GLL: I’m curious also about your use of materials in both sides of your work. You use so many different materials—fabric, ceramics, metals, wood, and so forth—in the past, and still do. You seem to have mastery over all of them!
MJ: I don’t know about mastery, I think I just have will. Funny because sometimes I go headlong into something I actually don’t know how to do, and by the end I’ll just be able to fool you that I knew what I was doing.
GLL: Are all these things mostly self taught?
GLL: What was first?
MJ: I studied painting and then I realized after I got out of school that I had an affinity for objects that I wasn’t addressing in painting. I guess art school at the time was really painting oriented, I don’t know it was the 80s!
GLL: What were your paintings like?
MJ: They were big figurative paintings that had a kind of portent—doom was always around the corner in pretty much everything. Now I add humor but doom is still around the corner! I’ve always made and built things, so I brought that into my work. I have makers and artists in my family; my mom always made a lot of things, from weaving to painting, and my dad was a potter.
GLL: What attracted you to the idea of a residency at PGF?
MJ: What drew me to it was partly that as an artist I often work in solitude. I love the idea of working with other people who are busy and are doing their own work. That in itself is an inspiration, just to be around people who are manifesting projects. I also wanted to experiment with a different kind of problem solving. This is a work place and I want to come and bring some of my problems into the work place and say “how do I work through this and make it into a viable design” or what ideas do I let go of? That has been really interesting because I’ve let go of a lot.
GLL: Did that surprise you?
MJ: Oh, kind of. There were a few high-minded ideas that I let go of in favor of pursuing things that are smaller and funnier, and maybe less about solving the world’s problems. This is a unique program, there's an aspect of independent study to it. You're in a busy environment and learning by looking, because of course, it’s a working factory. It’s not structured like other residency programs, it’s exposing you to a different practice. If it was a typical residency program you'd have a studio and just be left alone to pursue your work in a different space, surrounded by other artists who are also working in the solitude of their studio spaces, and you probably all get together for meals. The artist role as the PGF AiR is about self-driven projects but also about generating an exchange between art and industry. It’s quite a different beast. I've found coming here 3 or 4 days a week gives me the time I need to maintain the rest of my studio practice and work life.
GLL: Let’s talk about your new project that you are working on at PGF.
MJ: I’ve literally had allergic reactions to bras and have had a long obsession with not wearing them, so I decided to offer a service. If you send a t-shirt or sweater to me at PGF I'll sew leather pockets onto it so that you can feel defiantly discreet. I’m calling the company Sans-a-Bra... maybe. Particularly in the summer when it’s hot and you’re working outside or just doing anything physical, it's a challenge to feel comfortable while wearing bondage around your torso. I know that some women structurally need the support that leather pockets on your t-shirt just won't provide, but I want there to be another option. A "more comfortable" bra is still a bra. I think there’s a tyranny of squishing your nipples down, or putting adhesive products over them. Clothing, if it’s for women, is designed with the assumption that we're going to wear a bra under it. Shirts typically have one breast pocket, how about two? Then you have some coverage. Think of this as leather jackets for your breasts.