by Minister of Information JR
Mercedes Martin is one of the new young emerging political artists out of the Bay with a whole lot to say. The thing is that she does not rock a mic or joust with her pen; she is a political jewelry maker who tends to hover around personalities like Oscar Grant, Malcolm X and political musicians. Her art allows people to express more of their politics with their clothing as well as support an artist who cares about their political well-being. She is environmentally conscious as well, with a majority of her raw materials coming from re-used fliers.
Mercedes is definitely someone that people should keep their eye on in the Bay Area’s political art arena. This is a Q & A that I did with her recently …
M.O.I. JR: What inspired you to make the type of jewelry that you make? How would you describe your art?
Mercedes: After seeing my roommate turn a pair of bottle caps into post earrings, it really opened my eyes to see anything as earrings or a potential art project. Also the website threadbanger.com gives me lots of inspirations.
The day after submitting my 40-page thesis, I didn’t ever want to write again and wanted to find a natural way for me to be creative, express myself and share it with others, not just to the academic population. So I rewarded myself by going to Michael’s Arts and Crafts, bought a bunch of tools and supplies for jewelry making and haven’t stopped since. People constantly stop me and my friends to complement them so I took this hobby more seriously and began selling.
My art is sustainable, political aware, culturally stimulating, unique and made with love!
M.O.I. JR: How do you choose what the subjects of your jewelry will be?
Mercedes: I’m a broke college student. One way to prevent spending all my money on jewelry I decided to make them myself by using materials that have been discarded, such as beer and water bottle caps, soda cans, magazine clipping and hella fliers. I save in production costs and prevent one less item from going to the landfill.
I chose images and figures that hold some meaning to me. The first bottle cap earrings I made had the face of La Reina de Salsa aka Celia Cruz. As an Afro-Cuban American, her music played an important role in my life. Instead of complaining there’s not positive role models, through earrings I help promote them.
Many of my friends are performers. I noticed hundreds of fliers that would go to waste so I would collect them off the floor at concerts, clubs and cafes and flip them into earrings. It gives the fliers a longer life span and is a great form of advertisement for the artist.
Or I’ll cut up a flier just because I like the image on it. It’s so dope now my friends – even the little neighborhood kids – know I make earrings out of soda cans and beer bottles, so they’ll save them or collect “nice-looking” fliers from venues just for me.
M.O.I. JR: Why do you use politically inspired themes?
Mercedes: I see myself as an activist artist. Any art I make will have a purpose and message of some kind – whether a political, social, or cultural statement. Even if the image itself is not blatantly political, the choice to use recycled goods is an environmentally political statement.
I have created earrings with the portrait of Malcolm X, Assata, Nina Simone, Huey P. Newton and Fela Kuti to name a few. My latest and favorite so far are in dedication to the murder of Oscar Grant made from old BART tickets and images of him and Johannes Mehserle which I cut out from a local newspaper. Unfortunately I wasn’t in town when the verdict was read, but I did rock those earrings the day of it and folks would ask me about them and it would spark conservation to share the story of his life with a complete stranger.
I hope my political earrings have people become curious, research who these people are and become political aware – my ideal very slippery slope. I’m trying to go back to the early ‘90s when folks rocked Malcolm X t-shirts and Africa medallions. I believe people nowadays are less likely to pick up a book to study their history and media outlets are more and more being controlled, but no one can censor the type of earrings I make.
M.O.I. JR: Where do you sell your works of art?
Mercedes: I have a few pairs for sale at Rock Paper Scissors Collective, located at 2278 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. I’m in the process of setting up some inside of Urbanology Urban Clothing, located across from Berkeley City College at 2015 Center St., Berkeley.
Over the summer I vended at several festivals, craft fairs and events in the Bay. Even hosted an all female art show at my house, where a group of my girlfriends and I sold earrings, drawings, photography, paintings, poetry books and paintings. It was a successful event and I plan on organizing more.
You can find more of my work on Facebook by searching: TresMercedes. Also stay tuned to Etsy.com. Look up my company name, TresMercedes.
M.O.I. JR: How do people get in touch with you if they want to get a custom pair?
Mercedes: If people are interested in more of my custom hand-made sustainable earrings, they can shoot me an email at TresMercedes@gmail.com or hit me on Facebook. Thanks for supporting local female artists!