Artist Terri Frohman talks about her past, process, and new studio space at the Gowanus Print Lab
Interview with Victoria Wallace
VW: To start, how would you describe what the brand name “Meraki” represents for you to viewers that don’t know your work?
TF: “Meraki” is a Greek word that means to do something with passion, with creativity; to soulfully put yourself into whatever you’re doing. It could be cooking, making art, etc., but it’s a lifestyle. I was digging around trying to find one word that would represent all of the words that I wanted to be, and “Meraki” kind of envelopes all of those ideas. It describes my work in terms of the content and philosophy, but it doesn’t really describe the materials I work with. You really have to see the work.
VW: And in that instance too your work kind goes back and forth between both two-dimensional and three-dimensional pieces–what’s your process? At what point do you decide on materials?
TF: I kind of fell into working with leather on accident. I was an art teacher for eleven years and someone in a forum on Facebook said that they were giving away hundreds of pieces of leather. So I drove out to Long Island, met this woman I had never seen before, and I picked up hundreds of pieces of leather that have been stored in my car ever since. I’ve since been able to experiment with that process and transform these flat pieces of leather by putting prints on them, painting on them, and transforming them into these three-dimensional pouches and purses. That’s the sculpture aspect to my work–building these pieces up into something that’s tangible.
VW: Is it important to you for your work to be accessible to viewers rather than in a gallery setting? Your three-dimensional works are hand-held objects that, as a viewer, I could literally keep my coins in and use it at the grocery store…it’s a different realm than other forms of art.
TF: I want all of my artwork to be accessible, not only to be able to touch it, feel it, and be close to it, but I want people to be able to afford it. I find that art can be intimidating for a lot of people, especially when you walk into a gallery that’s stark white–you can’t touch anything, step near anything, it’s very sterile. There’s this great distance between the viewer and the work and I feel like sometimes that distance can intimidate people. Maybe the work is perceived to be more arrogant or confident than you are, when really the whole point is to share, to touch, and to be connected with whatever the piece is.
VW: I think Meraki emulates that belief as well and your passion to create accessible work. What ultimately brought you to Gowanus Print Lab?
TF: I knew that I wanted to take an art class and I am a huge Grouponer, I am a discount girl. I was shopping around and I chose the Basic Screen printing class. I had previously known how to print but I was kind of wary about going to someone else’s studio and pretty much two days later I signed up for a monthly pass…
VW: And you knew right away that this was where you wanted to work?
TF: That was it.
VW: How did you stumble into having your own studio at the Gowanus Print Lab?
TF: It was vacant, I knew what I could afford, I also knew I had bigger plans for my work. I started to not be able to store things properly, I needed a bit more space, and I needed some privacy. This is my full-time job and now this is my office.
VW: Do you have any exciting upcoming projects that have stemmed (or are stemming) from having this studio space?
TF: Yeah, a lot of collaborations are happening and I’m able to use this space as a photography studio, to have conversations like this, collaborative discussions, choosing leather colors with clients, looking at all of my samples, and buying things straight from this space. So I think that it’s really opened up every single door and has added an openness to my work now where I can invite people to look at things on a much more intimate level.
I’ve really reached out to other vendors–I’ve been selling at flea markets. Even Etsy is maybe ten percent of any of my networking and I’m trying to boost it anyway that I can. I’m a very in person gal, so I’ve signed up for four holiday flea markets. Two of them are in Park Slope: one is at Brooklyn Friends’ School and the other is which is an “Eat Pie and Shop” event at PS 321. I just did one on Albany and I’m hoping to do another one at King’s Trading Company in Greenpoint. I’m doing a lot with local vendors and learning a lot from each other. There’s a small community of people who are coming up, there’s a community of people who are already up there, and so all of us are wrangling our ideas together. That’s what I hope to bring together when I eventually start “Handmade in Brooklyn,” which will be a meet-up once a month for female creatives to gather with some boss ladies and talk about our experiences, best practices, share our work with each other, share where and how we sell, all that kind of stuff.
VW: I think that again totally circles back to your love for accessibility for your viewers and even further connecting artists in the future rather than entertain a competitive environment. It’s absolutely about owning you the cards that you have or the ones you’ve been dealt, and sharing them.
TF: Yeah, I have yet to even be at a competitive flea market thus far. The best experience I’ve had with women sharing with women was at King’s Trading Company.They were by far the most inclusive group of small business owners and sellers that I have ever been a part of and that’s really when I solidified the idea to start “Handmade in Brooklyn” because I want to be closer to other women who are following the same dream. I hope to have that launch after the holidays so that we can give each other more feedback. Meraki NYC will be one year old and I’m hoping to showcase the tangible leather products and goods, prints that I created before the leather series, and large patches of leather with prints on them but not in a three-dimensional form.
VW: Almost like paintings and a culmination of your work this far…?
VW: You branched this business pretty recently and quickly at that, do you have advice for people that are looking to take that same professional jump?
TF: My professional jump came out of near necessity. I left the classroom but am still passionate about arts education. I received a lot of encouragement from my family to go into this sort of business. Things have been moving very fast for me. I think the advice I would give is to have some sort of organization to the madness, for sure. I think that having a studio space helps me to organize, whether it’s through Instagram, people reaching out via email, conversations that develop on the street, whatever it might be. But having some kind of grounded space is really important.
ARTIST LOVEMKM TALKS ABOUT HER UP COMING SOLO EXHIBITION AT GOWANUS PRINT LAB
Interview with Victoria Wallace
VW: Tell us about your upcoming show! Is it your first exhibition?
MK: Yes! It’s my first solo show. I’ve been making art “officially” for two years, in a way that I quit my full-time job solely to make art. For a long time I’ve been saying I wanted to do a solo show but I was never really prepared for it. This past summer I didn’t do much creative work but did a lot of personal work and took time for myself. I came in one day to work with Remy (studio manager) and said, “I think I want to do a solo show here,” and she said, “okay, yeah!” and it just happened. I had the courage to ask and she said yes, and the puzzle pieces had locked in together at that time, but it had been a long-term goal for me for at least a year.
VW: Absolutely, so do you think being at the Gowanus Print Lab had a lot to do with locking in a solo show in that respect?
MK: Oh my gosh, yes. I became a member here in November of 2014 and took the 6 week screen printing class. I didn’t even know how to screen print before then but I wanted to create street art, and screen printing is a great method for making editions. And then I was here all the time, I got to know all of the employees, I started working here, and one thing lead to another and now I feel like Gowanus (Print Lab) is like my second home. It was a really inviting and cool space for me and I definitely felt welcomed here. When I started screen printing here on the regular I needed some help with little things like Photoshop and the employees and other members here were so generous with their knowledge and just so kind. A lot of people that work here have seen me come from making the very first print to what the culmination of the show is, so I’m honored to be able to do it and grateful to the print lab for letting me take over. It’s so special because this is where I created literally everything that’s about to be displayed so it’s kind of got that really cool element.
VW: You started originally with street art for print making and your “Love Yourself” print can be stumbled across by many out in the world. Similarly, your solo show is titled “Emotional Rescue,” do you think the same self-love based message translates in your work right now?
MK: Absolutely, when I started making art I was utilizing as a form of self expression and when I started the “Love Yourself” street art it was a way for me to express my own journey and a way for me to share something publicly that I was really working on. People see the “Love Yourself” street art all the time and people can translate it whatever it means to them. I remember at a time when I was living and working in the city and feeling so down all the time–so when I started the “Love Yourself” street art I decided to put something out there that I’ve struggled with and I’m going to let other people see it and maybe it can make a positive impact on somebody else’s day. “Love Yourself,” “Emotional Rescue,” the whole point is how I basically quit doing everything else in my life and dedicated myself to self-love, healing, and getting through things within myself that needed addressing.
VW: Do you see the printmaking process as a way to work through these feelings? More specifically how does the printmaking process translate for you and why is it your medium of choice?
MK: Printmaking as an art form can be very tedious–it requires a lot of thought and a lot of set-up. When I’m tackling a print job I very much enjoy the mechanical nature of it. All of those little processes make it feel like something is happening and I’m making something that is going to be put into the public. Alternatively, a lot of the paintings I make allow me to express myself incredibly quick and that’s a really good alternative to the technical screen printing process. Sometimes I’ll even screen print on top of those canvases after painting on them with plastisol. Overall it is very therapeutic to be in this shared space and to be around artists and other people that are creating.
VW: Do you see this series of work continuing after “Emotional Rescue”?
MK: I’ve been thinking about that a lot myself–”Emotional Rescue” is going to tie up the first two years of my art in a nice little package and I don’t know what the next project is going to be. I’ve been working a lot with textile designs, and I’ll be wearing a dress at the event that’s made from one of my fabrics. I think I’m going to try more with fabric design and use “LoveMKM,” “Love Yourself,” and all of those elements as a little bit more of a branding. In my dream world I would love to do a collaboration with a label the way Gucci is working with Trouble Andrew right now and create a capsule collection to express my creativity that way with the support of a major, already functioning fashion label.
VW: And do you have any advice for artists that are absolutely terrified to quit their day jobs and jump into becoming a full-time artist?
MK: I planned it out for a really long time–I had a career in fashion retail management on 5th Avenue and grew dissatisfied with my career path so I started to create an exit plan for myself. It took nearly five years, and at first I wasn’t scared at all, and then after I was making art full-time I was terrified. There were a lot of emotional ups and downs and I’d say for anyone looking into it to make a plan and be prepared, and that’s the best thing that you can do. I’d like to thank the people who have come together to help make my show a dream come true. First of all, the staff at Gowanus Print Lab, obvi. Special shout out to Remy and Brian (studio owner)! Catherine Taveras, my show producer; Jeff Beler, the curator; and Angel Green at Mivida Market. Not only are these awesome people my friends, but great professionals at what they do. Thank you all and the millions of others I couldn’t list here!