Visual artist Mary Mooney creates vibrant abstract art that’s sure to dress up your home and your jewelry box. Using a canvas of museum-grade acrylic, Mooney’s stunning necklaces are the perfect accent – or centerpiece – for your outfit, and her hexagon-shaped wall art will surely be the conversation piece of any room (see both at her booth at Porter Flea this weekend). We caught up with Mary, who recently participated in OZ Arts Nashville’s Modular Art Pods installation, and talked about her adopted hometown of Nashville, her favorite pair of pants, and why a great piece of jewelry makes getting dressed easier.
Where are you originally from?
I NEVER know how to answer this! I was born in Atlanta but my family moved every up and down the east coast every three years or so, and I don’t really have one place I identify as a childhood home. I have a lot of family in Georgia and Florida, so the South is a pretty familiar place.
How long have you lived in Nashville?
Four and a half years! In six months it will be the longest place I’ve ever lived! Can I say I’m from here then?
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I ended up at Denison University for college, earning a BFA in Studio Art. The career track for that program was pointed at an MFA, then working in academia, but I have never felt a strong calling for teaching and wanted to choose where I made a home instead of following a career opportunity. After a few meandering years working at an arts nonprofit, a stint in retail, and some time as a graphic designer, I simplified things and decided my goal was to make art work as much as possible. I knew to be responsible doing that I had to make it my income and become an entrepreneur. Luckily, running a business gives all that prior job experience context. The jewelry line was an accident ... or maybe a logical conclusion of my studio practice and what I appreciate in art. My larger paintings and each pendant are the same material, the difference is on this smaller, wearable scale where I zoom in and curate each brushstroke.
How did you get involved with the Nashville Fashion Alliance?
Van Tucker, of course! We met at Porter Flea last summer when she came by my booth and handed me her card. After one coffee date with Van I knew I needed to be a part of the NFA community. (This has to be a popular narrative!)
What do you think people should know about our fashion community?
How full it is of wonderful, passionate people! I used to find the fashion world intimidating, but we’re all just working really hard to turn something we love into a something sustainable. There’s also a big emphasis on community over competition, which is so healthy and creates an environment ripe for collaboration. I’ve been fortunate to work with the teams and designers of Elizabeth Suzann, Emil Erwin and Portmanteau.
Do you think Nashville is poised to be a player in the global fashion industry?
I think there are certainly players in the Nashville fashion industry now that are already participating in or have their eyes set on the global stage, and I think there are a lot of designers here that are staying intentionally small. The quality and design innovation is there on all levels, and I have complete trust in the leaders at the helm of this fashion community. We’re ready. It’s on the horizon.
In your opinion, what are the biggest barriers and opportunities that the regional fashion industry faces?
Affordable studio space is a big one. The downside to living in an “it city” is a lot of the would-be studios are snatched up and quickly developed. Balancing the time you need to grow a business with the time it takes to evolve creative design. I also hear manufacturing and skilled labor can be an issue, though it’s not something I deal with as of yet.
How would you describe your personal style?
Probably minimal/functional with a touch of an artistic identity crisis. The one thing about running an accessories line, you can really pare down your wardrobe and rely on jewelry for variety! I gravitate towards comfortable, durable clothing I can wear in the studio, then throw on some jewelry and wear out to a meeting.
How would you describe Nashville's style?
Eclectic and thoughtful. Since we’re surrounded by farmland, the slow food movement is strong, and it’s been great to see that trickle and create conscious consumers for a slow fashion movement.
When you're not working, what are you doing?
Worrying about not working! But I’m trying to work on that. Hanging with my fella and my dog. Meeting up with a pretty fantastic roster of artists, designers and friends. Cooking. Building furniture for our house.
What's the one item in your closet you can't live without?
My Cecelia pants from Elizabeth Suzann, mainly because I can wear them in the studio, dust myself off, and then go out into the world feeling confident and stylish. I honestly beat the hell out of them, but you wouldn't know it because they hold up to anything. If you see me out, I’m probably wearing them. If not, it’s probably laundry day.
Click here to view Mary's website.
PHOTOS BY ANGELA MARSHALL