Connecting you with the people of Scotland by sharing their stories
‘making the everyday magical’
Hi Emily, can you please introduce yourself and what you do to our readers?
Hello, I’m Emily and I live just outside Edinburgh in East Lothian with my husband (Conor) and our three children (Maggie 9, Finn 6 and Rupert 2) and our westie dog Mary. I am an illustrator who loves working on a wide variety of jobs. I create bespoke papercut artwork that can be stand alone pieces of art or often translated into digital form for commercial/printed projects.
Take us back to the start — how did it all begin, and did you always want to be a designer and illustrator?
I have always loved drawing since I was little so it was a natural progression for me to go to art college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do within the art world but I was super keen to learn. I ended up studying textile design at Edinburgh College of Art, as I loved the idea of creating artwork that had a function and learning to design for a brief. After I graduated I stayed at Edinburgh College of Art and completed a masters in design – it was during my masters that I really found my style and love of working with papercuts.
Can you tell us what it was that drew you to this medium (papercuts) and how your style has evolved over the years?
I created my first papercuts as a way of making stencils to screen print my designs onto fabric while studying textile design. I quickly learnt that the papercut itself was ruined in the process and it was the papercut artwork (more than the final fabric) that I loved. Once out in the real world, I used papercuts to create graphic, bold designs and because they were flat coloured they were easy to translate onto products. I love the process of collaboration and always feel that my work benefits from it. Over the years I have got better at translating my designs into a digital medium and recently I have started being looser with my designs and using traditional print/paint methods alongside my graphic papercut style. As an illustrator you are constantly learning and evolving.
Can you talk us through how you find inspiration?
I think inspiration can be found all around us. I live next to the coast and enjoy lots of lovely beach dog walks and find them very inspiring – from the nature around me to the time on my own to develop ideas in my head. I think having a love of the creative process means everything can be inspiring. I love childrens illustrations, pattern design on pottery, other artists, packaging design in the supermarket – I think if you look around you there is inspiration everywhere.
Over the years you have worked on many projects with well-known clients, can you tell us about a particular one that you are most proud of?
Oh this is a hard one as I have really enjoyed working on so many lovely jobs. I think I am always most proud of my most recent work as that is what is fresh. So at the moment I am really proud of the interior wood cut panels I designed for a new school in Edinburgh. St. Crispins. Helping make a space for kids better is a very satisfying job.
At Hidden Scotland we feel very lucky to have you create our ‘folklore, myths & legends’ illustrations for the magazine, can you talk us through the process of creating a bespoke commission like this one?
I have loved working on this collection with you. In regards to my process it goes a bit like this – I get the text/concept idea through from yourselves about the story and read it. Then I let it sit with me a few days – this part I think is so important and it means when I come to put some ideas down onto paper I have already designed a lot of it my head. I then create a couple of very rough pencil sketches to allow you to see roughly what I am thinking, in terms of composition and general theme. This is when I can change things around and re-work it if need be. Then once we have agreed, I just get started. I draw it out in pencil and then re-draw it (like tracing it) digitally in illustrator, sometimes I hand cut sections in paper and then re-draw them to make sure it still have my hand cut quality within the artwork.
What would you say is your biggest success as an artist?
Hmm another tricky one – this one is hard but I think what it comes down to for me is longevity. It has given me confidence in my own work that people/clients have come back to work with me again and again over the years. To me that is success.
What about your biggest challenge?
This one is probably the same for many, but the juggle of family life/young children and work is often hard. I only have 2 full days child care a week at the moment so have to work a lot of evenings and weekends to make it work – but I love what I do and I love spending time with my kids so it’s a constant juggle and balancing act that can often be a challenge.
You live and work in Edinburgh, can you share a few spots where you love to go?
Blackford Hill is my very favourite spot in Edinburgh – we used to live just below it and spent many days walking it. From the top you can see the whole of Edinburgh – I think it us utterly magical. I also love the cafes and shops in Stockbridge, if I ever find some time by myself I love heading there and wondering around the botanical gardens (which are just next to Stockbridge). We have an allotment near Leith links and I love spending time down there. The shore in Leith has a great mix of pubs and cafes and a great market at the weekend. My old studio was here (Coburg House studio) and I love the mix of makers and artists there – always an exciting part of town.
Outside of Edinburgh, is there a specific place in Scotland you think is particularly special?
East Lothian – it holds a special place in my heart as I spend a lot of time walking the beaches here and the sand dunes.
Can you pick out 4 or 5 things in your studio you can’t live without?
My cutting knives – I still use the same ones I used at art college and just change the blade regularly. My computer – as it’s where all my work comes from these days and often where I draw my client work for publication. Paper – of every colour and kind! Finally my dog Mary – she has been my studio companion for almost 11 years and without her sitting under my desk the studio just doesn’t feel right.
What’s next for you?
I am currently working on developing some children’s picture book ideas which I hope to show to publishers soon!