Studio Visit: Zoe Mann
Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, a chat with Zoe Mann, a 22-year-old Parkland College student, who is studying chemical engineering and is a peer tutor. She also is a "knitting genius," according to her mom, Cindy. Three of her artworks were in the college's Art and Design Student Juried Exhibition 2014, which closed Saturday.
Q: So are you taking art courses too at Parkland?
A: I have taken Drawing 1 and 2 and 3-D design and sculpture. I am not taking any art classes this spring, but I was eligible to enter the exhibition because I made "Birdhouse Hat" in the fall, in the sculpture class taught by Chris Berti.
Q: What kind of assignment did it fulfill?
A: My idea was to knit something. First, I made a little mock-up of a birdhouse hat and showed it to Chris, and he was very excited about it.
Q: Did you use a knitting pattern?
A: No, it's my own design. It's all free form to one degree or another. Sometimes I do some planning on paper before I start, and sometimes I just start and see what happens.
Q: When did you start knitting?
A: I was in third grade. I think I was 8. My mom knew how to knit. There were knitted things around, and I was curious and I wanted to learn. My family is very textile-oriented.
Q: Did you teach yourself?
A: I actually learned from the book "Kids Knitting." It's a great book. I got it from the library at Leal (Elementary School, Urbana).
Q: Do you sell your knitted items around town?
A: I'm really hoping to make more this summer and sell online or locally. I have set up a ZoboNation Etsy store that I hope to use over the summer. I also have Tumblr, Facebook and gmail accounts under ZoboNation.
Q: Wow. Your "Birdhouse Hat" is amazing. Did you knit the birds on top?
A: Yes. They were fun to make.
Q: Do you make other kinds of art?
A: I do. I've done other textile-related things, a bit of tatting and sewing. I've done a little bit of drawing and painting, and I have two other sculptures in the show too — "His and Hers" from limestone and "Alpacas" from stoneware.
Q: Why do you want to study chemical engineering?
A: I'd like to work in renewable energy, either solar or building batteries, or something similar.
Q: Are you going to try to get your engineering degree at the UI?
A: I'd like to, if they take me. I'll get a transfer degree from Parkland after the fall semester.
Q: What do you think of the art courses at Parkland?
A: I think they're awesome. I've only taken a few. I've had really good experiences. The teachers are really supportive, and they really encourage you to step out and try things. They're talented themselves, and they just want good art. They're not worried about any agenda except for pursuing good art. They make you think about it too.
Q: Do you wear your "Birdhouse Hat"?
A: You can. It's called a hat, but it's more of a mask because it hides your face. The design was my interpretation of Yoruba crowns. The Yoruba (an ethnic group in southwestern Nigeria and southern Benin in West Africa) wear crowns covered with beaded birds. They're really elaborate. An important part of their masks is to obscure their faces. It's more about the institution of wearing the crown than the individual wearing the crown.
Q: When did you start knitting things like the teddy bear?
A: The teddy bear was the first non-clothes item I knit. I tried it after I attended the Vogue Knitting Live conference in November in Chicago.
Q: Do you give knitting lessons?
A: I have, both to individuals and groups. I'm not currently teaching.