Antoinette Marchfelder came to America after 25 years in Costa Rica with nothing but a backpack and two outfits. After a messy divorce, her only thought when she landed in Trenton in 2012, was to hit the reset button on her life. “I came to this area because a friend offered me a job in the Lawrenceville area just as an IT help/Receptionist kind of thing that included housing. I was coming out of divorce and had to restart,” Marchfelder said.
Marchfelder’s culture shock when coming to US was, at times, overwhelming. She went from foraging, hunting, and growing her food to shopping in a supermarket and not knowing what to do. “Coming up here was very different… and I remember standing in Whole Foods trying to buy a bag of rice and seeing, like, 30 varieties of rice and I was a deer in the headlights… I couldn’t make a decision. I was, like, I just want rice,” Marchfelder recalled. She worked for about a year in Lawrenceville before discovering Trenton’s art scene. Introduced through a studio, she found a community that opened her eyes to new possibilities.
She showcased her first paintings during Art All Night in 2013. “That was wild,” Marchfelder said. “I had never painted on canvas. I painted sea turtles. I still have it… never sold, but it empowered me and opened up a whole new world. What blew me away was to walk through Art All Night. At that point, a 24-hour art show…and just seeing everybody laughing and having fun… I walked through, from preppy students to hipsters to old ladies… and it was this beautiful mix of everybody of diversity.”
After that everything changed. She hit the retcon button and the new theme music started a new chapter in her life. She began volunteering at ArtWorks for different events like Art All Day and Art All Night and then positioned her sights to face painting.
She learned from another Trenton artist how to paint a face, what paints to buy, and where to pick them up. She got her feet wet at state and local fairs, hauling her art supplies and tent in a 1995 stick shift across New Jersey and Pennsylvania, though she slowly began to realize that this wasn’t going to fit her income needs. “And oh, it rains. Nobody shows up…or nobody wants your work…So after doing that for the first two years of getting involved with those kinds of festivals, I was like, no, this is pointless to me,” Marchfelder said.
Instead, she moved to do corporate gigs, music festivals, block parties, and sports venues; places where people will pay in advance for an hourly rate instead of paying by the person “I have positioned myself to be more focused on corporate gigs. I’ll do block parties. I’ll do music festivals. I have one client who does all the parties for big corporate events…so I decided I would work with people that would pay me my hourly rate and give it to the people arriving to their event for free,” Marchfelder said.
Marchfelder then learned from the best in the face painting industry. She began working with the top artists in NYC, painting maternity bellies on the Today Show to promote Sarah Blakely’s New Belly Project Book. “This industry has opened up so many doors. I’ve met so many amazing people. But to be painting alongside the top artists from Manhattan, from all over the city, it was really fun, you know,” Marchfelder said.
She explained that even though that is the money maker, COVID slowed everything down and that wasn’t where her heart was. During the quarantine, she returned to her roots, painting abstract canvas paintings and portraits to sell across the Trenton area. She paints about nature, the world she used to live in, and the world she lives in now.
Marchfelder says that she couldn’t have done this without the Trenton artist scene. The mentors and friends she made in Trenton, like C.a. Shofed and others, have taught her how to sell art and how everything doesn’t need to be planned out. “The people that I’ve met here have embraced me and loved me, sat with me, and broke bread with me with no judgment,” Marchfelder said.
To learn more about Marchfelder, check out her website, look for her links to her Esty shop and her class on skillshare: https://www.amarchfelderart.com/