Fav Artisan: Emma Blue
Interview with Emma Blue
Tell me a little about yourself?
I love books and reading and stories, I’m addicted to tea, and I love naps.
Where are you from and where are you based now?
I’m from Manchester originally, but I came to Derby over 10 years ago and ended up staying. Even though it’s a city, to me Derby feels more like a big town. There’s a lot of creativity here, and artists/creatives across all disciplines really seem to support each other and help each other out.
Which artists/designers inspire you?
Su Blackwell is someone who inspired me when I first started getting into book sculpture and papercutting. Her work is so evocative, so detailed and beautiful. I can spend hours looking at her pieces. I was lucky enough to get to see her Wuthering Heights book sculpture close-up at a gallery recently, and it just blew me away.
I also love the illustrations of Nan Lawson. She manages to catch perfect moments from pop culture, be it favourite scenes from films, or lines from songs, and turns them into beautiful, heartfelt pictures.
Tell me about your business?
I had a job I loved in a library for about eight years before cuts meant half the workforce were made redundant. I used this as an opportunity to take a good look at what I wanted to do, and decided to set up my own business creating bespoke craft items and also teaching workshops. I had nothing to lose, and figured if it didn’t work out, I could always get a ‘proper’ job, but I’ve been lucky so far. So, we’ll see.
When did you first start making creative items?
I’ve always spent my free time up to my eyeballs in paper and glue and fabric and bits of wire and string and whatnot. I’ve been making handmade gifts for friends and family for years, and I think it’s the feedback from these that first gave me the idea that I could make things that people would maybe want to own.
Where has the inspiration come from?
I get my inspiration from all over the place. I’ve always loved books and reading, and so a lot of my work springs from that, favourite quotes, ideas, and just the idea of telling a story. When I worked at the library, I’d feel sorry for the damaged books and the books that had to be withdrawn because they were too old or out of date, and so I wanted to give them a new lease of life and let them tell different stories, find a way for them to be loved again. I’m also a little obsessed with time travel, so the clocks, I think, came from that.
What techniques are applied?
I use a scalpel to make my papercuts and book sculptures, and I also use lino printing, embroidery, applique, bookbinding, hand-stamping, clay sculpture and wire modelling. There is also a lot of glueing.
Are your products suitable for children?
Some of the fabric creatures and robots I make are suitable for children – mostly the plush ones rather than those with buttons or with wires inside. With commissions I can tailor things to suit specific needs. I’d say the papercuts, clocks and book sculptures should be kept away from little hands. They could make nice pictures for bedroom walls, though – especially the personalised letter, name or family tree papercuts.
Do you sell outside the UK?
I sell mostly at craft fairs, but have recently sent items to my first stockist, and I’m on the lookout for more now. I have a shop on Etsy, and through that I’ve sold items to lovely people in Europe and the US. It’s exciting when someone likes something and wants to buy it, and it makes me giddy when that person is from the other side of the world!
Where are your fabrics and materials from? Are they locally sourced?
A lot of the books I use are ex-library stock, or sourced from local charity shops. I get most of my fabric from a great stall on the local market. They let me buy in quantities as small as I like, and are also really helpful when I’m trying to source specific things.
If you had to choose one piece of work which is your favourite?
I think, at the moment, my favourite things are the tiny books that come with the moon necklaces. I typed them out on an old typewriter, using a story I’d made up after finding out Earth has lots and lots of tiny moons in its orbit. The first moon necklace in this series is a replica of a (possibly pretend) moon named Velma. I’m excited about “discovering”/making up other tiny moons.
Do you have a favourite theme?
“love of reading” / “love of books”
If you had to describe your work in 3 words- what 3 words would you use?
Happy, quirky, heartfelt.
Do you have a quote of the day?
I’ve got about a hundred! I have a growing list that I’m slowly turning into papercuts. The one I’m channelling the most right now is:
“Start with a big, fat lump in your throat. Start with a profound sense of wrong a deep homesickness, or a crazy lovesickness, and run with it. If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtably deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.” – Debbie Millman