GM: And with screen printing the process of the reproduction is also an art, and you’re working with your hands, rather than doing everything on a computer.
Emily: And I should be better at digital stuff and technology, but my thing is pretty analog. Which is kind of nice, because though having a lot of scale digitally can be really useful, sometimes I think that a lot of styles start to look the same when they’re overly processed, so I try to keep mine a little more raw.
GM: So what brought you to Boston five years ago?
Emily: I had to get out of Michigan, and my sister was living here, and I also had a friend who said “you can stay with me”- so I moved out here and lived in a corner of his living room and I’ve been here ever since.
GM: Do you have a day job or are you a full time artist?
Emily: I do. I work right up the street at Lincoln School where I teach at extended day. I do a lot of art with fourth and fifth graders; it’s super fun. One of my favorite things to do with them is experiment with different types of printmaking, even something as small as making stamps on the ends of corks. I try to go crazy and get as weird as possible with them and explore easy, different modes of printmaking with the kids.
GM: Do you ever make anything in the classroom that you end up finishing at home and selling?
Emily: Yes, I definitely do. I started doing linoleum block printing with kids and then went home and started doing my own rubber stamps. Or even different motifs that the kids come up with. I was doing a little stamping project and this kid took out black paper and white ink and started doing all this moon stuff, and I was like, “oh my god this looks so cool,” and I basically copied her. Sometimes doing art is a hard sell to kids because they equate doing art with art class where it’s an assignment, versus a space where they can just run free.
GM: Do you think Boston is a good place to live as a working artist?
Emily: I would say yes and no. I feel like in other cities there is just a higher population of working artists or creative people. On the other hand, because it’s a lower percentage of people who would call themselves artist, you can build more of a niche for yourself. When I was in Portland I kind of knew that the city did not need me. I mean, there were people with mobile screen printing trucks. They were so far ahead in so many ways as far as people making it as creatives and finding their niche. Portland is really inspirational, but in Boston people have approached me because I’m a screen printer and asked me to do a job for them. Because you’re not flooded with people doing this thing. People putting together events will also find me on Etsy. Verses a place where everyone is doing it and you have to claw your way up. I’m also not adept at self promotion, so I do kind of wait for people to come to me- which is my downfall, but I’m also fine with it. And being able to promote yourself as an artist is a totally different skill set from being an artist. And I put all of my time and energy into my favorite part which is just making the art.
GM: Is it hard for you to find time to make art?
Emily: That, I would say, is my other biggest struggle aside from self promotion. It is hard- balancing the work I do to get paid, plus time to make art, but also time for your social life. And I’m definitely not a loner, I’m pretty social; I need to spend a lot of time with friends. It’s definitely hard to balance, but I always come back to it. Deadlines keep me on track. And I like to remind myself that it is the most important thing to me, because that’s why I don’t have a full time, solid career job. I generally work pretty part time to make time for art. Even when I got out of college I was so afraid that I would be one of these people who works full time and then comes home and then is too tired to make art. And I could never do that. But luckily I’ve been out of school for ten years and it hasn’t happened, so I feel like I’ve avoided that. Which has absolutely been a worthwhile sacrifice.
GM: Do you hope you’ll be able to transition to being a full time artist?
Emily: Yeah, I do hope that. It’s funny because I spend so much time wishing that I could do that, but I do still like to think of art as something that I’m getting away with. I like to have a day job for something to complain about. I never want art to be the thing I complain about. I like that it’s an escape rather than something I have to do to pay the bills. There are also so many artists or writers who had standard careers so that they could be as weird as they wanted in their art. They didn’t have to do their creative endeavor to pay the bills, and the fact that they were freed from that is what allowed them to be experimental. So that’s what I like to remind myself of when I’m in the depths of “Why can’t I be a full time artist?!”
And sometimes when I have taken on freelance jobs, they have just ended up stressing me out because everything has to be perfect. But, of course, I still want it all.