Les Femmes Folles

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Erin Pankowski, artist

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Multi-media artist Erin Pankowski (The Pearly Owl) recently launched an Indiegogo campaign to get her dream of opening her own art shop. She shares with LFF about how art has always been a part of her life, how feminism does and does not work its way in her art and more…
Background, from Ne?
I grew up in the St. Joseph, Michigan area, which has a large art community. My favorite event during the summer was always the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff next to Lake Michigan. We also spent a few years in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota, before I moved to Omaha to attend the University of Nebraska. I fell in love with Omaha, and I’ve kind of stuck around ever since. I’m a Midwesterner through and through. 
 
How’d you get into art?
My parents are both highly creative people, and we were always working on some art/craft project when I was growing up. It’s hard to say specifically how I got into art, because it has just always been a part of me. What’s funny though, is that I didn’t truly start considering myself an artist until college, and even then I was too afraid to say it out loud. I always had the fear that people wouldn’t like my work, or that I wasn’t good enough to be called an artist. I came to discover one day though that all I needed to do was believe in myself as a creative individual (as cliche as it sounds, it’s true!) and then others would believe it, too. I went through four majors in college, before settling (the key word here) on a degree in advertising. I never really knew what I wanted to do with my life. I only had some vague idea that it would be something in a creative field and preferably not a desk job. In 2010 on a whim, I launched my online shop, The Pearly Owl, specializing in handmade goods and vintage items. A short time later, I began to realize that opening The Pearly Owl as an actual shop was my lifelong dream. And currently, I’m happy to say, that is what I’m working on doing! To secure funding to get the shop going, I recently launched an Indiegogo campaign, which can be found here: indiegogo.com/ThePearlyOwl/x/1146264. Please pardon my shameless plug :)
Tell me about your work, style, inspirations?
My creative work comes in many forms, and my mind is constantly dreaming up future projects. Sewing, photography, painting, drawing, writing, knitting, and collaging are a few of my favorite things, but many of my projects are based in the world of repurposing and salvaging. I hate seeing things go to waste, and I often see potential in items that no one else would claim. When these two loves come together, quirky things start to appear. Most of my house as well as my wardrobe consist of items that were picked and given new life. In my mind, it’s all about how you wear or present an item. I mean, truly, how much fun can you really have with an outfit that was just boringly purchased off the mannequin at a department store? But finding a dress at a thrift store and getting more compliments on it than any new items I wear — that’s just plain exciting for me.
Does feminism play a role in your work?
I would have to say, no, not directly, but also yes, and in a big way! No, because I don’t believe in labeling people. I know this goes against the way that the human brain tries to make sense of the world by lumping things into groups and patterns, but I believe that labeling a person distorts others’ view of that person, kind of like looking at an object through water. So while I am definitely on the side of all that feminism stands for, I don’t call myself a feminist, per se. With this being said, much of my work is heavily influenced by the ever-evolving meaning of what it is to be a woman (a gender label, I know, but we’re not talking gender roles), both visually and emotionally. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and therefore, every creative endeavor I take on bears the mark of my mood that day.
Is Omaha a good place for women in art?
I consider Omaha my hometown of choice, and part of the reason I love it here so much is because of the thriving art scene. There is a lot of support to be found here as an artist, whether you’re a man or a woman. I know so many people in this city who make a living with their art, from photographers to professors. I think it’s because of this support I feel that I’m learning to become true to myself and my dream of opening The Pearly Owl as an actual shop.
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Keep up with Erin at http://thepearlyowl.com/.
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