ARTIST INTERVIEW: Shawn Merz of Mr. Merz
Mr. Merz is a creative studio focused on responsibly making beautiful objects with a cultural heritage. Their handwoven towels, blankets, and throws are crafted in Turkey and Myanmar. We spoke to charming creator Shawn Merz about the path that led him to Mr Merz. Here is how Shawn describes himself: 27. Taurus. Single. Chinese Swiss American. Born in Switzerland, raised in California. Creative. Best ideas come in the shower.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now. Did you take any big risks to get where you are?
A failed magazine, the decision to end my Devil Wears Prada days, and an eat/pray/love moment in Myanmar led to the creation of Mr. Merz–sorry for all the movie references, but they do hold some truth. Anyways, everything happened sort of organically. I started by sourcing and designing in Myanmar, to eventually adding traditional artisans in Turkey after a three month stint working in a bazaar. Were there big risks involved? Absolutely, I was a naive 23 year old, I had little to no money, and I was going to places in the world no one went to–I mean at one point I was 10 miles west of Aleppo.
What are your most important artistic tools?
My curious eyes.
What is a new idea you have been working with recently?
The infinity towel was the first radical shift into new designs. My looped towel weaver Ahmet, almost had a conniption due to the difficulties in actually making the piece. However, it has been received so well (I almost instantly sold out of the midnight blue) that I will be pursuing it in more colors. Further ideas to be developed in the future include new towel designs, robes, and pillows.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
Being creative is hard work. It is absolutely important to recharge. For me it’s a solo walk through nature, traveling to a place I’ve never been, or having dinner with a group of strangers.
Do you have any mentors or important creative influences?
I’m lucky to have two great mentors aside from my parents. Dewey Nicks is a famed fashion photographer and movie director. He constantly reminds me that there is so much beauty and opportunity in the world. The second is creative genius Matthias Vriens McGrath. The man has glitter in his pockets and just launched an absolutely unreal design studio.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
Of course. I would not be were I am without community. Beatrice and Rachel welcomed me into Echo Park Craft Fair without hesitation, and gave me a platform to express my vision. There is nothing but kindness and understanding in the EPCF Community. We all want to grow together. I remember when I worked my first fair, I was entirely alone and Beth Katz (of Mt. Washington Pottery) brought me, a complete stranger, lunch. That sense of community is rare.
Why is it important to you to show and share your work to a larger community?
In a world inundated with cheap and poorly made products, I think it is more important than ever to share sustainable and quality goods. The products I make are organic, sustainable, and handwoven. The fabric is rich with history. I am making heirloom items–items with the intention to last.