Tusk is a retail space showcasing a curated selection of objects, clothing, print and locally made pieces by Mary Eleanor Wallace. It is located in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I am a nurse at a community health clinic in the west-side. Health disparities are an important issue to me, but I still have a love for fashion, and objects. Tusk has been an outlet for those interests, and also a space I love to offer to friends to use for their own creative projects and events. So far with Tusk, I have put out a few small production collaborations and have also recently been making some ceramic jewelry pieces.
How did your interest in art or fashion begin? In middle school and high school, I would alter and create things. My mom also always had fashion magazines around so I would stare at the ads for hours. My friends and I always were trying to make our own statements—altering and playing with things from the thrift store. I made a line of bags/wallets out of duct tape and sold them in the local hippie shop where I lived in Alabama. I remember being in awe that it was possible that I might see someone in public with one of my bags.
What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? I am currently making ceramic pendants at a ceramics studio a block down from Tusk. I am experimenting with making pendants out of woven clay strips. Right now I am inspired by anything woven (open woven textiles, baskets, etc). I also love denim right now—I want to do a few custom denim jackets for fall. I also love lucite.
What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? Chad Kouri and I recently did a series of wearable pieces together. We collaborated on a line of tunics that we dyed using solarfast dye and some necklaces using some ceramic pieces and painted wooden blocks.
I also just finished a project with YACHT. I love Claire and Jona’s aesthetic and stage performances. We recently worked on a poncho together that I designed the cut of and had them pick out the fabric/materials. Currently I am working with Ogechi Anyanwu of Eye of the Sun on a line of leather pouch necklaces that I am excited about.
What designers are you interested in right now? Nancy Stella Soto. She makes these amazing sculptural garments with these huge cut-outs. I am excited to carry a few items from her fall line at Tusk. Also a line out of NY called 69us. They make these amazing oversized androgynous denim pieces in cocoon shapes and I just want to live in them.
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? There was a designer in Chicago in the 80s named Kanae Ikai. Her pieces were usually in neutrals and the cuts were kimono inspired. I have found a couple of her pieces out sourcing over the years. I have thought it would be awesome to get in contact with her and work together with her on something for Tusk.
Tell us about your work process and how it develops. So far projects have happened naturally with friends. I have hit people up to work with me and it has gone great. Lilian of bfgf and I worked together on a project last year and I also worked with my friend Michelle of January Prints. Another friend of mine Sam O Reilly recently graduated from Columbia’s fashion program and we worked together on a small line of tops. I have loved working with people to create one of a kind things for Tusk. It helps keep it weird and special.
What’s your absolute favorite place in the city/the world to be? I love the City Museum in St. Louis. If you have not been you have to go! It is a crazy wonderland in an old shoe factory. There are all these hidden tunnels—you could explore it all day! Hollow trees—the possibilities are endless. My favorite place in Chicago just might be Tacqueria Moran. I know it sounds cheesy but walking in seems like home— the owners treat us like family. My partner David Sampson and I eat there sometimes two times a week. It is so comforting and of course the food is amazing.
Describe your current studio or workspace. Behind the curtain at Tusk is usually craziness. David and I might have some kind of weird photo shoot rigged up. The storefront used to be a deli in the 20s so it has a dumbwaiter that goes to the basement that my landlord preserved! We also have this wood work table that was found in the basement that we use as a surface. I love that old things from the space’s past are being used in our work area.
Favorite article of clothing? Even though I cant really wear it right now due to the weather, it would have to be this huge oversized wide legged linen jumpsuit from the 90s. It has these huge pockets on the side. I like the way it moves when I walk.