Monday, February 4, 2013

Spotlight On Fabric Artist Erika Mock

Erika Mock, far right
Erika Mock is an award winning textile artist, designer, knitter, weaver, and instructor who for the past 24 years has been exhibiting and selling her work at juried art shows across the nation. She has also been playing a vital role in the rejuvenation of the City of Superior by means of the arts, most visibly demonstrated in the Phantom Galleries Superior.

EN: How did you first become interested in the arts as a life direction?
Erika Mock: Born in Switzerland, I come from an Alpine culture where the arts were part of the everyday, integrated into school and family. Creativity was fostered. My family sang together for a time. I began playing wooden recorder at an early age. My mother would give us art assignments that explored materials and set up a kind of joyful practice.

In kindergarten I remember a whole- class project building a to-scale model of our village out of clay, paper, and wood. It was an extraordinary way to be introduced to ‘seeing’ by actually making ‘the place I lived‘ via a child’s sense of landscape and architecture.

EN: What drew you to textile art?
EM: Textiles are in my bones. A practice in fiber was seeded even before my mother taught me to knit at age 4. I cannot explain this. It just is. After graduating with a Music Therapy degree and finishing my internship in CT, I struggled for a year in the post graduation muck of job-searching and not knowing what to do. During that time I designed and knit sweaters as a meditation to find clarity. After a year, I flipped my attitude, stopped ‘looking’ for work and created it instead. I moved on to found a music therapy program in Appleton Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehab Program and almost simultaneously became co-owner of a yarn and fiber retail shop. My business partner, who I met during my sweater year, was a weaver with a BFA in textiles. We taught each other our art forms and started growing our business.

My spirit became restless working in the confines of a medical system not yet ready to embrace holistic medicine and in 1985 I relocated north to Solon Springs to pursue performing music. In the search to remake my life I attended a Minnesota Crafts Council Annual meeting in Duluth. The weaving I was doing then received enthusiastic response. They introduced me to the world of Juried Art Festivals which set in motion my current 24 year career as a professional studio artist taking the free spirited wearables I make into the everyday; showing and selling them in cities and communities across the US.

EN: Your work is so colorful. Can you explain why color is so magical?
EM: Color is the clothing of beauty. Beauty is a call to awaken. ‘Yes, you can,’ their voice says.

Working with color is alchemy. It is an intricate play of presence and absence; a dance between layers of mood and memory. Color lives only in the relationship between things; the visible and the invisible. The story reveals only when thought stops.

EN: What prompted you to take such an interest in bringing art into the community as you have done with Phantom Galleries Superior?
EM: I wanted to risk something. I wanted to explore how art and community intertwined could bring forward a deeper vitality.

I took a courageous leap into catalyzing potential at a time when synergy, willingness, and resources came to the table together. The support and partnership of the WI Arts Board over the last 5 years has been invaluable to helping create a foundation for bringing art to the community.

After moving my studio into Superior’s Trade and Commerce Marketplace, I began curating textile biennials of the regions premiere fiber artists to raise the understanding of fiber as an art form. The last in 2008, Venus…co-curated with poet Ellie Schoenfeld and artist Jo Wood, paired poets and fiber artists to work together, introduced an open source project: The Community Loom and was so successful it raised the bar on how artists were inspired to collaborate.

After doing Textile Research in Guatemala in 2007, I made a choice to put energy into this local community instead of contribute there.

As Thomas Moore stated, “We can’t begin to live a more artful life, which is the avenue to soul, if in the public life around us, and in everything we see and inhabit, art is invisible.”

EN: In what ways do you see art as an essential piece of the communities we build and live in?
EM: The arts are advocacy for the imagination.

EN: Briefly, can you summarize what most excites you about the current developments in the art scene here in Superior?
EM: Momentum. Art is on the move in Superior….. It’s visible and vibrant and it’s showing up in fantastic non-traditional spaces—the Bowling Alley, ‘Goin Postal, Engwall/Wolff’s Flower Shop, The Main Club, VIP, 4 vacant downtown storefronts, on the streets, in the Public Library, in the alleys behind businesses. And don’t forget the Trade and Commerce Marketplace, lovingly known as The Red Mug building.

Collaborations. Over and over again you find the incredible potential in a group that convenes with mindful intention to create something.

The pleasure in not knowing. There’s something authentic and juicy and relevant about working with what and who shows up. Phantom Galleries in particular is a large living sculpture in which the elements constantly change and rub against each other to activate the spirit of this community.

EdNote: Thank you for sharing here, and for all you're doing for the City of Superior.

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