Artist Studio

IWD Brooklyn: Talking Taking a Risk with Maggie Tookmanian

Maggie Tookmanian talks to Fair Director, Sophie Lucas, about making the exciting leap from a career in fashion to a full-time commitment to her artistic practice.

Maggie Tookmanian took a bold leap when she turned down a job opportunity in fashion and committed to a full-time artistic practice. Her cavernous studio in Wayne, NJ, is an exciting space for creative exploration; Maggie spends her days layering shredded newspaper, cutting leather and melting plastics to create ambitious sculptural projects and large-scale drawings.  She launched her first series of piñata sculptures at The Other Art Fair Brooklyn.

This interview is part of our global International Women’s Day campaign where we are talking to 6 great female artists who will each be presenting their work at one of our Spring fairs; London, Sydney, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Melbourne and Chicago.

Tell me about your move from fashion to art.

As a child, I loved drawing, designing and making. My family was creative; my father worked in construction and my mother created scenery so there was always a project in progress in our Household.  In my freshman year at Parsons The New School, the BFA Fashion course required experimentations into all aspects of fine art and I loved it! I continued this approach throughout my studies: whilst I was working on footwear and accessories, there was always a conceptual element to my pieces.  My final thesis project was a sculptural piece in steel, plastic and leather.

 “There was a moment when I had to choose between accepting a job offer in fashion or committing to practicing as a full-time artist. I couldn’t stop thinking about ideas for future artworks so I made the leap! I now work in my studio everyday, creating my sculptures and drawings. I have never thought that job since.”

Since that moment, you have developed your piñata artworks and launched this series at The Other Art Fair. What was the creative process that led to these pieces?

I wanted to take an object that is crafted but intended to be thrown away, tossed aside, and turn it into art. I studied the history and structure of the piñata, started drawing and then created ‘Karl’, my first piece in paper.  

I used the sculpture and shoe-making skills from my degree to create the leather donkey artworks. Inspired by three historical brands that are celebrated for their high quality of craftsmanship, I incorporated the iconic details of each label for the corresponding piñata sculptures: ‘Felix’ for Fendi with fur and FF clogs; ‘Gus’ for Gucci with green and red striped ribbon; and ‘Pierre’ with the iconic Louis Vuitton markings and leather trunk details.  

The shoes are entirely authentic: I used a last, a device to shape the shoe, so the process is exactly the same – whether it is for humans or donkey piñatas!

‘Pierre’ is like an intricate dolls house, there is so much to discover within the sculpture.

The Louis Vuitton travelling trunk is so iconic, I had to construct ‘Pierre’ as a sculpture that could be unfastened and opened. Inspired by their lavish flower trunk, I created a birthday piñata and dedicated the contents to candy; miniature shelves and drawers to display the confectionery; hooks to hang lollipops; bars of wooden chocolate shaped to fit within the nose. I wanted it to be as excessive as the original bouquet-trunks.

How did people respond to ‘Pierre’ at The Other Art Fair?

Many visitors said it was the most original piece they had seen – both at the fair and in generaI.

I had initially jumped on this idea on a whim and worked at it for many months, so for others to understand my vision and see the sculptures as art meant so much to me.

Your work requires an incredible amount of skill. How do you see your pieces within the craft vs art dialogue?

I am a huge craft person. I believe craft in any medium, in any sector, is beautiful and worth acknowledging. Many people don’t believe this and only view the value of a crafted object in monetary terms.  I like to look for the small details in an object, such as the corner of a table. It is these details, the most minor elements, of the item that connect me to its maker: you catch a glimpse into their mind.

What are your targets for 2019?

New piñatas! Plus I want to take time to experiment and try smaller creative exercises to test myself. Just keep making art and see where it goes.

Want to meet and buy directly from Maggie Tookmanian? Well at The Other Art Fair Brooklyn, 2-5 May, Brooklyn Expo Center, you can!