that built the castle-like turrets on the wall, and to the medieval nature of mead.
“It just didn’t call to me,” Carter said.
Carter decided one of Matsuyama’s pieces, featuring an anime-style image of a person drinking on an airplane wing, would be a better fit. Matsuyama had drawn inspiration for the work from her flights traveling to her college, the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, in Canada. “I liked the view out of the airplanes, and I had a daydream of someone drinking tea on the wing of an airplane,” she said.
Replacing the tea with mead made the perfect fit. “I just loved it,” Carter said. “It’s sort of whimsical and conveys a better feeling about … drinking mead ― [it] makes you happy and sort of contemplative.” He appreciated the modern take on the medieval beverage.
“One of the things that this design did,” Stowers agreed, “was really tap into a sense of fantasy and whimsy, which really … works with the architecture.” He added, “We were able to kind of get out of the medieval times, bring it into more of a modern sense.”
Matsuyama focuses on drawing and digital formats in her artwork. “This is my first mural I’ve ever done ― never done spray paint in my life,” she said. “Having to learn another medium and then replicate something that was, like, one thousand times bigger than the original artwork was pretty hard.”
Experienced muralist Stowers said Matsuyama had a great start. “I work with a lot of artists, and it takes literally years to get good at applying spray paint … and Harper took to it like a fish to water,” Stowers said.
Matsuyama had to adapt to spray paint’s untidy nature. “The main thing about spray paint is it’s not clean ― it’s really messy,” she said. “And I like clean lines and precision.” At one point she even resorted to using a piece of cardboard to help keep her edges straight, which she and Stowers laughed about.
Carter said the project took about a month and a half, and at least 50 cans of spray paint, by Stowers’ count. They also used 3 1/2 gallons of primer paint and some additive colors to embellish details at the end. To beat the heat, the artists would sometimes work from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Stowers said he loved working with Matsuyama. “It’s very refreshing to meet a new artist who has their own style and is kind of fearless in that approach of jumping in and just getting their feet wet,” Stowers said.
The muralists enjoyed the moment when they finished putting the Maryland Meadworks name on the building. “As a business owner myself … I know how important it is to have your name on your business,” Stowers said. “That was my favorite part of the experience.”
Carter, too, is excited about having the Maryland Meadworks name and logo on the building, and also to no longer be mistaken for a tattoo parlor.
Rumi Matsuyama, Carter’s wife, agreed: “It feels really good to have something that relates to our business, and even better that it was designed by our daughter.” She said that the meadery is excited to contribute, through its mural, to the city’s Arts District. This is important to Matsuyama, who underscored that the community is crucial to the business.
Ultimately, Carter hopes the modern mural will draw more attention to his unique meadery. Something that makes Maryland Meadworks even more special? “I think we’re the only meadery that has an anime twist to it,” he said.