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5 & 3/4 Questions

 

ERIN ROBINSON (BROOKLYN DOLLY)

CURRENT RESIDENCE: NEW YORK & WASHINGTON, D.C.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: UNITED STATES

instagram.com/brooklyndolly & etsy.com/shop/brooklyndolly  

1. Describe yourself and your work.

I am in my head a lot...a perpetual daydreamer of sorts. It’s quite a high when I get truly inspired. My mind goes into overdrive, and I can barely physically keep up! I tend to scribble numerous miscellaneous thoughts on Post-its and on my left hand. My work, I usually describe as sometimes hauntingly beautiful, bold, graphic, vibrant, textured, and always magical. As a woman of color, I also like to illustrate women that represent me. Living in Brooklyn for numerous years, I found myself surrounded by some of the most incredibly stunning black, brown, and beige women from a variety of different places and different cultures...full of eccentricity. When I draw for myself, I tend to create illustrations with a story behind them. The stories usually pull from fairy-esque things I believed in as a little girl. You’ll notice hints of red string and lotuses through many of those pieces. I like adding bits of symbolism.

2. How did you get started?

I’ve been drawing since I can remember. My parents are both very creative and made sure I had the tools to nurture my animated mind. I went into corporate America as a fashion design VP for children. I found myself stifled after a period of time and felt like I wasn’t really expressing who I truly was inside...what my true artistic capabilities were. I felt like I had climbed the corporate ladder as far as I could go, and after a sabbatical, a lot of thinking and stepping out of fear, and encouragement from a handful of friends, I decided to really share my art world. I was very nervous and had to let go of the perceptions of what others would think of it all. Then came a huge push from my dad, who I felt saw my pure passion and talent: he told me to make a plan and find a solution. At that moment he became what I call my “Dad-ager.” I had years under my belt as a Design Leader, and it was time to lead myself, which has been the most challenging job of any I have held. 

But my background taught me about branding, marketing, sourcing, and merchandising, so I was able to take those lessons and apply them to my own product. I tell people I’m not the artist you’ll find under a rock and hear about after they are long gone. I want my work to be accessible to all and accessible now. So you might find a piece of fine art on your wall or a print that crosses onto everything: a lunchbox, T-shirt, candle, book, or beach towel—and so on and so on. I want women of color to have a destination to shop a selection of items that is not limited to a couple of choices.

 

3. Which of your creations/projects best represents you and why?

Oh, this one is hard.... The thing is, many of my personal pieces have bits of me in them. But if I had to choose, it would have to be Sunday Girl [shown below]. She was one of the early pieces I did when I changed career directions. I was born on a Sunday. It’s not created to look like me, but more of what I feel like when I can be in my Erin World. She is ethereal and is wearing the signature symbolized red bracelets, and has lots of hair and decor and is just regal! Four years later, she still remains one of my best-selling prints. She is pretty significant to me. 

4. What challenges are you facing in your work these days?

Where to begin?! Balance is something I definitely need to do better with. My plate has been so amazingly full the last couple of years that I have neglected really taking care of myself. It worries me because on the one hand I’m doing something that I truly love, but sometimes the pace is ridiculously crazy, and I can at times feel like a hamster on a continuous spinning wheel and burn out. When I start to work, I can get quite absorbed and lose track of time. There is no five p.m. whistle telling me to pack it up...but I might just need that whistle!

5. What’s inspiring you these days?

I’m actually in Nairobi, Kenya, right now. So here!!! I needed an escape, a reset...a place that would stir up the creative wonder. I’ve been surrounded by nature, culture, colors, and textures, and my mind has been vividly overloaded!

5¼. What’s something you recently learned how to do—in your artistic practice or any part of your life?

Well...I learned how to eat termites! Does that count?! Definitely not a creative practice! I’ve been in Kenya for the past few weeks, and this is something they do! After the heavy rains, you can see hundreds of them gravitating to the lights...I means hundreds! It’s like a sci-fi movie. I assumed they were moths and was fascinated when I first saw them. We forgot to close the doors downstairs so hundreds flew into the living room, where lights were on. When I went into the room, they were everywhere. I switched off the lights and went and found my friend in the kitchen, and I told him what was going on. He was not fazed one bit and nonchalantly told me that tomorrow they’ll get fried up to eat. They have a very short lifespan; then they detach from their wings and die. So the next day I came back to the house, going on about how hungry I was, and presto...I was handed a bowl of fried up termites. I winced at the idea of eating them, but I felt like I was at an initiation ceremony and finally gave in. It was like I dined on some kettle chips. I also learned how to catch them when it’s not raining...but that’s a whole other story! 

5½. If you could meet any artist (living or dead, in any discipline) for coffee and a chat, who would it be?

Oh wow...my immediate reaction was the iconic Frida Kahlo. I admire not only her work, but also her authenticity and passion—and if I met her, how I would ask her if I could go raid her wardrobe! Her clothing alone was art. And then I drifted off to Elizabeth Catlett. I just finished a book where I had to illustrate her, so of course during my research I became immersed in her art world and fascinated by the textures and subjects. She is truly an inspiration.

5¾. What music are you listening to a lot of these days? What’s on repeat?

Don’t laugh...but the Game of Thrones soundtrack to season 8, by Ramin Djawadi. I’m a complete nerd, but the score for the Battle of Winterfell/The Night King was gorgeously operatic and emotional...absolutely incredible. I’m also loving Spanish singer Buika. It’s a delicious mix of flamenco, soul, jazz, and copla. And also James Blake’s latest album Assume Form—like, the whole album. His music is so eerily moving...and English indie folk-rock singer Michael Kiwanuka.