The sweetest and coolest girl on the craft block has to be Emily Notman….I first met Emily a few years ago when we were both exhibiting at a craft fair and I was immediately drawn to her pastel, meadow-like embroidery as well as her enthusiastic and endearing personality. I have two of Emily’s tapestries thanks to our regular swapsies and I see something new each time I look at them.
Emily exhibits at numerous contemporary craft shows and galleries, sells her pieces online and is artist in residence at Loughborough High School. I was delighted when she agreed to answer some questions about her work, here’s what she had to say..
“My little workspace is currently at Loughborough High School, where I am textile Artist in Residence. It is a wonderful space with floor to ceiling shelves and two desks; it also has a beautiful window looking over the quad. The school makes me think of Hogwarts and I have been lucky enough to have a two year placement here supporting the girls artwork and their textile lessons. My space gets a little messy when I have a deadline to meet but otherwise I like to keep things simple with a few inspiration photos and colour storyboards up. My shelves are filled with a mix of paints, inks and heaps of fabric waiting to be coloured and embroidered into.”
“I have to be in at my residency by 9am so I grab porridge and a coffee and try to beat the school traffic. Most days I have an hour replying to emails and enquires before I start making. A lot of time is taken up on the computer so I like to get that done first. Sometimes I will have free time in the morning to make and other days I could be working with the students showing them my techniques or suggesting inspiration for their projects.”
“I study current fashion trends, colour stories and colour pairing, I create mood boards on my studio walls to help with colour choice, but sometimes when I am mixing inks and dyes something magical happens and I go along with it. One morning I could think today will be a blue day and the finished piece turns out to be pinks or yellows. I also try not to set a time limit as some pieces naturally need more detail, depth and layers. I’m drawn to whimsical landscapes, overgrown meadows and layers of natural surface, however, I was initially inspired by a visit to a fisherman’s village in Portugal called Burgau where we visit for family holidays, it was the old flaky paint on boats and the encrusted textures of the lobster pots that I recreated using fabrics and stitch in my first pieces of work. My mum has a beautiful garden and in June I take photos to inspire my floral brooches for that year and my pieces develop and evolve from there. I am travelling through Europe for a month this summer and I hope it inspires a new range when I get back.”
“The most difficult time I have had since setting up making full time has been keeping going when times have got a little tough, slower sales or a quiet month. You have to keep positive and know that things will even out. I am very appreciative of every customer that supports and buys work as they enable me to create what I love and fulfil my dream job, it is my lovely fan base that keep me going.”
“Since University I am amazed at how my business has developed, from the first follower on Facebook to now being published in books and magazines. My proudest moment has been a three page spread in Contemporary Crafts Beijing Magazine, I don’t know how it came about but knowing people are reading about your craft on the other side of the world is wonderful.”
“I eat sleep and breathe craft. If I am not sewing, I am decorating, cooking, sourcing materials and generally filling my head with inspiration. Even though sewing is my full time job it is very hard to draw the line between it being work and leisure. I adore what I do so it creeps into everyday life in every way possible. My working week is 7 days, on a weekend I will sew if I’m not running a workshop, usually a few evenings off during the week is enough for me. I also love visiting shows, buying from other makers and pottering around our flat moving our craft collection and hanging work. A rare snippet of time not making would be spent with my record collection, a food magazine and a coffee.”
“My core value is, ‘stay true to your practice’, It is very important for me to make what I like to and hope other people like it too, I would struggle to produce work that isn’t “me”. At the moment I am making bigger wall pieces (I much prefer this way of working). I have learnt not to feel under pressure to make to sell but to make what I would love to buy myself, that way you get more satisfaction when it goes to a new home. I am very motivated by people’s interactions on social media and also lovely comments at shows. Luckily now we can post something within minutes of making it and have feedback straight away. This helps no end and after a long day, a little feedback helps.”
“I would love to think that I would still be making full time in ten years, the aim is to push my practice further and move with the trends. Hopefully I will have my own beautiful home studio to work from and still travel the country to deliver workshops. I really wish I had been savvier at University and had focused on the business side a little more, I was carried away with making that any lectures about tax, pricing and marketing didn’t interest me. I think if you are certain you would like to be a maker that side of university really is a major factor. Follow your dream career so you will never think ‘What if’.”