Mark Newport on knitting to relieve stress, the power of punk, and the best chocolate chip cookie ever

‘I would like us to realize we are all interconnected and interdependent, and act with empathy,’ says artist Mark Newport.

Mark Newport is the artist-in-residence and head of fiber at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. A self-described fiber artist who has worked with print, photography, video and performance art, his most recent work includes traditional European and American mending techniques on used garments. His work Batman in Barcelona is part of the Mint’s permanent collection.

Studio location: Bloomfield Hills, Michigan


Artist and educator Mark Newport. Photo by Jeff Cancelosi

Who are artists that inspire you and your work?

Louise Bourgeois, Ed Paschke, Lee Bowery, Mardi Gras Indian costumes (Demond Melancon), and outsider art environments (Fred Smith Concrete Park).

What is your favorite piece or artwork that you created and why?

I don’t have one favorite. I am usually most interested in the piece I am working on or the piece I just finished. I think that is because the work is a step in a process of thinking and exploring, so I am involved in what I am doing in the moment. While I am interested in the work when it is finished, I also am already involved in the next thing that grows from what is finished.

“Redress 4”

How does your environment influence your art?

My work is currently small in scale and portable, so I only need a comfortable chair and good light to work. I prefer a space that is basically a white box with little on the walls beyond what I am currently working on. I also prefer to be able to control the sounds in the space—music, podcasts, movies or television, or silence.

Tell us about your new morning routine.

I wake up around 7 a.m. I usually do some exercise, then eat and read a little. I also play a game of Sudoku or two, and look at Instagram and email. I try to get to the studio by 9 a.m. or so. Between March 13 and last week, I was teaching online, so I was up a little earlier to get to Zoom meetings with colleagues and students.

Are you finding new inspiration for your art during this shift of perspective in the world?

I have been working on projects that started before the stay-at-home order, so I have not really found new inspiration. I am starting to look at the work in different ways because of the virus and the idea of something we can’t see moving between and into bodies. Likewise, I think ideas around healing, mending, and repair are taking on new elements and references in this moment.

Tell us about your afternoon. Are you working from home, going to your studio?

After lunch I work more in the studio for a few hours, take a walk with the dog for about an hour, and then spend some time writing songs and practicing bass and guitar. Before all of this I was in two rock bands. We were writing and developing music, and performing in the area.

What positive perspective changes in society would you like to see come from the pandemic?

I would like us to realize we are all interconnected and interdependent, and act with empathy. I would also like to see us embrace the idea that all tasks and jobs are important, and that people should be able to earn a living wage from all jobs. And how about universal healthcare?

“Amends 2”

How are you winding down your day? Have any recommendations for stress relievers to settle after another day done?

Dinner with my wife, then we watch TV, and I usually knit. Sometimes I play backgammon on my phone. Knitting is my stress reliever.

What are you cooking? What’s your comfort food of choice?

I am a purely functional cook, and the second-tier cook in my family. I did make some cookies using a recipe from Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. They were sharing their recipes on Instagram and I tried to make their chocolate chip macaroons. They were edible, but I didn’t get them right. I will try again and hopefully I can go back to Haystack someday and eat them there.

What are you currently reading?

Working for the Clampdown—The Clash, the Dawn of Neoliberalism and the Political Promise of Punk

What is your favorite music choice?

Punk, ska and rock. I am listening to The Clash as I answer this.

What are your favorite podcasts?

Invisibilia, Hidden Brain, Revisionist History, Beyond and Back

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