Featured photograph courtesy of Norrel Bailey, Emily’s lovely girlfriend! Find her on Instagram at @rellzlb
I’ve lived in Raleigh, NC for almost an entire 5 years. For many, that may seem trivial; but I have never lived in a place longer than 3 years at a time. This is a big deal for me. I never realized the challenges with living in one place for so long. For example, you actually have to get along with people for long periods of time. I never thought I would have a hard time with this. However, growing up, I had a new set of friends every couple of years. This is the first time in my life that I have had to learn to maintain relationships. Emily White, the creator I interviewed today, is that one friend I have always kept around. And for some reason she’s kept me around too. I met her while she was working at Sugar Magnolia, a local shop here in Raleigh. I instantly fell in love with her passion for the world! She’s a beautiful soul in so many ways. Though we have been in and out of touch since I moved here, we’ve always picked up right where we left off; despite the fact that we are usually totally different people by the time we reconnect. We’ve seen each other at some pretty low points in life, some heart break, some stress, and some maturing. I’ve always thought that we are the kind of people that love the world so damn much that we make life hard on ourselves. I think we’ve both learned to embrace that, though. Below is an interview that holds the evidence of at least Emily’s striking zeal for creation, love, nature, and life.
Emily and I September 2012
1. I’ve notice that, like many creators, you have a few different outlets? What are those outlets? Which do you feel most passionate about?
So, so many outlets. Oils, acrylics, watercolor, scratch art, chalk art, writing, jewelry making, crafts, gardening, cooking, sewing, the list goes on. I’m about to start learning how to read music and play the piano as well and I’m pretty sure I’ll be head over heels with that for a while. I rarely stick with an outlet long enough to become fully immersed in it. I’ve barely begun one craft and I’m swept away by another. That’s why my brand name isn’t craft-specific. epwdesigns could easily branch out to include home décor, a diy blog, ceramics, clothes, or hell even natural cosmetics if it strikes me.
I think people prefer hearing the story of a person who, through their absolute whole passion for one thing, became a master of their craft and that’s how they became as successful as they are. But I also think that’s how people tell themselves they can’t become an artist. “Well I don’t have time to really become a master of the skill like that artist has.” or “I want to make art but everyone around me is already so good at their one skill”. But that’s not the point. The passion in my mind shouldn’t stem from wanting to be better than everyone else at your craft (not that being the best isn’t admirable) but having a passion for trying something for yourself in the first place.
For me my one absolute passion, the one thing I truly want to master and be the best I can be at, is learning how to make everything for myself. I see anything and I want to know how it’s made and if I can make it my way for my purposes. And that’s really my outlet. It drives me to do everything I do. I’ve tried to stay focused on one craft and do that one thing alone but it felt like I was doing myself a great disservice and limiting who I am as an artist.
Currently my journey has brought me to jewelry making. I’ve loved making jewelry since I can remember and it was a fun way to introduce my brand name to the world. I’m infatuated with making natural look industrial and industrial, natural. I see myself heading toward crystal healing because of the calm it brings me to be near these beautiful products of earth’s dance with time. I use crystals in almost all of my jewelry designs along with wood and antler, none of which are new to the jewelry world but they’re all new mediums to me so I’m having an absolute blast manipulating them into pieces for people to wear. I can definitely see myself falling for a while into the mystic realm of fairies and spirit animals and of course crystal healing. I already have some ideas brewing for what I can create from that intrigue, not all jewelry-based.
2. I talk to a lot of creators and I hear things like “I get surges of creative energy around [midnight].” Some say that they get these surges in morning, afternoon, etc. What time of day do you work on your creations?
My most productive time of day is in the morning before I go into work at 12. I relish my early morning time and it’s when I really get to sit down in an empty house and dig into actually creating whatever’s been running through my mind recently. I totally appreciate I have a luxury that most full-time workers don’t.
Of course, it’s any time I’m not near my work table that I’m hit with a new idea. It never fails. I’m just out in the world totally absorbed by my own train of thought and I go, “Oh man, why haven’t I done this thing with that thing yet?!”. That’s why I have a notepad on me at all times. Its filled with ammeture sketches and weird isolated words or phrases that I’ll hopefully remember the relevance of later.
3. Being a person from North Carolina, do you feel that has any influence in your creative energy/inspiration?
Yes. My aesthetic is deeply rooted in North Carolina. I lived in the same house for 18 years before going to Raleigh as an NCSU student. This was absolutely the perfect house. Surrounded by trees, backed right up to a creek that separated our property from Clemmons State Forest, this could not be a more perfect place for my little bare feet to run wild and where I could create a messy muddy nature kingdom of my own. The land was mine to roam and I roamed freely, indeed! Looking back on that time, when I built fairy houses inside my forts made of holes dug by a fallen tree and pretended the patches of fields I’d randomly come across were fields of different realms, it’s no surprise my current creative energy has found its way to crystals and other earthy mediums. It gives me the same feeling I had when I was a kid. I guess, I’d call it magic. However, somehow as a child I was taking full advantage of all of this natural inspiration around me without crediting my familial, social, and geographical background.
A lot of the creative outlets I was pursuing as a young adult I viewed as missing elements in my home that I needed to acquire through my own studies of “urban” or “modern” art and culture. Things that I felt didn’t exist in the small-town white southern middle class world I’d been raised in. I didn’t realize it until my 20s but that was a total injustice to my parent’s ingenuity. To assume a lack of relevance from them simply because they were “Clayton-ites” (as my girlfriend calls us) didn’t credit my mother for her love of music and outrageous green thumb and my father for his ability to fashion literally anything into a tool for a purpose entirely unrelated to its original use. Sure, the music taste is different and I’m not exactly trying to make an english garden over here, and I’m definitely not trying to make a skiff out of an old pool (my dad hasn’t done that but please don’t give him that idea he’ll try it) but I’ve absolutely inherited their abilities and used those abilities for my own passions. I can’t imagine I’d have been able to pursue and accomplish these passions in a different or more urban environment. It took me too long to realize that it was because of them, not in spite of them, that I’ve become the creative person I am today.
Just the other day I was having breakfast with my dad and I was showing him a new project using antler and hide. Fascinated, he immediately offered to donate to me all of his unused antlers from hunting and to call his “old huntin’ buddies” who he “know[s] they gotta have barrels of racks lying around”. He also figured out in about two seconds a better way to fasten the piece more securely than I had. I remember thinking we’re so alike! Who taught me to/why did I put you in this redneck pigeonhole as a child?! I’m glad it only took me until now to appreciate my roots.
Go to any North Carolina craft market and you’ll see I’m no different than the rest of my NC brothers sisters. Creativity runs through every one of us and it motivates us in everything we do with a fire like you can’t imagine. Our inspiration is our home. Our beaches inspire paintings using colors which you’d never envision seeing on a beach. Our mountain views inspire lyrics that ebb and flow like the rhythm of their summits. We reuse and repurpose more creatively than anybody else I’ve ever seen. And so many North Carolina natural features inspire craftsmen like me to incorporate antler, stone, beautiful maple wood, and other natural elements in our work. I know it sounds like a cheesy North Carolina ad but really we have a damn-near-perfect environment surrounding us on all sides. It’d be hard to live here and not feel motivated to find some creative way to express your appreciation for all the natural beauty around you.
4. Since I’ve known you, we’ve shared a mutual love for music. Can you give us a 5-10 song playlist that reflects what you’ve been listening to lately?
- Alabama Shakes-Gimme All your Love
- PaperTiger-Made Like Us
- Billie Holiday-My Man (Toro Y Moi Remix)
- River Whyless-Bath Salt
- DJ CAM-Rebirth of Cool
- Washed Out- It All Feels Good
- Bonobo- Ten Tigers
- Local Natives-Past Lives
- Glass Animals- Gooey
Um, and did you hear Radiohead’s new song “Burn the Witch”?! Because I just did. Swoon.
5. Cats or dogs?
Haha! I’m a hardcore, “love them all equally” advocate. Also I have chickens so they’re my little love bugs too.
Find Emily on Instagram at @EPWDESIGNS
And on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/epwdesigns