This week’s 12 questions are answered by Erinn Cox. I met Erinn while attending graduate school at Memphis College of art over a decade ago! She is currently pursuing her second Master’s degree in Estonia and has been such an inspiring force.
A brief bio:
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Erinn received her Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture and photography from Florida State University and her Master of Fine Arts with an emphasis on sculpture and installation from the Memphis College of Art. In 2014, she took classes in metalsmithing and wax casting at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago, IL with instructors Neil Kraus and Pam Robinson. In 2016, Erinn began a second master's degree in Jewellery at the Estonian Academy of Arts under the supervision of Kadri Malk with an anticipated graduation in the spring of 2019.
Erinn currently lives and works in Tallinn, Estonia where she is pursuing a second Masters degree in Jewellery; though she also maintains a residence in Chicago, IL. Erinn teaches Art History online for several community college consortiums across the US and both writes and designs for an art & philosophy online journal she founded titled Louise & Maurice.
See more of her work: www.erinnmcox.com
1.What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?
100 years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, absolutely anything by the Sufi mystic Rumi, and I’m currently reading the loveliest book by David J. Whyte titled CONSOLATIONS | The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words that I know is going to be in my head for years to come.
2.What are you currently working on?
I am currently pursuing my second master’s degree in Contemporary Jewelry at the Eesti Kunstiakadeemia in Tallinn, Estonia. My thesis work has to do with two topics: Loneliness (Longing) and Mortality. Working only in non-precious metals such as copper, bronze, and brass, I am making large and heavy necklaces for men that incorporate traditional metalsmithing techniques with cast pieces of my own body like hair, fingernails, and dental impressions.
3. How has failure set you up for later success? What was your favorite failure?
Well, I think failure is a tricky word because what is really ever a true failure? Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t, but we learn a lot from both; hopefully not allowing them to become regrets when they don’t. I would say though, one of my hardest lessons learned was financial, I failed to keep myself in good standing and found myself in substantial debt (both personal and educational loans). I worked four jobs from 10 years to get financially free and living outside that burden has been one of the most positive and life-changing decisions I’ve ever made.
4.What is your most unusual habit?
Every Saturday morning when I get to the studio, I clean and straighten my workbench and I read this beautiful essay / artist statement by Rui Chafes titled Durante O Fim while I have my morning coffee. His work and his writing remind me of the kind of work I want to be able to make and provide unusual clarity in the quiet of the weekend morning.
5. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?
Gerhard Richter, for sure. He has this magical ability to translate such delicate emotion with light and brings a softness to his portraits that I think I could really use sometimes.
6. What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace/office?
Right now, it would have to be my two pairs of ring pliers; which you use to close jump rings. I’m making these large necklaces with hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of rings, so I couldn’t make them without these. But a close second would be my noise-canceling headphones: I work in a communal space so being able to tune out everything around me and focus on my work is so important.
7. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask yourself?
Creatively, I feel overwhelmed quite a bit – my work is deeply personal and stems from my own thoughts about mortality, loneliness, and longing for another; so, it’s easy to get lost in my own head which leads to hours and hours in the studio. My pieces take anywhere from 2-3 months to make, so it’s really about just buckling-in, putting the blinders on, and seeing where the work leads me. Most times this is incredibly fruitful, but of course it takes its toll physically and mentally. I’m not sure I’ve found the way around it, but I usually dim the lights in my studio, pour myself a glass of Jameson, and just push through.
Right now, I feel incredibly inspired, perhaps too much; so, a lot of the questions I’m asking are related to making the components of my works: deciding what the work needs and doesn’t need, how much it should weigh, which material, and figuring out the technical configurations of the works so they sit on the body like I want them to. Some of these things I can’t figure out on my own; but luckily, I’m surrounded by amazing artists and professors who help me fight the frustrations of my lacking skills set.
8. What is the most life-changing thing you have bought for under 100 dollars in the last year?
My one-way ticket to Estonia. Ok, so I used miles and had to pay a small fee, but it was under $100 so I’m going to say it counts. Coming here has been so fantastic in almost every aspect of my life: creatively, professionally, personally. I’ve been wanting to live and be an artist in Europe since I was 18, and it’s so wonderful and satisfying to finally be living the exact life I want to be.
9. Do you collect anything?
I like to collect art, and I actually have a rather extensive collection, but it is with my parents back in the States. In the past two years, I’ve started collecting small pieces of contemporary jewelry while I’ve been here in Estonia and during my travels in Europe, I like picking up small pieces by artists I admire.
10. What words of advice would you give to your younger self?
Nothing is ever going to be perfect; so get over yourself, forget the what ifs, and just follow your heart.
11. In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice?
In 2016, when I made the decision to move to Estonia, I decided that I was only going to make decisions based on my heart and nothing else. It has changed my life in amazing ways, allows me to live without regrets, and makes my work far more honest.
12. Share an inspiring image.
This photo is of the Gulf of Finland last summer on an impromptu sailing trip with friends. The summer light here is never-ending, its daylight almost 20 hours a day in late summer and there is this incredible feeling that time expands, everything becomes possible.