My Creative Friend: Emmy

My creative friend, Emmy, is an Artist Mentor Fellow at New Urban Arts, which means that she is there to support all of us Artist Mentors as we are thinking about being art educators and developing our own creative practices. Emmy and I have had many long talks, and I always walk away having had an epiphany. She'll scoff at that - because I know she thinks I give her too much credit - but it's true. If it weren't for Emmy, I wouldn't be where I am today. She has helped me understand many things about myself by doing the "Emmy thing" - listening carefully and patiently, and repeating back to me what I said in different or maybe clearer words. I love her, she's magic.

Since she's an Artist Mentor Fellow, every time we get together we tend to talk mostly about me and my work. But I'm always curious about her creative practice, and how she creates such beautiful and varied work. I'm so excited to get a window into that today, as I feature her as February's My Creative Friend!

{ emmy with stinkeye the cat }

Hi Emmy! Tell us about your creative medium and how you got started with it.
I think it was 8th grade when I shifted from wanting to "make stuff" to wanting to "make art." A friend brought me to an Eva Hesse exhibition and was I simply blown away. Something about the materiality, the drama without explicit narrative, and how she does minimalism with feeling. "I didn't know Art could do that!" I thought, and I went back to those galleries over and over again.

I work in with different mediums depending on the project, and I enjoy process oriented work especially when it is grounded in craft traditions. Recurring touchstones for me are translucency, conceptual work, balancing both humor and brutality, and engaging with ideas around loss, language, and socialness. Right now, I am making prints, maps, documentary drawings, and both functional, and semi functional objects. I also collect and keep track of many many things like these grocery carts outside my house, I also collect words, notes off of the ground, dead bees, feathers etc. I also still just like "making stuff."

{ emmy bright, a few blank books }

How did/do you learn and improve your creative skills? Where do you get your support?
My projects teach me new skills! Every project I take on, I never feel "prepared" or completely sure about them. I am usually afraid and not-knowing and excited; that's why I have to do them. And sometimes, when I do feel "sure", I have faked myself out because then things start falling apart, I realize there is always, always much to learn. And so, in the making, whether I'm confident or unsure, I am always in the position of measuring up, reaching out over ledges, standing on the top of my ladder, learning, and developing my skills, my bravery, and my soft spots.

And in that process, I depend on help and teaching from my friends, teachers, and colleagues. This year, at least four friends have been steadfast counselors in Photoshop. Others have helped me through new approaches to screen printing, through various snafus, and in thinking through design dilemmas.

Then there are these essential places: like New Urban Arts where I work, and like Penland School of Crafts where I get to study sometimes. These places believe, fundamentally, in people's best potential as makers and as humans. As institutions, they embody and foster optimism and humanity. This kind of culture allows people, allows me, to come up that much taller.

{ emmy bright, tangle, handmade paper & thread }

How do you make time for your creative practice?

For me, it's less about "making time" and more about remembering what I value, and what I need, in order to make my sense in and of the world.

I remember a slide talk with Laura Letinsky, a Chicago photographer who I love. At the time, she had shifted to doing these large-scale portraits of empty dinner tables and kitchens a day (or week?) after the dinner party was over. Leftover fragments of figs are limp in coffee saucers, cheese rinds totter off of the edges of cutting boards, and red wine stains ring rumpled tablecloths. She made this body of work in the years following the birth of her first baby. Her life had suddenly shifted to being at home, and her art work also became about the domestic sphere. She explained "I had to change my work to fit my life, or else I would have had to stop making work." Not only was her work about domesticity, it was also a profound longing and loneliness.

Another artist I love, Kiki Smith, talks about making things as a kind of proof of her existence, making a mark as a way of being in the world. Lynda Barry told a friend of mine about making work as a way of letting certain parts of yourself or your past, or your imaginary, live. And they are only living when you are working. I believe in both of these things too.

I try to tune my practice and my life to support one another. Sometimes the balance is off, and I become too lonely or disconnected from just-me-in-my-studio. Sometimes I am too much in the world, in collaborations, being in relationships with my teaching, and in the community, and I loose track of my ideas, intuitions, and projects. Sometimes I can find ways to blend art work with community work, or personal practice with a contract job. It’s not always so dichotomous. Overtime, I've made both radical and subtle changes to how I work and live. It remains a process.

{ emmy bright, petite objects, 2008, collograph print }

What creative projects are on the horizon for you?
I am honored, psyched, and a little freaked to be designing and printing 3 different posters in March, each for groups of amazing people and organizations! I'm also helping Delia Kovak with part of her curatorial project for the Crossing Currents: Feminism Now! exhibition. And then Jori Ketten and I are leading a workshop at the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Public Humanities on March 21st about documentation work as part of research, reflection, storytelling, and arts practices.

I’ll continue to scribble notes, drawings, and diagrams as much as possible. Another friend has promised me a chunk of copper and an etching lesson. And if all goes well, I might bind some books out of scraps as well. Part of my creative practice is having many many projects going on at the same time!

Thanks so much for sharing, Emmy! I am continually in awe of all you do, and grateful for how you inspire and encourage me.

To learn more about Emmy or see more of her work, visit her website.


**My Creative Friend is a series of blog posts featuring the creative practices of creative women in my life, posted on the last weekend of each month. By sharing our processes, my hope is that we can all learn, grow, and be inspired in our own work. If you're interested in being featured, please contact me!**


  1. Great feature, I can see why you find Emmy to be such an inspiration! She puts into words things that I have felt about my work and the process but have never been able to fully express or vocalize.

  2. Yay Emmy! This was inspiring.

  3. So glad to be able to read this about Emmy! Love the art - that goes without saying, even though I actually did say it. But also really love Stinkeye and the little snuggly place the kitten has found.


Related Posts with Thumbnails