Meet Your Maker Monday: Pen Morrison
Pen Morrison will tell you that when she entered the field of graphic design, the industry wasn't that open to the idea of someone who was a designer and an artist. Things have changed since that career start, and her explorations of multiple disciplines may be more the norm as designers are getting more hands on in their creative pursuits.
What is your name, company, URL, and social media links?
What do you make?
3D mixed media art, combining steel shapes, shiplap and siding mostly found in torn down bungalows in the Heights, with painted panels, buttons, and miscallaneous found objects. My main focus has been the Guitar Series, in which I pay tribute to guitarists and the songs they wrote or sang. I research the kind of guitar they played and make the shape accurate, finding lyrics, and then writing a bio that goes with each piece. Whole Food commissioned me to make them one for the Montrose store, so I made one based on Lightnin' Hopkin's Harmony guitar and his song "You can steal my chickens, but you can't make 'em lay". I had a solo show at Cactus Music last Spring, and music writer Andrew Dansby wrote an article about the series that ran in the Houston Chronicle. I also make house angels, have started a new "Drinking Series", and continue to make abstract art.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I also work as a graphic designer. After I drop my son off at school I spend several hours working on those projects, then move to a few hours of making art. I find both are easier to do before my son comes home at 4, but now he is 13 he is more flexible about giving his mom her space. Since I am an only parent, I need to be as productive as possible. Having both studios at home really has helped.
Many times the colors or a "look" I am using in a graphic design project ends up working into the art. I don't see a line between the two practices, and this is a good time to have more than one kind of work. I find working on the art is a much longer process as I usually put something together, walk away, and several hours or a day later I come back to it and try a new arrangement or move forward with what is there.
Why did you decide to start your own business and why Houston?
I have a dual degree in fine art and graphic design, and had moved here after college because I had heard it was a good place to get a job in the business. I got a job as an art director with most everyone else who had moved here during the oil boom. I have been on my own as a graphic designer since 1987. Houston has been a great place for me professionally, emotionally, and socially. Houston reminds me of Milan – a working city – and I love that. I love the textures in this town – the ship channel, what is left of the old architecture, basically the blue collar side. My dream boyfriend works with his hands in some capacity. (The application period is open.)
What are your inspirations and how do they guide your work?
George Braque, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, more recently Joaquin Torres-Garcia. And of course, music.
When I find things in the street I often stand and look at it for a few minutes before I pick it up. I don't know what I am looking for, but I like decay. Most of the objects I use are 50+ years old – they have a history to them that you cannot see, and that is important to the work. Much of the ship lap – the old wooden walls – has old wallpaper still attached. When I go to New Orleans it is hard not to bring a bunch of stuff home. But I feel New Orleans does not need folks taking what is left; the city still feels hurt.
What's next for Pen Morrison?
I would like to make the guitar commissions for music fans every day. Sharing the joy of appreciating music is a great honor. I also hope to continue to evolve all the directions I am going in. I am working on another show at Cactus Music, and am in negotiations with a small gallery. I would really love to work with a restaurant or bar as well as some retailers.
What do you want people to know about your work?
We all need art and music, in large quantities. Put down your iPod and put on a CD, or better yet a record.