Yardie Interviews → M Quinn

Sparkie recently sat down with M Quinn for the Yardie Interview. M has been hanging around the Yard since her days as the Head Shop Tech Assistant.  When she's not brushing up on her science fiction knowledge, she finds time to TA, teach, and uphold all the responsibilities expected of a member of the reigning Iron Chef Team.  

M Quinn Portrait

M Quinn: Furniture maker and teacher
Hometown: Providence via Setauket, Long Island
M Quinn Design           
If you were a luchador, what would your wrestling mask look like and what would your name be:
If I was a luchador, I would be
the Magnificent Mustache. I'm a member of the RI Beard and Mustache Club, and my alter-ego is Mustache Charlie. So, my mask would be off-white with black, various browns and sepia accents which would include a largely accentuated handle bar mustache.    

Sparkie: What first brought you to the Steel Yard?
M Quinn:
I was the Head Shop Tech Assistant to Mr. B Dowling, I was part of RISD's Furniture Department at the time. I met Brian, and we talked about how I was focusing on metal and really liked it. And when he said that he needed help at the Steel Yard, I was like 'yes!'

Sparkie: So while you were in the Furniture Department, was your work both wood and metal based?
Predominantly metal. My earlier stuff was wood, because they make you start off in wood. I love woodworking, but once I started doing the metal, it was really addictive.  

Sparkie: The lamps that you made are really amazing.
Thanks, they're from my final project at RISD. They were a lot of fun, and were a ton of work! That was mostly machining, I don't think there was any welding at all, so they were mostly mechanical connections. That body of work, the sci-fi thing, started from the Steel Yard actually. I found two end caps from the big torpedo welders when I was going through scrap. I bought them from the Steel Yard because I wanted to make tables out of them. We started thinking about it, and decided to design wooden legs for them but to make them out of metal.  

I'd draw the caps in weird little sci-fi sketches, as ants or jellyfish, and got really into that. Ever since I was a kid, I've been obsessed with construction equipment and industrial stuff. I'd pretend that they were creatures. So, I revisited that, and started sketching the end caps as different types of sci-fi creatures.  The light bulbs on top are custom made ones that are basically stylized flood light bulbs.  

M Quinn Invasions
Invasion, Aluminum, steel, glass, lighting

Sparkie: They really remind me of movie posters from B Horror movies, like War of the Worlds...
That's awesome! I've been inspired by posters from the1920's to 1960's sci-fiction done by people like Frank R. Paul, work like in Amazing Stories. I do a lot of work in 2D gouache, and am working on doing different posters of the pieces I construct so that when I show them I can have large movie style posters to go with them.

Sparkie: Those movies really dealt with innate fears that society had. And you’re pieces seem to be really alive, even in the way that you’ve documented them shows that they have a personality all their own.
’m glad of that because I really wanted them to have a creepiness about them. What I like about sci-fi is that it’s a response to whatever is going on socially, culturally, economically, or politically in the world. You can really figure out when specific sci-fi stories were written just by looking at what the subject matter is. I wanted to focus on the fear and wonderment of current technologies. I myself have this fear about some of the directions that society is going in with this whole digital revolution. Everything is digital and online; and I wanted to respond to the fact that society is relying on that so much but at the same time I wanted to also talk about some of the technology that I like. So, those lamps intentionally have plugs on them, if you unplug it you take the life out of it. Similarly, they’re pose-able, but you pose them they don’t pose themselves.

I’ve been thinking about my work as these creatures that may have come to earth to attack or take over, and are now artifacts.

Sparkie: I hear that you have some crazy ideas for classes... Can you talk about them a bit?
I'd like to focus on rediscovering industrial artifacts, which are machines that get overlooked. When you really start to look at these machines and the beautiful elements of the connections, they're really inspiring; especially the intricacy of the parts of large structures like bridges and train stations. So, I'd like to teach a class where the students would really explore some of these industrial artifacts through sketching and looking at them in the same way that an archeologist would. I'd want the students in the class to really explore the pieces and use them as inspiration for larger sculptures. They'd be approaching the design project by looking deeply into a small piece and then building out from that, matching the artifacts. We'd also try to emulate the same aged surface textures, which is kind of the opposite of how metalworking is generally approached. But, I think it gives the pieces a certain freedom because they wouldn't be treated as preciously.

I'm a little bit of a history geek, and how this ties into sci-fi is that one of the major concepts in sci-fi is being in the past, future, and the present at the same time. When you start to apply all those histories together, and are aware of the process of physically making it you really become an active participant as the creator.

Sparkie: Most Recently you’ve been a TA for the weekend welding workshop. How was that experience?
That was my first time TA’ing here, and it was awesome! We had a really great group of students of all different ages and backgrounds. None of them had any welding experience, but they were all psyched to learn! It was cool, the students wanted to learn everything! So, we ended up showing them a bunch of different tools, and didn’t end up welding as much… but, they loved it! It was great!
Paul was an awesome guy too.
Was this the first time you worked with Paul Orzech? Soon you’ll be teaching the Weekend Welding Workshop, too.
Yeah, working with Paul was great because he approaches teaching differently than I do. It gave me a new perspective into how to teach a Weekend Workshop. It was incredibly useful; otherwise I would have entered it by being probably too technical.

Sparkie: Although you seem to be at the Yard quite a bit, what do you do with yourself when you’re not here?
I work in Boston at Artists For Humanity, which trains at risk, under served, youths to be artists and designers. We offer training in everything from painting, to photography, graphic design, video, and a 3D sculpture studio (which is where I work), and then hire them back to work on projects. My department has done everything from creating awards to a line of tables and stools, signage, awnings, and installations of wall art.

Sparkie: And then you participated in Iron Chef, right?
Sparkie: And your team won! How has that changed your life?
I think that the Iron Chef made me feel more a part of the Steel Yard. I’d worked here for a long time, but never came to events or anything. So, when Lee [Corley] invited me to be on her team, I was super excited! I’ve always doubted my metalworking abilities. I was living on Long Island at the time working at an architectural blacksmithing and metal shop, and I realized that it was ridiculous to doubt my skills if I’d been working as a metal fabricator. So, I came back to the Yard, I did it, and it was awesome! Everybody was really great, and people remembered me, and I got to know Lee a lot better. The competition was so much fun, it was crazyness; and was such a freeing experience. I also really enjoyed working in a team. And then we won, which was awesome too!

Participating in Iron Chef really amped me up, I went back to New York and felt a lot more confident about my skills. And, ultimately I ended up moving back to Providence because I had such a good experience in Iron Chef.

Although I’m working in Boston, I really wanted to live close to the Yard. Because the Yard has a huge space, open studios, I can rent time if I need it, but it’s also a supportive community here.  So, Iron Chef was a reality check for me. Participating in it made me prioritize the things I love to do. As long as I’m welding and having fun, it’s what I want to do!

Sparkie: Do you have a favorite tool? And Why?
A jigsaw, because you can cut both wood and metal just by changing the blade. I can use it instead of other tools that I just don’t have right now. It’s super useful and versatile!

Sparkie: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today!
No problem!

M Quinn Arthopods
Arthropods From Outter Space, steel, rediscovered industrial artifacts, LED