Tools of the Trade - Mischa Merz

By Brianna Read This month Tools of the Trade has taken yet another welcome digression from the material toolkit. I had the pleasure of speaking with a woman named Mischa Merz and if you have heard this name before it could be for many reasons. Mischa is an accomplished painter, a journalist since the 1980’s, a writer and a boxer. You read correctly and now probably understand why I was quite excited to interview Mischa about the tools of her trade.

I cannot help but try to anticipate the tool each creative may list as their ‘must have’ – but I kept drawing a blank when I tried to pick this one.

Mischa’s writing practice started in newspapers, first local, then she moved on to The Herald (since merged with The Sun) and The Age as a freelancer and sometime sub-editor. You can still chance upon her journalism work in The Age from time to time but she has since allowed her writing for press to take a back seat in favour of her boxing training.

Mischa first came upon boxing when she undertook post-graduate studies in creative writing at the University of Melbourne. This change of pace coincided with a desire to get fit; enter the on campus box-a-cise classes.

Given that Mischa is this month launching her second book on the subject of boxing, it becomes apparent that this period in her life was the beginning of a seemingly unlikely union: writing and boxing. By this stage she was quite taken in by boxing and when she garnered the attention of publishing house Picador with an idea to write about her journey into amateur boxing it appears the marriage was cemented.  Mischa mentions that at the time of her writing the first book (Bruising, 2000) it was quite against the grain to write about yourself, unlike current literary trends ‘Memoirs were not the done thing in this industry.”

So, you ask, what is the incredible tool Mischa cannot live without? Is the pen mightier than the fist? In fact, I think this may just be my favourite tool yet, it is that quality that children have in abundance and somewhere along the way most adults lose a little or all of it. It is none other than the willingness to take a risk and make mistakes!

Mischa says that it was “naïve audacity” that got her into boxing, she admits she was not a particularly athletic person before boxing and had no idea how difficult the sport was. Initially she was “captivated by the concentration levels required, then became hooked on the complex theoretical base.” Contrary to popular belief boxing is not a sport for brutes, the exhilarating mix of dance and highly technical athleticism makes this the sport for anyone who loves moving and thinking.

The second book titled The Sweetest Thing is being launched next week at The Bella Union. This promises to be a book launch to buck all trends! The book itself is an entertaining account of Mischa’s journey to the US to compete in a series of amateur boxing tournaments. In my opinion this stands as a wonderful testimonial to where a willingness to take a risk can lead you.Photo credit - Jess D'Cruze

Mischa Merz runs boxing training classes at Crosse Training in Kensington and her website provides information on her many and varied talents.

Brianna Read is a designer/maker based in Melbourne. Her knitwear label Jack of Diamonds  employs traditional hand-made techniques in combination with machine knit technologies. Brianna’s multi-faceted creative practice encompasses design, production, works for exhibition and machine knitting workshops.