I go looking for Mary Ratcliff’s studio space during an evening soiree at the MOCA. The smiling girl at the front check-in points me to the elevator in the back, so I dart around waitstaff offering trays of appetizers, devoured daintly by freshly-shaved gentlemen in sport coats, and ladies in reflective jewelry and pointy shoes. Away from the crowd, on the 5th floor, I find Mary, a tiny woman in jeans and a t-shirt with a vaguely Indian-inspired print. She’s crocheting a navy yarn chain, sitting comfortably in a papasan piled with pillows.


I’ve come to talk with her about her residency at the MOCA, her studio space here, and how she came to be in Jacksonville. To my left is a giant mushroom from a former art project of hers. On my right, two more ladies are busily at work on their own yarn chains. Across the room, I can see a mock-up model of what those yarn chains will later be used for. It’s a house-frame doorway, with multicolored strings stretched across it, to represent the yarn chains which will be used to cover the full-sized version.

The MOCA offers this residency for those getting a degree in art, in their last year of school at UNF. Mary Ratcliff won that residency, so she now occupies the studio space at the MOCA prior to her week-long show, which has an opening reception of December 8th, fulfilling the art show requirement for graduating seniors.

Ratcliff estimates she will need a whopping one mile (5280 feet) of yarn chains for her house frame doorway, so she’s been asking for community help. While I was interviewing her for this piece, two of the yarners from the newly formed FSCJ Blue Wave Yarners were there, busily creating yarn chains.

Ratcliff invites the public to contribute yarn chains, or to come in during her studio hours to crochet the needed chains. Says Ratcliff of the project, “Interwoven: Heart, Home, and Community is about fostering and encouraging connectedness in our society. It represents my desire to inspire positive social changes by bringing people together, but also provoke thoughts and questioning of our own personal values and beliefs.”

Mary’s originally from Ohio, but she’s been a bit of a nomad in her journey of self-discovery. After uncovering her need for creating art in Savannah, GA, she came to Jacksonville because of a romance, since faded, but found UNF to be a great place to finish out her degree.

Each of the pieces in Ratcliff’s exhibition will feature sculptural elements. Wood, metal and, of course, textiles will be part of the exhibition. (We aren’t saying for sure that there will be rope macrame or that there’s a rope dying party in Ratcliff’s future, but it’s certainly in the realm of possibility, judging from some of the ideas she has for the individual pieces.)

Sherron Brown, member of the Blue Wave Yarners, believes that the community outreach of Ratcliff’s project symbolically binds together all those involved with the project. “It’s all positive, and it’s all love,” says Brown. Catherine Rifkin, faculty sponsor of the Blue Wave Yarners, says, “It showcases something we enjoy doing–this introverted thing we do at home becomes something that we share out in the community.”

If you or your group would like to be involved in Interwoven, you can come visit Mary Ratcliff during her studio hours to sit and chain, drop off yarn chains at the MOCA front desk during business hours, or you can mail to Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville c/o Mary Ratcliff 333 North Laura Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202. See bit.ly/MOCAInterwoven for more info on the project and involvement. You’ll find Mary Ratcliff in her studio on the 5th floor of the MOCA Jacksonville on Wednesdays noon-5 pm, Thursdays 6-9 pm, as well as the First Wednesday of the month during Downtown Art Walk: 5-9 pm. Please let Mary know the number of collaborators if you are sending in work from a group as she is “compiling the total number of people involved in the project.” Whatever the number may be, it will have significance in one of the exhibition’s pieces, as an acknowledgement and a thank you, of all the help from the community.  

About Erin Thursby