Through The Looking Glass With Sandra Marbaise

This mesmerizing classic by Lewis Carroll has enchanted people for decades; movie adaptations have ensnared our sense of wonder and our appreciation for the depth of a child’s imagination. Unfortunately, Alice’s musings, while deemed appropriate for children, often hold little clout in the adult world. However, in Sandra Marbaise’s world, Alice’s words should be held with a little more respect.

As the creator, co-owner and designer of SanLori, Marbaise’s enthusiasm for pictures (as Alice would say) is unmatched.

“SanLori began with twenty-eight designs and a whole lot of enthusiasm,” Marbaise said about her invitation and high-end paper business. “What could be better than knowing our art from the heart has been around to celebrate some of the happiest moments in life?”

Marbaise and her college roommate Lorraine Maxwell (SanLori is a combination of their two first names), have been creating designs for more than 20 years. Their business actually grew out of a desire to stay connected with one another and their families. “That is the central theme of our business,” Marbaise said. “Friends from college, beginning with the premise that we could build a creative, thriving business and also have an active family life.”

SanLori is about staying connected. Marbaise and Maxwell encourage people to “have a fiesta or a block party. Send a note of thanks or encouragement. Celebrate that certain age birthday! Just remember to enjoy each day, and we will be sure to provide you with plenty of inspiration along the way. That is our passion.”

Marbaise knows how to design for an event to remember, so it is no surprise that she and her husband, Jon, the president of SanLori, were asked to host a themed party in support of the Arkansas Festival Ballet’s upcoming spring performance. The Arkansas Festival Ballet (AFB) is a fantastic organization that is committed to “contributing to the cultural richness of the region and enhancing exposure to live performances,” according to the organization’s website. “These ballets combine the best of dance, music, sets and costumes for an enchanting theater experience.”

AFB has had a significant influence in the Marbaises’ lives since their 9-year-old daughter, Isabella, began dancing about four years ago. “Isabella has learned so much from dancing and being on stage,” said Marbaise. “It has given her a lot of confidence, and I love to watch her perform.” This year’s spring performance is a storybook ballet of the children’s classic “Alice in Wonderland,” which will take the stage Friday, May 20, through Sunday, May 22, at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre.

The party that AFB asked the Marbaises to host in support of the production is a fabulous Mad Hatter Mar-“TEA”-ni party. Aside from rallying support for the AFB and creating interest for the spring ballet performance, the event will also honor Heather Gray, who has donated her amazing talent as a costume designer to the ballet for years. “Her fabulous designs will be on display at the party,” explained Marbaise, “and all of the money raised by the event will support this year’s performance of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’”

Marbaise described AFB as “over the top, the real thing. There is nothing like it. Each year I see their performances, and I’m never sure if they can be as good as the year before, but they always are.”

AFB’s vision is to share the beauty and importance of dance and live performance with the community. They partner with dance companies and arts organizations around the state to promote the art form and provide dancers, professionals and students an opportunity to perform. Marbaise believes dance is important to the community as an art form because “it is beautiful, and it shows that we do not need words to express great emotion.”

In support of imagination and dance, you should make your way to the “tea” party of the year, with your best hat atop your head. If you can’t attend the party, make sure to see the ballet at the AAC Children’s Theatre. But beware, because as Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter said, “There is no place [like Wonderland]. Like no place on earth.”

Always Tea Time

Soirée: Weirdest thing you’ve eaten?
Maribaise: Tiny bird eggs on a beach in Brazil.

What do you never, ever want to eat again? 
Tiny bird eggs on a beach in Brazil.

Favorite restaurant in Little Rock, and what do you order there? 
Bosa Nova — Arroz Com Feijao: Black beans and rice served with tomato slaw and collard green salad.

What do you always have in your refrigerator at home?
Salsa and hummus.

What dish most reminds you of home/childhood and why?
Fried okra. My mom is my favorite cook; she can cook anything.

What is your favorite kind of tea?
I am a latte drinker!

Mad Hatter’s Mar-“tea”-ni Party
4:30-6:30 p.m., Saturday, May 7
The home of Sandra and Jon Marbaise, 4 Armistead Road
Garden party, hats are encouraged
$25 per person


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