Thursday Spotlight

Thursday Spotlight: Didi Rojas and Her Fantabulous Shoes

It’s hard to not be beguiled by an art show entitled You’re Doing Amazing Sweetie — now on view at Launch F18 until October 19th — and it’s even harder to not fall in love with the whimsical, colorful ceramic shoes created by Didi Rojas for the show. Rojas uniquely combines her day job work with her craft, elevating seemingly simple creations into something creative and singular. Learn more about this week’s Thursday Spotlight below!

Greenpointers: You live and work in Greenpoint, right? Any favorite spots in the neighborhood?

Didi Rojas: I live in Bed-Stuy but my studio space is in Greenpoint. There are so many good spots in the neighborhood. One of my favorite spots in Greenpoint, and probably all Brooklyn, is McCarren Park. I love walking my dog, Charlie, around the park whenever I bring her to the studio with me.  Other favorite spots include the McCarren Deli (I usually get the Smoky Jack sandwich for lunch here), Five Leaves (whenever I want to treat myself) and Bernie’s (martinis and mozzarella sticks)!

Your day job is at Grouppartner Ceramic Studio, but you also create some of your work there, yes? I feel artists don’t always talk about their day job, but yours seems to be one that also feeds your work. How does that relationship balance?

I started working at the Grouppartner Studio when I was still in college and I eventually was able to get my own studio space in the same building. I’m really grateful for the relationship I’ve built with the studio and with the people I work with there. The space has changed so much over the years and it’s been fun getting to be a part of its growth. It’s a space I feel very comfortable in so it’s pretty great to be able do both my practice and day job in the same building. The Grouppartner Studio feels like home to me and I feel extremely lucky to be able to have a job that also helps inform my practice.

I love the shoes you crafted for you Launch F18 show! What are they made of, and how did they come to be?

Thank you! The sculptures are ceramic. I made my very first ceramic shoe over three years ago. I had been working at the studio and had a pair of Nike Air Force sneakers that were covered in clay from wearing them there daily. They looked like they could have been made out of ceramic so I had to try making one. I haven’t stopped making ceramic shoes since then. Fast forwarding a bit, the shoes for the show You’re Doing Amazing Sweetie at Launch F18 are similar to my previous bodies of work. There are over 40 included in the show and all but a few were made this year.

Silly question, but are the shoes in any way wearable? If not, what do you want to do with them when the show is done?

The ceramic shoes are not wearable, but I like to pretend. I often take photos of me pretending to wear them. The idea for them also somewhat originated from a “fake it till you make it” kind of playful mentality.

I’ll be keeping the sculptures that don’t sell from the show as part of my own collection.

Are there any upcoming projects you’re excited about/want to share?

My sculptures are being featured monthly in Vogue Italia’s magazine. It’s really crazy and cool getting to see the pieces in print. I’m also currently working on a couple photography and video projects as well as a book featuring the pieces from the show at Launch F18. More ceramic shoes are also in the works!

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Thursday Spotlight: Stayin’ Humble with Stew, your Neighborhood Podcaster

We’ve profiled myriad artists in our Thursday Spotlight series, but it’s rare we get the pleasure of speaking with a podcaster, especially one whose comedic prowess is as fierce as Stewart Fullerton’s. New to Greenpoint (but not the city), Stewart has been hosting a weekly podcast Stayin’ Humble with Stew for almost six months where she rebels against, celebrates, and (per the title) humbles pop culture and those who stir it.
The podcast is nihilistic with a life-affirming, souther gothic spin, and is rich in millennial upspeak without an ounce of irony. Stayin’ Humble with Stew highlights how New York rains on each of our parades when we step outside in Ray Bans, high on Kimmy Schmidt levels of hopeful and entrepreneurial spirit. Personal recounts pepper the episodes (a funny one follows our hostess through the Pride parade, forgetting her wallet in the gay shuffle while dizzy on stolen treats from Slack’s Narnia closet full of expensive snacks), as do tips on Venmo etiquette (it’s not that hard), how to feel about Taylor Swift (sentiments change like the weather), and who should be the face of the Me Too movement (spoiler: it’s Brad Pitt). Follow her on Insta here, and dive into her saucy responses below!
Greenpointers: She’s new to the nabe! How has it treated you? Any fave spots yet?
Stewart Fullerton: I am absolutely loving this neighborhood. Everyone here is SO hot and the girls here wear the most creative flats I’ve ever seen. The second I moved all my stuff in I needed to go shopping for trendier clothes and a pair of clogs. I live right around the corner from Goldie’s Bar which is where I’m currently spending my paycheck. I also LOVE Three’s Brewing, best beer/ burger combo in the game. For my margaritas: Calexico, great happy hour. And shout out to Variety Coffee.
This pod has been going strong for a couple months now, I believe. What was the impetus for creating Stayin’ Humble with Stew?
People have always told me I have the perfect face for podcasting. JK. As a comedian, you have to think of yourself as your own business and do anything you can do to get your name out there. Once I realized I wanted to start a podcast I knew I wanted it to be about celebrity culture in some way. Celebrities are not from the same planet as us mere mortals and I have always been obsessed with that. I also wanted my podcast to feel like a slumber party where I am catching up with my listeners. So I just combined my two favorite things, talking bad about celebrities and updating people on the humbling things that happen in my life. Also, starting a podcast is the new  gluten free: everyone’s doing it!

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet The Brick’s New Artistic Director, Theresa Buchheister

Theresa, photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
Theresa Buchheister is a successful artist because she is a generous one; through multiple festivals and off-the-beaten-path venues, clandestine locales and dive hives, she has created myriad opportunities for creators of various stripes to express themselves and their craft. How fitting that she should rise to be The Brick’s new Artistic Director.
The Brick (579 Metropolitan Avenue) has long been a haven for comediennes, interpreters of classics, and everything in between. Now, Theresa — founder of the lauded and Brooklyn-based Exponential Festival — takes her vast producorial and artistic know-how to Williamsburg’s vital and ever-evolving destination for cutting-edge theatrical experience. Get to know this indefatigable artist in this week’s Thursday Spotlight!
Greenpointers: We cover artists in Greenpoint, Bushwick, and Williamsburg — but it’s certainly not uncommon for folks to move in and out of the boroughs. If memory serves, you’ve moved around quite a bit during your time in New York, but so much of your work has touched these neighborhoods, right?
Theresa Buchheister: Indeed. The first shows I did in the early 2000s were more in the East Village and LES, as that is where weird and wild stuff was still happening. But, as that started to really really change around 2008, I found myself more and more in Brooklyn doing shows in the backs of CC Rentals (as part of the Night Market), on boats on the Gowanus Canal (with Jeff Stark), and in DIY music venues (RIP Silent Barn, Secret Project Robot, Shea Stadium, soon The Glove), as well as lovely theatrical spaces, like The Brick.
Title:Point was a part of Silent Barn for almost four years, and that was the first home we ever had. It really taught us a lot about what is possible when you have even a little patch of land to build on. Vital Joint is in East Williamsburg and we started doing things there almost three years ago, which has also been a great home base, especially being on the same block as Panoply Performance Lab, now called Parallel.  There is a vibrance that comes from relentlessly working with artists of all practices and learning from them and also struggling to make things work  — I have dealt with more dead rats and sewage and toilets than I ever predicted I would.
I love Brooklyn. It is my home. It is where amazing people live and venues come and go. But we all still keep finding ways.

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Thursday Spotlight: Get to Know Local DJ and New Zine Publisher Josh Craig

Brooklyn celebrates artists of all stripes, but it’s rare you get one as versatile as Josh Craig. A professional DJ and, now, also a zine publisher, Josh has been a staple in the Brooklyn community for a few years. Now, he’s pulling double duty as he paves the way for his new publication, 11-18Get to know this disk-spinning neighbor in this week’s Thursday Spotlight!
Greenpointers: Do you live in the neighborhood, and if so for how long? How’s it treated you?
Josh Craig: Currently I’m residing in Mallorca, Spain but I’ve been in Greenpoint for a good three years now.  It’s treated me well. I’ve made some solid relationships, leveled up as a creator here and built my 1st home recording studio.
How did you get your start as a DJ, and what advice would you share with young artists getting their start?
I got my start DJing as a kid in New Jersey going to DMS parties on Fulton Street in Newark and making mix CDs for my friends with the Jersey Club tracks everyone loved at the raves we attended. Those mix CDs were my first stab at DJing. It wasn’t until I moved to Bushwick like six, seven years ago that I started playing records in clubs. Shouts to KLIENFELD of Suavehaus who put me on game.

The advice I have for any young artists getting started is to play what you feel in ya heart. Play your friends music not just top 40. Support only what is real and invest in some turntables. Vinyl helps too.

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Thursday Spotlight: Carri Skoczek on Collecting Dolls and Her Umpteen Years as an Artist

One of Carri’s #DrawingADay portraits, as seen on her Instagram
Carri Skoczek has enjoyed a decades-spanning career, in which time she has shown from everywhere from the Coney Island Mermaid Parade to Clem’s Bar. Now, she’s enjoying the dedication and regiment of #DrawingADay, using social media as a vehicle to exhibit (and often sell) her works. She also has a show now at Figureworks (168 North 6th Street) where her interest in dolls of all shapes and sizes is on full display. Get to know this local artist and her versatile craft in today’s Thursday Spotlight!
Greenpointers: You’ve had a number of shows in Brooklyn and have lived here for a bit. Can you briefly describe your trajectory and how you came to live in the borough?
Carri Skoczek: I moved to Brooklyn when i was 40 in 1997, a year after meeting my New York-born and bred partner in crime, David Hurd, in New Orleans at Jazz Fest. It was magical. We discovered we had the same friends.
Kerry Smith from the Right Bank Cafe insisted I run his gallery, which I did from 1997 to 2001. It was the perfect way to meet local artists and gallerists in the heyday of the Williamsburg art scene.
My first solo show in Brooklyn was at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Society in 1997. I curated an annual mermaid show celebrating the Coney Island Mermaid Parade for 10 years. I was also an award-winning participant in the parade. (I was a costume designer in Milwaukee for 12 years and that satisfied my urge to play dress up and design costumes for my friends.) I’ve shown at Holland Tunnel Gallery since the beginning. Participated in every annual epic group show Ritchie Timperio put on at sideshow gallery. I also had a solo show there in 2016. I was represented by Causey Contemporary from 1999 until she closed the gallery doors in 2015.
I’ve been in funky group shows in the local bars. I did a drunk girl show at Clem’s Bar in the late 90s. Two drunk girl chalkboard drawings are still in the window.

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Thursday Spotlight: Tommy Kha and the “negotiation between worlds”

To complement last Thursday Spotlight’s article on Meena Hasan, today, we speak wtih fellow artist Tommy Kha who, alongside Meena, is deconstructing identity through their joint show at LAUNCH F18 Gallery in Tribeca. Tommy, a Greenpointer of multiple years, is a photographer who elevates the mundane and finds touches of surreality and the bizarre in the quotidian (as evidenced from some samples sprinkled around his Instagram).

Greenpointers: You live in Greenpoint, I hear! What’s it been like to work in a community so rich in visual artists?
It’s odd, this is the beginning of my fourth year here and only now, I feel I can settle in and unpack my anxiety and work. I’ve lucked out to be near my schoolmates that my existential status feels less isolating. It’s a sight to see spaces like DAAB, the Java Project, the Greenpoint Gallery, and my artist friends pushing up against stones and making work, in turn, I find myself pushing as well.

Your current show at LAUNCH F18 Gallery in Tribeca wrestles with the effects of imperialism. Can you discuss the pieces you contributed to this exhibition?
I wanted to go in the opposite direction as my previous iterations of my self-portrait work, being given the space to present work less about performed Otherness but being a product of colonialism. I’m more concerned with the direct experiences my mother and family members has had.

The portraits I’ve made of her from our long-form collaboration are alongside photographs she made back in 1984, the year she successfully fled Vietnam (Old Country), which is something g of a familial trait — my great-grandparents fled 1930s China (Older Country). I didn’t know she made photographs at some point, it’s striking for me to see them because

I view photography and art differently than my mother’s generation, whose life’s experiences were contingent on survival and non-conforming (my mother went through an indoctrination camp).

Additionally, I’ve included newsprints for people to take, on one side are Southern landscapes and interiors, on the other side is an illegible article recalling my aunt’s murder, fading over the four images, which I never quite resolved her death. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Meena Hasan and “Post-Colonial Legacy”

Courtesy of LAUNCHF18

Meena Hasan’s newest show at LAUNCH F18 is, what she brilliantly and comically calls, a “kaleidoscopic onion.” To understand that, one must first understand her vivid works that stem from diverse compositions and series but are now in giddy and ponderous conversation with each other in one show. She shares this LAUNCH F18 exhibition with the Tommy Kha, who, alongside Meena, is exploring imperialism through a contemporary lens. To learn more about Meena and her work that “investigates and reveals Asian American experiences,” read on, follow her Instagram, and visit “Other Echoes Inhabit The Garden” at LAUNCH F18!

Greenpointers: You’re a Greenpointer yourself, I hear! How has the neighborhood treated you. Any favorite spots?

Meena Hasan: Yes, I’ve been in Greenpoint for about six years and I love it. I am hesitant to tell too much, since one of the greatest characteristics of Greenpoint is that the best spots feel secret, tucked away and well supported by local patrons. Northside Bakery has amazing Polish food – schnitzels and stuffed cabage are my go to. I am always on the hunt for good curry and am lucky to have a legit take-out Indian food spot nearby, Moharani, run by Bangladeshis. They use all the right spices and do not water down their food like most places. I also discovered the Lite Bites lunch hour, they have insanely tasty Trinidadian curries and rotis during the week, but you have to hit it before 2pm to get the choicest morsels. Possibly the best hot sauce I’ve ever had too (in the US). Not to get all romantic about it, but the distinct flavors really do unveil themselves slowly on your tongue, in your throat and belly, like a raga, and trying to decipher their recipe is great fun.

Your current show at LAUNCH F18 Gallery in Tribeca deals with “post-colonial legacy,” the press release says. Can you dive into the works you contributed to this exhibition?

This show, titled “Other Echoes Inhabit The Garden” unfolded over time. I like to think of it as a kaleidoscopic onion of distinct shapes and ideas reflecting each other across and through the room. Each of the works that I included is from a different series that I have been working on for the past few years and it’s fantastic to see them all hanging out together. Included are a first-person perspective or PoV painting as I call the series of putting on gold bangles, a small paper sculpture of my grandmother’s earrings, a portrait of my mother’s nape and a large hanging paper piece that investigates and transforms a Chintz pattern (a calico textile made in South Asia for the British). Also included are two small gouaches on cardboard that were made as meditations in between the making of the above pieces.

The show was an experiment in many ways, a chance to juxtapose the many distinctions not only within my pieces but also those in contrast to Tommy’s works, with the hope that they would converse, open up and find meaning through their interaction, that they would “echo” in other words. This could be like any group show, but in our case it was particularly significant given our shared desire to investigate and reveal Asian American experiences through our works. Tommy and I, like all children of immigrants, and honestly like the majority of individuals in the world, have inherited the post-colonial legacies of our families. The show seeks to pay respect to this inheritance and, particularly, the matriarchs who have shaped and raised us, whose influence pervades the works and, of course, our daily lives as well. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Deniz Ayaz On the “Unpredictable Nature” of Watercolor and More

Whimsical, precise, and meditative, Deniz Ayaz’s illustrations and watercolors may make you hungry. She often creates tempting portraits, though her skills reach far beyond illustrations of food. Deniz has had works featured in leading outlets including The New York Times, Print Magazine, and more, and below we get to know the Greenpoint artist who dishes not just on her drawings but her favorite places to get baos, ice cream, and more.

Greenpointers: You mentioned you’ve lived in the neighborhood for a few years! Any favorite spots? How has Greenpoint treated you?
Deniz Ayaz: I remember the first time I went to Greenpoint. It was a small field trip with my illustration class to Pencil Factory in 2011. Meeting some of my favorite illustrators there was very inspiring and I can say that this neighborhood has always treated me well. I’ve met inspiring people (including my husband), discovered new spots, and never felt like I was not in a concrete jungle. 

Some of favorite spots in the area are Lot Radio for Saturday afternoons, Baoburg for yummy baos in the backyard, Polka Dot for homemade apple pie, Van Leeuwen for coffee ice cream, Maha Rose for soundbath, and Magick City for dancing, which I’ve recently discovered and been amazed by the space and events.

You dabble in a few different mediums: watercolor, ink… any favorites, and why?
I love the fluidity and unpredictable nature of watercolor. In the past, I’ve painted with various mediums including oil, acrylic, and gouache and it was great to experiment with all of them before finding the “one.” I enjoy creating abstract patterns in watercolor and most of the patterns I like tend to be the ones that are less structured.

Nowadays, it’s quite common to see people planning every second of their lives and try to control every little thing. As a result, it becomes hard to enjoy spontaneity. For me, painting with watercolor is a great way to let go, and it’s quite meditating.  Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Sustainable Work Blooms at Greenpoint’s Flower Clvb

Flower Clvb at the Greenpointers Spring Flower Power Market
Our Thursday Spotlights often feature the multitude of painters, ceramists, and cartoonists in our colorful neighborhood. But Greenpoint’s cultural scene reaches far beyond visual artists, and florist Grace McDonald more than proves that with her small business, Flower Clvb. A sustainable, creative medium, floral designs are a vital part of many a celebration, as Grace below outlines. Get to know her work — and favorite flower — below!
Greenpointers: How long have you been in Brooklyn and where is your businesses based out of?
Grace McDonald: I have lived in Brooklyn since 2013 and I am a studio florist based in Greenpoint.

Flowers is such an interesting and lovely medium, how’d you get into this type of artistry?
I come from an arts administration background where my primary duties involve connecting contemporary artists with youth. Floral design combines my love for art, nature, and coordinating as I administer an experience for clients that brings out the full expression of who they are. Working with my hands and in a medium that grows from the earth is deeply satisfying to me.

What kinds of requests would you say make up the bulk of your business?
Most of my clients are brides, however I am beginning to receive more inquiries from companies who are interested in planning a fun team building activity or who need flowers for corporate events.

Where do you source your flowers from?
During spring, summer and fall, I try to source as much of my flowers as possible from local farms and supplement with beautiful blooms I find on the 28th Street Flower Market. There are also great local blooms at certain wholesalers at the market as well. During the winter months, I primarily buy from the 28th Street Flower Market or from a local wholesaler in New Jersey that is often able to find me blooms that are American-grown, if not local. I have also found the Union Square Greenmarket to have really incredible and affordable local flowers in the summer.

Are there any kinds of projects you love working on?
I love experimenting with challenging large-scale installations. I am always looking for interesting alternatives for installing without floral foam since floral foam is so bad for the environment. There is almost always a foam-free solution, it just might take a little time, creativity, and the hands of a great team.

One more question: what’s your favorite flower?
I absolutely love poppies. I love how hairy the stems are and how their blooms are often covered in little pods when you buy them. They are a flower that surprises you when they emerge from their pods and I think there is something mysterious and whimsical about them.

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Thursday Spotlight: How Litter Inspired the Playful Erik’s Paper Route

Erik’s Paper Route took part in our Spring Market earlier this month!
Hard times makes for progressive art, and boy is Erik Jacobsen having fun with our current political bonanza. His small business, Erik’s Paper Route, takes the litter of candy wrappers and transforms it into something that — all at once — is vibrant, quirky, and pointed. Below, he explains the birth of his company and his hopes for the future, but to see his work in person, join him at the upcoming Greenpoint Open Studios!
Greenpointers: You’ve lived in Greenpoint for a couple years. How has the nabe and community treated you?

The neighborhood felt like home immediately. My downstairs neighbor Jean had, until recently, lived in the same apartment for 50 years, and her love for Greenpoint was infectious. She was the first to welcome me and my fiancé to Brooklyn, and she always insisted on giving us fresh bread every week from a local Polish bakery.  

I’ve met lots of wonderful creatives in the studio space at 108 Bayard who have been incredibly supportive and friendly. It’s inspiring seeing people pursue their passion full heartedly in the fields of fashion, photography and design.

Erik’s Paper Route is such a lovely name. This may seem random, but did you have a paper route as a child?

Sadly no! Having grown up in the Jersey suburbs I did ride my bike constantly as a kid to get around and there was always a freeing feeling associated with it. “Paper route” is a play on words for me as I head in a new direction with a new medium. Paper routes exist to spread the news and Erik’s Paper Route was created out of a need to express my reaction to it.

Can you discuss the origin of your company?

Moving to Brooklyn three years ago was a pivotal moment for me and represented a dream fulfilled. Having lived in DC for 10 years prior, I was surprised by the volume of discarded candy wrappers on the sidewalks and streets of NYC — and I loved it. DC was an amazing city to live in but my old neighborhood didn’t offer me the grit or beautiful chaos I found in Brooklyn. 

Erik’s Paper Route started in January 2018 as a reaction to seeing a lot of perfectly filtered photos and influencer social accounts on Instagram after a long day at my day job. As great as social media can be at giving people a platform to share their work, it can also be overwhelming and make you question, “Am I doing enough creatively?” or “Why am I the only one who hasn’t been to Costa Rica?” It’s all really silly when you think about it but it was a natural response for me. Sometimes you just need to take a break from your phone and that’s when I saw a stack of multi-colored paper staring at me on my desk. I started to rip it up into letters that spelled out the phrase “Stop Comparing Yourself to Everyone Else” and that’s the moment when everything changed for me and this new route began.

Your work has a strong political bent, but also a nostalgic one. Can you discuss how those ideas coalesce?

Everything stems from a loss of innocence I experienced growing up — learning that everything is not what it once may have seemed. A lot of my work relates to repurposing food and candy packaging from my childhood. The sheen of a candy wrapper has lost its luster to me seeing it dirtied on a Brooklyn sidewalk, which I also see as a metaphor. I’m nostalgic for a time where I would buy airheads for 25 cents at my local pool during hot summers — but relating it to my life now — the white mystery airhead flavor represents our current president. A “what’s that airhead gonna do next” type of mentality. I try to imbue a playful and mischievous tone into my work to address serious issues that have become more apparent to me as I’ve gotten older. 

A former art teacher told me that altering one minor component to a project can drastically change the meaning of something entirely. I’ve kept that in my mind as I work. 

If you eat too much sugar you’ll get a cavity and I like to play with the idea that these sweetly package treats should be consumed with care. Don’t believe everything you see just because you saw it online or heard it on the news. 

Politics is not something I thought of as much growing up. As I got older and went to college in DC I couldn’t help but become hyperaware of what was going on in my backyard. I am extremely fortunate to have grown up in a time where, as a gay man, I’ve seen my rights increased precisely at the times I truly wanted them. When same-sex marriage was legalized in the US in June 2015, I visited the White House that night to see it emblazoned in the colors of the rainbow. That was a moment of great hope and validation to know I was good enough to make my voice a little louder as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

With this current administration there’s a lot more at risk, and my artwork is the best route I know of to vocalize my disapproval of Trump. 

Your work is on paper — what instruments do you use for your drawings? Is there a digital component?

I use an X-acto knife to cut all my pieces. Sometimes I’ll get stubborn and won’t change the blade for a couple weeks which causes it to get more blunt and harder to use — but working with my hands and the paper medium has allowed me to release myself from the expectation of perfection. And to be honest, supplies and blades are expensive so I really like to let the tools run their course til I absolutely need something new. I’ll just roll with what I’ve got til my next payday. It’s forced me to not be as wasteful and I love that. There’s no such thing as messing up to me with the medium — only happy accidents — perfection is boring. 

The digital component comes only when I photograph the pieces to create prints. I’d like to experiment with a laser cutter to mass produce my pieces. The idea of creating something I first made organically by hand and then mass producing it is fascinating to me. Time is money. I’m constantly thinking, as a small business, how I can work smarter, not harder. 

Any projects you have coming up? Anything else you’d like to discuss?

I am working on a new series that involves the idea of chance. I love the concept of games like checkers and chess and how the small moves you make can have a huge impact on your end goal. I’ve learned the most successful people have made lots of small moves in the right direction over time, and I want to do the same as it relates conceptually to my work.

I’m moving away from candy and food packaging at the moment and experimenting with new subject matter that involves scenes from everyday life made from paper. I’ve always found inspiration from everyday ordinary things.

Greenpoint has been the perfect home and launch pad for Erik’s Paper Route. I’ll be participating in the Greenpoint Open Studios June 8 and 9 and am looking forward to sharing my work with more people in the community.

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