She may appear to be simple but Erin is highly talented and from my opinion fits into the category of being interesting. Based in Washington DC and working as a teacher she also finds time to knit wonderful creations whilst keeping her commitment to the environment.
Q. Erin, you make such wonderful knitted objects and more I just have to ask are you keen to be interviewed for my weekly interview on my blog? The title is 'Interesting or not so Interesting', which category do you think you fall into? Why?
A. Everybody’s got an interesting story to tell, you just need to get to know the person to hear it. As for me, I’m still young so I guess I don’t have as many stories as others might, but I have a few. I studied abroad in China for six months and traveled throughout the country. I teach art to inner city public school students. I’ve been creating things with my hands since I was five years old. I decided a while back that I refuse to live a “normal” life, and do what I can to stick to that goal. It’s an on-going process, but I think I’m doing pretty well so far. :)
Q. Your based in Washington DC, the home of the White House. If a visitor was tired of looking at all things politically related and wanted to check out something more crafty where would you recommend that they go to see?
A. The Smithsonian Museums are all wonderful. The one with African Art has some fabulous craftwork—clothing, baskets, jewelry. The Asian Art one has a lot of stunning pottery. Just a short hop away in Alexandria, VA there’s the Torpedo Art Factory, where a lot of artists have studios and shops, and offer classes and workshops. And if you’re here in the summer, be sure to check out Crafty Bastards—it’s one of the coolest arts and crafts fairs in the area.
Q. Has there been anything that you've learned that has assisted you in your craft through working as an arts teacher in a public school?
A. Haha, well I try to remember a lot of the advice I give my students every day. Share your materials and your work with others. Don’t pay attention to someone who says mean things about your work for no reason. Don’t give up. Always try your best. The biggest thing though, is patience. I try to teach my students to be patient with themselves and their work—not to rush through things, and not to get frustrated when they make a mistake. You can always go back and try to fix it, or you can just go with it. Some mistakes are what Bob Ross liked to call “happy accidents.” That’s been a hard lesson for me to learn, because my first tendency when I make a mistake is to rip my knitting off my needles and start over. (And that’s one of the things my students do that drives me crazy, when they beg to start over because of one little mistake)! But I’ve been working on just going with it and having more patience with myself. I’ve always been pretty patient when it comes to others (which is good for my students because it takes A LOT of patience to work with an inner city population!), but it’s a different story when it comes to me. I have high standards for myself.
Q. What is it that you love about knitting and everything else crafty that you do?
A. I just love to create. It’s a great feeling to know you made something with your own two hands. I’ve been making things since I was very young. When I was five, my mom taught me cross-stitch, and then sewing a little later on. She was always buying my sisters and me little craft kits from the store—dreamcatchers, stained glass, paint by numbers, all sorts of things. I loved doing them. It was always such a treat.
I always enjoyed drawing, but never really thought about taking art classes until junior year in high school. That was when I realized, Hey I’m actually really good at this! I ended up studying drawing and painting in college, and dabbled in photography, printmaking, and metalsmithing, all of which I loved too. But I’ve always known that I wanted to teach, so once I discovered art, becoming an art teacher made perfect sense. I love sharing art and the process of creation with others.
I didn’t start knitting until about three years ago, when a friend gave me a teach yourself knitting book, ball of yarn, and pair of needles for Christmas. And as they say, the rest is history! I was totally hooked. Knitting is a very relaxing and meditative process for me, and I love learning new techniques and stitches and incorporating them into my work. I find it very rewarding and satisfying to create beautiful things with my own hands, things that other people love to wear!
Q. With the current recession do you think more and more people are looking more at upcycling/recycling products/items?
A. I hope so. I know I’ve been thinking twice before I go out and buy something new. I have to decide if I really need it, because maybe I can fix something I already own or make it myself. If not, I might try to buy from a thrift store or buy handmade. When I do have to buy something, from anywhere, I try to make sure it’s good quality. I’d rather spend a few more bucks for something I know will last than get something cheap I’ll need to replace in a year. It seems like a lot of people have, or are developing a similar mentality, with the economy the way it is. And that’s good, because we cannot afford to keep up this consumer culture that’s been so rampant in recent years. There’s too much at stake.
Q. You live such a simple life, one that is highly environmentally conscious, this is translated into your works. What are the main things that you do in regards to your crafts to minimise the environmental impact?
A. I try to use natural materials when I can—wool, cotton, etc—and try to buy local too. I also use yarn that I find in thrift stores and I do swaps with other crafters to replace unneeded supplies with ones I will use. I recycle/upcycle when I can. My bags are all from old clothing and fabric scraps and the like.
I also try to bring these ideas into my shipping process. I use minimal packaging, reusing whenever I can, and only include a small thank you note with my item.
Q. What do think are top 5 things that people can do to reduce their own environmental impact on the world?
A. I think a lot of what I’m about to say can be summed up by the following—Don’t waste!
1. Re-use/upcycle: Turn something you already have into something new and wonderful.
2. Recycle: If you have to get rid of something, recycle if at all possible.
3. Do it yourself: It’s often cheaper if you do or make something yourself. And if you don’t know how, maybe a friend does.
4. Buy natural/organic/ecofriendly: When you have to buy something new, go the ecofriendly route. It might be a bit more expensive, but chances are it’s better for you and for the earth.
5. Buy local: Frequent your local farmers’ market. Support local shops.
Q. Anything new and wonderful coming up in the near future?
A. I’ve been working on new hat and scarf styles, which should be making an appearance soon. I would also like to learn to knit lace so I can make some lighter-weight accessories for warmer weather.
Q. What are the best site for people to visit to find out more about you and your works?
A. www.erinmapes.etsy.com (This is where I sell all my knitted items and upcycled bags, as well as some pieces of hemp jewelry).
www.ravelry.com/people/erinmapes (Here you can check out my latest projects and what I plan to do in the future. Some of these projects end up on Etsy, and some are just for me. :)
Q. Thank you so v. much Erin, hope you've enjoyed this short Q&A?
A. Very much. These were some of the best interview questions I’ve had. They really made me think. And I always love sharing my craft with others. So thank you.