BY INDIANA NASH
SCHENECTADY- For local artist and owner of the Sow’s Ear Studio on Upper Union Street, Rosemary Prock, everything is in flux right now.
When she first opened her shop, she was holding artist exhibits on the second floor, painting murals and hand painting/recovering furniture. She was also painting murals and working on ‘large-scale’ projects.
But she’s focused now on taking in the works of fellow artists to sell and focusing on smaller scale furniture and decoration projects, mostly due to health complications.
For Prock, this isn’t necessarily a downfall.
“Sometimes the process is more important than the finished product,” Prock said.
And she is working on recovering and redesigning many beautiful cabinets, tables, dishes, kitchenettes; as evidenced by the back of her shop where she does most of the work.
Prock has always had a creative ‘green thumb’ but didn’t always apply it to her current line of work.
She started out at SUNY New Paltz with her bachelor’s degree in art education.
“My high school teacher called me and asked if I wanted to replace her, so I did for awhile. But it wasn’t the right fit for me,” Prock said.
Teaching wasn’t as much her gift as creating and leading was.
Thus, she moved down to New Jersey to work in graphic design. Prock mostly worked to design the layout at a magazine, but she also took a few courses in graphic design in New York City to keep up with the art world.
But her husband, Joe, landed a job back upstate.
“When we moved back up here, I was designing logos and catalogs for different companies,” Prock said, “That was before there were computers for this stuff so I was literally cutting and pasting sometimes.”
Her work eventually gained recognition by the Grandoe Corporation, which designs and manufactures ski gloves, located in Gloversville.
“I worked in-house as their art director for about four years,” Prock said.
But as graphic design became computerized and the work changed, it wasn’t as enjoyable for Prock. It no longer felt like she was working on something creative.
“So I got the bug to do this,” Prock said, gesturing to the shop, “Joe was really the driving force though.”
She slowly began to build up a client base of restaurants and local homeowners who wanted work done in their homes or old family furniture repaired.
“I did murals with faux finishes to actual paints,” Prock said.
Evidence of her work can be found at the American Italian Heritage Museum, where she designed and painted their donor wall.
“It forced me to do a lot of research . . . It was good. I came back with stories that set the tone for that exodus of people leaving Italy and coming to the United States,” Prock said.
The mural is a tree, with the branches in the shape of Italy and with one image of the immigrants leaving Italy and arriving to America on the other side.
But she’s since had to stop working on so many murals and start thinking small.
“Right now I’m mostly working on furniture,” Prock said.
On the day of the interview, she was just finishing up painting a table in the style of Edward Hicks, an American folk artist.
90% of her work is preparation.
“You have to make sure that you’re going to have a surface that you can paint on,” Prock said. Sometimes furniture comes into the shop with unique finishes that don’t take well to paint and that can be challenging to remove.
Prock finds solutions to almost any problematic surface though. The only time she turns away a project is if the piece is damaged and needs extensive work.
“Then it’s just a matter of whether or not it’s worth it to save,” Prock said.
Most of her days, Prock works alongside her daughter, Lauren, who helps run the shop.
Although Lauren isn’t the same sort of artist as Prock, she works away at her own projects (making jewelry, scarves, and crocheting accessories) and the two are artistic inspirations for each other in small ways.
“I’m now thinking of working on dividers,” Prock said of her next project. A room divider provides the same expansive feel as working on a mural would, without the necessity of climbing a ladder or standing for long periods of time.
Prock is also working with Lauren to create a ‘vintage corner’ in the second floor of the shop to replace the exhibit space.
It will include small trinkets from years long gone and unique accessories from other eras but that have come back in style.
As Prock said, everything is in flux.