Meet The Maker - Studio Emma
Emma McDowall is a creative female entrepreneur, based in Edinburgh, Scotland. What started off as experimental fun in her parent’s shed, soon became a sellable product when Emma shared photos of her works on social media. The colour palettes and textures brought to everyday objects, such as clocks and trays, were welcomed with enthusiasm. Now her pieces are sold world-over, from Iceland to the US - And in the Longship, Kirkwall!
It’s International Women’s Day on March 8th so in honour of this we wanted have a chat to understand more of what inspires Emma, and how this influences her colourful concrete creations.
When did Studio Emma begin?
After graduating from Gray’s School of Art in 2015, where I had studied BA Textile Design, I moved back in with my parents to figure out my next move. With no access to the textile printing facilities I had been so used to, and struggling to find any graduate opportunities, I started to explore new ways of making and creating within my new spatial and financial boundaries. I went back to drawing and painting. I would explore and forage - making wall hangings with the sheep’s fleece I’d found snagged on barbed wire fences and assembling other found objects into sculptural pieces. It sounds quite whimsical; however, the reality was, I was struggling with my mental health and felt lost – being creative was my therapy and focus.
It was the following January when I came across a bag of cement in my parents shed and my relationship with concrete began. I spent the following months outside, experimenting with recipes and foraging through the recycling to find suitable moulds. I needed these objects I was creating to have an element of colour, so that was something I spent a lot of time developing.
Soon I had my first collection of pastel concrete pots and sculptures and Studio Emma was born.I started to share them on social media and opened-up an Etsy shop. People really loved them, and I gained attention quite fast, being shared on blogs and contacted by stockists. I soon had the confidence to move to Edinburgh, find a studio and a part-time job, and I kept developing from there.
Why concrete? What drew you to this stereotypically industrial medium?
I was experimenting with so many mediums at that time, and with most I would move on after a few weeks because I got bored of the process or didn’t like the outcomes.
When I started working with cement, something felt right. It felt so authentic and exciting and it wasn’t something anyone else was doing at that time. What I really enjoy about the material is the lack of control over the process - I create the form and choose the palette - but the surface pattern and the textures occur naturally. It’s like a collaboration between myself and the material and it’s those elements of the unexpected and the imperfect that I love.
The Vessel, multi-functional and open to interpretation.
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Are there any ‘must haves’ for you in your creative workspace?
I’m not sure I have any must haves. I started out working in a shed surrounded by spiders, then moved on to a shared space which got taken over by a new company who forced us all out. I remember one day they took away all the tables, so I just put down a big plastic sheet and worked on the floor.
I finally got my own small space and have gradually moved into bigger spaces over the years. I now have a great studio with an organised clean space and separate messy workshop. I’m probably so much more particular and indulgent now, however I like to think as long as I have a space which I can get messy, and my materials, I would still create.
Bold colour combinations seems to be an important element of your work; we love the combinations you come up with! Has colour always been important to you?
It was actually Ingrid Tait, the owner of The Longship, who helped me realise my love for colour. Ingrid was a tutor when I was studying at Gray’s School of Art.
I remember the first day she taught us, we had to research a painting, pick out the colours and mix them up exactly from paints. I just loved those lessons, and Ingrid’s appreciation for colour really resonated with me. From there on, all of my projects had a big focus on colour.
It’s International Women’s Day on March 8th, and in honour of this we’d love to hear about a creative female figure who has inspired your work, or work ethics.
Donna Wilson is a big inspiration to me - I know The Longship team admire her too! I had a work placement with Donna Wilson whilst studying and I loved it – the studio and the team were so relaxed and friendly. You can really sense the authenticity in her work, every design is full of creativity, energy and fun. She has such a good eye for colour. I think she really strikes the perfect balance between business and creativity. Donna is always a reminder to me that it is possible to be a successful, creative, female entrepreneur.
Emma is raising her hand in support of 2021's International Women's Day theme: Choose To Challenge.
With this theme we choose to call out gender bias and inequality. We can all seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. Click here to find out more about International Women's Day, this year's theme and how to get involved.
Feminine energy and nature is such a notable part of the Longship as a team, and also a brand. We aim to be inquisitive, aware and empathetic to the world around us, and want this to come across in what we bring to you in the things we stock. It is important to us to support independent craftspeople like Emma on their own journey, while bringing to our audience new and exciting products that come with a story.
To immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Emma’s works, click here, and click here to celebrate female creativity further, with a collection of beautiful products specially selected for International Women’s Day.