Passion Process Ep. 1 | Mario Rocchio

The following is the first in a series of audio sensory documentaries and short form interviews with creatives, activists, makers, and athletes alike. Passion Process is focused on the passions of people we’re inspired by and the daily processes, musings, and activities that help them realize those passions.

We meet Mario Rocchio at his home studio in downtown Rochester just as the sun is crescendoing atop his tree lined street. We’re going to bike (well, he’s going to bike) 10 miles north to the side of the lake that we often find ourselves gravitating towards; if not for the swell then for the sunrise and the sounds. Mario isn’t biking to a wave or a peak or a valley, although the terrain of this part of Rochester offers plenty of both, he’s biking to a state of mind. And that state of mind is fueled by coffee and nature.

“You’ve got to earn that cup of coffee. You get your blood pumping, you’ve got make it to the spot, then you’re grinding and boiling and brewing–You’ve woken yourself up along the way and already accomplished so much before what is usually the first thing you do in a day. It just set’s the stage for the rest of the day.”

Mario says, energized, after finally setting that stage on an unseasonably warm and sunny Sunday morning. After a pour-over of the Ugly Duck shop blend is enjoyed beside freshly hatched ducklings and the occasional caterpillar, we pack everything back up and head back to Mario’s studio where he gets to work and we get to asking questions.

JUSTIN: So who are you and what do you do?

MARIO: I try to answer that every single day, to be honest with you. In simple terms, I just consider myself a maker. I love making anything. I specialize in sewing and bag design and certain materials but I really just love making and building. I grew up fiddling with tools and things in the basement - miniature planes and trains.


J: So is the propensity to make fueled by necessity or by desire?

M: I guess my MO is that I’d rather make things than buy them.


J: Yeah man, I hear that. I guess that’s why we had you make the coffee this morning, too…

M: Yeah well you bought that, I made it, we both won!

J: For sure! So - making things is what you do, who are you?

M: Yeah that is who I am at the core. What I do heavily defines who I am.


J: I agree with that

M: I don’t mean that in the sense of--I feel like a lot of people let their job define who they are--but i don’t mean it in that way. I am not how I make my money. I am how I exist in the world - and the interactions I have with people as a result of the things that i have made. Being someone is meaningless if I can’t share those things with others. But yeah, my name’s Mario.


J: Haha - hey Mario. Obviously we started the day with coffee. And coffee is how I met you and a lot of other people in this city. With you sharing things and making things.

M: It’s how I’ve met so many people. I didn’t grow up downtown so I met a large chunk of my close friends and professional contacts over the bar.

J: Yeah - Ugly Duck isn’t where I met you for the first time but I do feel as though it’s where I got to know you. I feel like in customer service, especially, there’s a lot of meeting people but not a lot of getting to know people. That’s different in coffee. I think that’s a result of the craft that goes into what you’re doing.

M: Yeah I think about that all the time. The two main things that I do -- coffee and running my own design studio -- benefit and interplay with one another. 90% of making coffee is social. Conversations and people. It’s hard to be a barista if you’re not a people person. The craft of coffee, for me, comes before the shift starts when I’m dialing things in. The real day starts when I start talking to the regulars and the people that have never been to a shop like ours.

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J: You’re also real involved in bike culture. How did your start in coffee and bike culture inform what you’re doing now in the textile world?

M: They have both directly and conceptually impacted that. I got into cycling and coffee at the same time, really. Even in college--I was drawing parallels between cycling and the craft industry all the while working in coffee. The common denominator in all of them is a DIY spirit. Biking is transportation you’re doing yourself, grinding and hand-brewing coffee is doing it yourself, my approach to bags is to do it myself.


J: What made you start doing the bags?

M: I didn’t want to sew at all but I got stuck in this class at RIT. As soon as I dove in - translating 2D design