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MEET: Emily Sutton
Today we are pleased to meet York based illustrator and artist Emily Sutton to find out about what inspires her quirky illustrations.
Please tell us about yourself and how you got started.
I am an artist and illustrator living and working in York. I started an art foundation course at York college before going on to study illustration at the Edinburgh College of Art (which also included 6 months at the Rhode Island School of Design). After graduating in 2008 I began my professional career by making a collection of embroidered fabric birds which were then featured in World of Interiors magazine, leading to lots of commissions from around the world! This was great as it helped bridging the gap between leaving university and trying to make my way as an artist/illustrator. I still enjoy making the occasional bird in between other projects.
What is the story and ethos behind your work?
My work is inspired by my love of old children's book illustration (from the early to mid 20th century), in particular the picture puffin books, and the work of artists and designers also from that era including Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilous and Barbara Jones amongst others. I have always been very interested in detail and intricacy and this is carried through into my own image making. Another big source of inspiration is folk art- which I initially became aware of when I visited the Museum of American Folk Art in New York when I was a student. I found the colour, energy and playfulness of what I saw there really exciting and it definitely influenced how I approach making both images and my three dimensional work. I believe very strongly in hand-made, and I suppose that my work could be described as quite traditional in the sense that I would never consider using a computer to make an image (even if I knew how to!).
What do you love most about what you do and what do you find most frustrating?
I love that I am completely in charge of my own career. I can choose to a large extent what I want to do each day (depending on how many deadlines I have to meet at any given time) and I am lucky to have a variety of projects on the go so there's no excuse for getting bored. Being an illustrator and designer, there's a huge thrill in seeing your work applied to an object, whether it's a book jacket, a textile or a piece of packaging. Another big plus point is the people that I come into contact with through work- I have met lots of really interesting and lovely people, many of whom have become friends. That's what's great about the art world in general- in my experience it's quite a close-knit community and people look out for each other and are a great source of support.The frustrations about what I do are greatly out-numbered by the positives, but of course there are stressful moments as with any job. There are times when it seems as though months go by in a whirl as I frantically chase deadlines: hard as I try it can be difficult to plan my schedule as it's so difficult to turn down an exciting opportunity when it arises, even if I really don't have time to take it on. Recently a big frustration (and one more to do with being self-employed rather than specifically an artist) has been keeping on top of tax bills and other paper work!
Can you tell us a bit about where you work
I work in a studio at my house in York, which I share with my boyfriend Mark Hearld (also an artist). It's a fairly small room on the 3rd floor with a great view over rooftops, and is filled with a collection of objects that I've picked up from junk shops and car boot sales and which often feature in my paintings.
Do you have any special projects you are working on lately, if so can you tell us a bit about them?
I am currently working on illustrations for two children's books. One is a sequel to a book that I illustrated for the V & A, "Clara Button and the Magical Hat Day" (published in 2011) and the other is a non-fiction book for Walker about micro life. This year I've also been doing illustrations for Betty’s, so far I've designed a tea caddy, a mug and a Christmas pudding box, and I'm currently in the process of redesigning their menu. Back in the spring I was commissioned by Hermes to create illustrations depicting iconic imagery of the four countries of the UK for a big exhibition that they had at the Royal Academy in May which was very exciting, particularly when I saw the finished product in the gallery complete with musical accompaniment. As well as the illustration work, I have taken part in several exhibitions including York Open Studios which was a great experience. I have recently been taken on by an American agent so I'm looking forward to seeing what new projects will be in store.
Do you ever have creative slumps? what do you do then?
I had one major slump right after finishing college, which was a lot to do with feeling very worried about how to make a start in my career. I've always found that the more anxious or worried that I feel the harder it is to be creative, so the two things tend to go hand in hand. I try to avoid this by keeping to a fairly regular working schedule and not leaving things to the last minute, and having other artist friends (most importantly my boyfriend Mark) to talk things over with and just to chat to about our various projects definitely helps to stoke up the creativity and keeps the nerves in check (at least most of the time).
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Mainly to hold your nerve and just get your work out there in the public domain, whether it's by setting up a website, taking part in local exhibitions and fairs or sending your portfolio to some publishers. The hardest thing is to take the initiative, but once you have made a couple of connections it's amazing how things can follow on. The art world is surprisingly small and very interconnected so if you do a good job other opportunities could well come up as a result.
If you had time what new craft would you like to learn?
Actually there are several- I'd love to be able to knit and crochet really well (the best I've done so far is a scarf), to make clothes and lastly to polish up on my embroidery skills and learn all of the many different stitches.
Emily's website: http://emillustrates.com/