An Interview with Erika Mugglin
I initially came to Columbus to start art school and met Erika Mugglin in my first photography class at The Ohio State University.
Though I met a lot of lovely people, Erika was without a doubt the star that shined the brightest in our class.
She was undeniably talented and exceptional—a long, lanky, drop-dead-gorgeous queen. She was quiet, creative and explosively colorful.
I took several art classes with Erika—she kicked my ass and inspired me in each one. She was on another level.
While I ultimately majored in Women's, Gender + Sexuality Studies with studio art and English minors, it was awesome to see a beautiful and talented woman stay true to what she was obviously exceptional at: fine art photography.
She was not only a phenomenal artist, but a psychedelic music lover with wide connections.
In college, Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips once showed up to her house party.
(Now, of course, she travels the world with them—her boyfriend's the guitar player! 😝)
She was one of the coolest girls I knew.
I was particularly broke the summer of my sophomore year when Erika invited me to my first music festival. I sold my guitar to have enough money to go with her. She was a woman I mega looked up to and wildly respected.
Needless to say, I had the trip(s) of my life with Erika, and to see what she's doing in the present is even more mind blowing.
After living in Brooklyn, touring the world with The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus and many others, she now resides in Los Angeles.
I am so proud to know her, and am not surprised, but am so amazed by her life and successes.
I look to her as a woman who is truly and completely living out her passion and life's purpose.
Without further ado, I introduce the incredible Erika Mugglin:
KS: AT WHAT AGE DID YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF AN ARTIST? WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITE MEDIUMS? WHAT MEDIUMS DO YOU WORK WITH NOW?
EM: I don’t think I really considered myself an artist until about the end of high school.
I lived in a suburban/rural part of Ohio, and our art program was lax at best.
While I was in high school I barely took any art classes until my junior and senior years when I could take photography.
When I was younger I loved to draw and paint, but, and I think this is true for most people, without an education program to push you to continue in those early mediums, you kind of just stop doing them.
Photography was different.
I had a camera at home (my parents little point and shoot) and I could take it out and explore with it whenever I wanted sans class.
I still work mostly in photography, though I dabble in collage, jewelry making, and the occasional painting now and again.
It’s good to have multiple mediums to blend together into a piece.
KS: I AM SO CURIOUS: WHAT DOES A DAY IN YOUR LIFE LOOK LIKE?
EM: A typical day at this particular moment involves waking up, grabbing coffee, trying to squeeze in some yoga when time permits, scheduling shoots for GrubHub in the morning, shooting in the afternoon, and working at a restaurant in Silverlake at night.
KS: WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO SINCE COLLEGE? WHERE HAS THE WORLD TAKEN YOU?
EM: It’s been a journey that makes the person I was in college almost seem unrecognizable.
There was just so much time in college to explore and play, and really just hang out and have fun.
Moving to Brooklyn and then this year to Los Angeles, you kind of have to buck up a little bit and get serious or get swallowed by the city.
I moved to Brooklyn into an artist loft in Bushwick, where I helped my roommate Kate build up the walls of our room, and where clothing was optional.
It was a beautiful, and messy time living with 5 other women, and exploring the finer parts of the Bk music scene most nights, but it wasn’t sustainable.
Eventually I found work as a studio manager under Winnie Au.
Winnie was an amazing resource and mentor to me during the year I worked for her.
It seemed almost comical how much I didn’t understand about the actual business of photography. For instance: that you send an invoice and often won’t be paid for a job for a few weeks, (which I realized painfully after a couple hungry months haha).
And that there is often a lot that comes out of pocket on the front end that has to be compensated for later.
I started to understand how to give a proper estimate and utilize time, and also through working with Winnie, I truly realized just how much work it takes to be a working professional photographer.
She was on a shoot most days out of the work week, and then editing all the others, always updating her websites, and reaching out to clients to fill up the calendar for the next few months.
And of course a huge part of my life over the last few years has been meeting Jake a few years ago and then eventually dating him long distance.
This led to all kinds of travel excursions to meet up and see each other for a few sweet days at a time.
And this year we made our way out to Los Angeles together, and it’s been a really good move for both of us I think in the growing process.
KS: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS YOU'VE LEARNED?
EM: It is important to be kind to yourself.
Getting out of school, you are full of hopes and dreams, but in art, no real path to get there.
You will have days that you are so filled with doubt it seems like sure failure to climb this metaphorical mountain you’ve set out to climb.
But you’ve got to take a moment and look how far you’ve come and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Another important lesson I’ve learned is to start taking yourself seriously.
Ok, not your whole self, but your craft, and your art.
It can seem most times like you’re just having fun or messing around, but if it’s something you’ve spent this much time on, it’s worth having a healthy respect for the process and the results.
KS: WHERE ARE SOME OF THE COOLEST PLACES YOU'VE TRAVELED?
EM: I really loved the Norwegian fjords off of Stavangar. It was by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
Barcelona is so vivid and full of flowers and the smell of the ocean.
And I really loved Iceland and Sweden.
I spent a great deal of time in Sweden talking to people there about their culture, and there just seemed to be so much more reverie for your livelihood, and for travel and enrichment.
They’re definitely doing a lot of things right for their citizens.
KS: SOME OF THE COOLEST PEOPLE YOU'VE MET? WHAT YOU'VE GLEANED FROM THEM?
EM: I’ve met so many incredible people over the past few years, and to me what really makes a person cool is their openness, and kindness.
You’ll meet some of the Lovepit (who are all the loveable freaks in the front of the Flaming Lips shows decked out in googley-eyes and rainbows) and they’ll be the first ones to send you a housewarming present when you move, or the first ones to buy a piece of your artwork.
And to me that’s incredibly cool, to have a community of creative people that supports and loves each other around the world.
Other really cool people I’ve met include Dan Deacon, Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal, Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, Jen Stark, Taraka and Nimai from Prince Rama, Dallas Clayton, Lauren Ys, Mason Rothchild from Fever the Ghost, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter from Phantogram, Jake Ingalls, Andrea Estrella from Mr. Twin Sister, Yoko Ono – just people that are doing something incredible, but that are sentient and bright.
KS: WHO ARE YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATIONS? ARTISTS YOU ADMIRE? WORK YOU LOVE?
EM: I love the work of Sandy Skoglund and Yayoi Kusama, who come to mind first.
Really these days any work being done that is immersive and interactive has been speaking to me.
Installation art seems to be making the biggest waves in and out of the gallery.
And artwork such as the Infinity Room, the Rain Room, Factory of the Sun, Liquid Shard, or Swimming Pool, have had incredible impacts upon the viewers.
KS: BOOKS YOU RECOMMEND?
EM: Oh man, where do I start?!
- “Cosmic Trigger” by Robert Anton Wilson
- “Between the Bridge and the River” by Craig Ferguson
- “Jitterbug Perfume” by Tom Robbins
- “Blink” by Malcolm Blackwell, “Siddartha”
- “Goon Squad”
- “Sum Forty Tales of the Afterlife”
- “Waking Up” by Sam Harris
KS: MUSIC YOU RECOMMEND?
EM: Here We Go Magic, Broncho, Whitney, Spaceface, Jens Lekman, Drugdealer, King Gizzard and the Lizzard Wizard, Mr. Twin Sister, YACHT, Lower Dens, Teebs, The Night Beats, Pure X, Devandra Banhart, Javelin, Moon King, Still Corners, Breakbot, Yumi Zouma, Doldrums, Temples, Electric Light Orchestra, Animal Collective, KAYTRANADA, Prince Rama, Quilt, Sam Evian, Twin Peaks, and Toro y Moi.
KS: WHAT WORK ARE YOU DOING THESE DAYS? WHAT CONCEPTS ARE YOU INTERESTED IN?
EM: Recently I’ve been working freelance for Grubhub/Seamless shooting food photography.
I just began work on a Lookbook set to shoot in early October, and other an that I try to do as many personal projects in collaboration with artist, musicians, and bloggers as possible.
KS: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR NEWBIE ARTISTS OR PEOPLE LOOKING TO LIVE AN AUTHENTIC LIFESTYLE?
EM: You have to keep working at it, even if it seems impossible at first.
At this point, I shoot for a couple different people, but I set aside one day a week for my own personal projects every week.
KS: WHAT KEEPS YOU SO INSPIRED AND FRESH? WHAT SPEAKS TO YOUR SOUL?
EM: I feel very fortunate to have such an amazing creative group of people around the world whose art I see daily through social media.
I have been able to collaborate with artists from Mexico, Singapore, and Europe, just through becoming connected through imagery viewed online.
Social media can be a great tool for connection if the intention is collaboration.
KS: FAVORITE MOVIES?
EM: At any point in time my favorites tend to shift a bit.
But at the moment I really enjoyed It’s Such a Beautiful Day, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Science of Sleep, I Heart Huckabees, Star Wars (original trilogy), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Lord of the Rings.
KS: FAVORITE QUOTES?
EM: “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”
KS: SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE THINGS IN LIFE?
EM: Rainbows, kittens, puppy bellies, chocolate, late night bike rides, dancing, laughing until it hurts, pickles, crystals, knick-knacks, headstands, and miniature objects.