Interview with Erika 'iri5' Simmons

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I had the pleasure to interview freelance illustrator/artist, Erika Simmons. A unique and game changer artist, i became a fan the first moment i set my eyes on her Ghost in the Machine Series. Beside how talented she is, Erika Simmons is down to earth and my interview with her actually inspired me.Here is what we talked about.

2dots-Can you please tell readers a bit about yourself?

ES-I'm Erika. Female. American. I love reinventing an object, whatever it is... I find a way to take things apart, cut and rearrange them in whimsical ways.

2dots-Was it your childhood dream to become an artist? if not when did you start.

ES-No, I never wanted to be an artist growing up. I wanted to be a scientist, or a mafia princess... only after college did I see some artwork by a man named Ken Knowlton that really astonished me. That's when I decided to try to experiment.


2dots-What kind of music are you into? and who are your favorites.

ES-I love all kinds, but especially Nine Inch Nails, Rasputina and Peggy Sue. Also classical 

2dots-How do you process a project, do you determine the direction of a particular artist or a different approach.

ES-For most projects the constraint is the medium I use. When I make a musician out of the cassette tape though there are so many ways to go about it - I usually take a clue from their music and lyrics and that inspires me in particular ways. 

2dots-How do you incorporate music into arts and which was the most challenging for you.

ES-My favorite style involves carefully cutting sheet music - my favorite project of this kind was a portrait of Beethoven that I made for a show at the Arizona Museum for Youth last year. It took about 4 weeks from start to finish.  

2dots-What inspired you or should i say made you go to the cassette tape art route and how would you describe your art.

ES-I started using cassette tapes because I was fascinated with the idea of data and memory. I was trying to work out for myself the idea of some whole being greater than the sum of its parts - epiphenomenon. While trying to find ways to express this idea through visual media and metaphor I thought to use the cassette tapes- that and I was broke and had a few of them lying around my room. The idea of the "ghost in the machine" seemed to fit so perfectly. 

2dots-How do you define creativity and how do you apply it in your everyday life.

ES-Creativity is letting your mind wander.To enhance creativity I read and scribble all kinds of nonsense. Everyday I make some nonsense. 

2dots-What are the most important factors to you when working on a project.

ES-The most important part for me is peace of mind and having plenty of xacto blades. Its best when no one else is home

2dots-Are you a collector of cassette tapes? If so, is there any particular kind you like to collect.

ES-I am not really a collector, if anything I'm quite the opposite. I just hate to see things go to waste. Most of the cassette tapes are donations I've received from people throwing them out 

2dots-How has your style has evolved, compared from when you first started to now.

ES-I don't think my style has evolved at all - I'm still making the same kinds of pieces with the same general message, but the techniques and materials have changed a bit. I think I'm a lot better and more adventurous than a few years ago. Also less stressed about mistakes. If anything I'm more selective about the projects I take now...I would rather be broke than bored.


2dots-Your work is pretty unique and full of creativity. Where does your inspiration come from?

ES-I try to keep things playful and down to earth as much as possible. As soon as it gets too serious, its not fun anymore.

2dots-Do you feel any pressure when designing legends like The Beatles and Michael Jackson.

ES-The only time I feel pressure is when the piece is a commission - I worry that they won't like it or that I've gone in a wrong direction. But otherwise not at all. I just hope that what I do brings honor to the people I portray and hope that they would like it

2dots-What else are you into aside from arts.

 ES-I love a bit of trash TV.

2dots-So far what is your biggest accomplishment and any unfulfilled dreams you would want to do one day?

ES-Wow, uh, I don't know. I am really happy to have inspired other artists - especially art students. I love getting emails from them and giving them tips about how to try these techniques. My dream is to start a foundation supporting arts education in America - hopefully making a meaningful contribution if I can.

2dots-What do you like most about what you do. Any advice for readers especially upcoming artists.

ES-I like the feeling of making things with my hands - and not having to get up in the morning. I don't know if I'm in a position to give advice, but just do what makes you happy.


Erika Simmon's official webpage

Erika Simmon's Flickr Page