The Intimacy of Collaboration

An interview with Erin Rivera Merriman of Active Culture Family

(originally appearing on


PM: How did Active Culture Family start?

ERM: I had my own jewelry line for 10 years called Bearhead Factory, but making jewelry has always been just one aspect of my creative process. I have always had a vision of artists recognizing one another as part of something larger- a cosmic family, an archetype playing out here on earth. I feel really inspired and energized by being around other artists, and had been reaching out to people who’s work I resonated with for trades and collaborations for many years. I rarely got so much as reply! I think people didn’t understand my intentions. We are only very recently coming out of some very skeptical times. One day I sent one such introductory email for a collaborative body of work to some artist friends and acquaintances, and they all said yes. It was a small thing, but for me it was a big moment, because it confirmed that the vision was sound, just the timing had been off. The difference now is that it seems that people are more trusting, allowing themselves to believe in a world where people support one another and recognize that the success of any one heart centered individual benefits everyone. 

PM: What is the best part about collaborating with other artists? 

ERM: The communion! I am filled with wonder when I meet a rare gem of a human who is here with the tools they need to express their unique perspective and add something fresh and personal to the cultural conversation. I don’t believe that there is nothing new under the sun. I believe that every moment, every living thing, every idea is extraordinarily unique and nuanced at its core. Collaboration allows a context in which to go beyond appreciation of another. There are only so many roads to intimacy/ true connection- conversation, sex, collaboration- they all involve a two way exchange of energy. There is the potential to be changed when you let someone in. The good stuff, the real magic in this world becomes possible when we develop the capacity for intimacy with other beings.

PM: If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who will it be?

ERM: Bjork, of course. She is such a mothership of cosmic creative energy.

PM: What is your main source of inspiration?

ERM: Psycotherapy, ceremony, dreams… I think the inner world is more real and what happens there ultimately more consequential than most of what we give our attention to. 

PM: What are your thoughts on connecting with the sacred through art?

ERM: I think that that is the definition of art. That people working in the world of symbols are either artists or magicians, and many realize theres not a huge difference between the two. Symbols are the universal language of spirit. 

PM: What do you love about the creative process?

ERM: I love that it is a way of letting energy out. If you are living with any level of intention, energy is coming in all the time. It needs to go somewhere or I think it can really make you sick. It is a way of peering below the surface in life, which I find so pleasurable!

PM: What advice do you have on how to create a life and a business you're passionate about? 

ERM: Just do it. There will never be a better time to begin. If you are interested in something, take a class or read a book or just start experimenting- whatever works for your learning style, start start developing your proficiency. Take the time to get really good at something. I wish that I had interned, asked more questions, and taken a basic business class and made a business plan early on. When people embark on attempting an art career, they think they are becoming an artist, but if your goal is to have your art be your sole or primary source of income, you are actually beaming a business owner, and that is very unfamiliar territory if you have spend a decade or most of your life just developing your talents and your creative voice. I tried every configuration, and ultimately found the most freedom available by taking on other income bearing work outside my business. I am able to take on bigger, riskier projects, and say no to orders that I don’t have the energy for.  I can take breaks when I’m feeling burnt out and not worry about it. I think people assume the goal is to just do their art, but for me, a blended path works best.