Have you ever met someone and just kind of instinctively knew right away that this person was a creative force to be reckoned with? That was the immediate sense I got when I met Emily Jeffords at Alt NYC a year and a half ago. Emily is an artist, a designer, a blogger, and she has the most adorable family. If you click those links, you’ll see that basically everything Emily touches is GORGEOUS. Emily also happens to be humble, endearing, sweet, passionate and committed to highlighting fellow artisans. I adore her. And you should, too.
1. Hi Emily! Thanks for giving up some of your highly sought after time! First, tell the Made + Remade crowd a little about yourself:
I am an artist, designer, and mother of two.
2. Your work has been featured all over the place lately. Can you tell us where readers may have seen your name over the past few months?
It has been pretty crazy and exciting how much my artwork has been received over the past year. I began working with Minted a few months ago and they have been such great partners, hooking me up with Domino Magazine and getting my artwork in the doors of West Elm! There are a few other (crazy exciting) secret things in the works with some lovely brands, but what I love the most is creating artwork for people. I know this is going to sound so cliché, but it’s totally true: the biggest honor is getting to know my collectors and creating artwork that they will live with for years and years.
3. How did you get started painting?
I created artwork when I was a small kid (like all kids). I really loved it, kept working on my skill, took several art lessons growing up, went on to get my BA in fine art, and began teaching painting at a private arts school. But I kind of “came into my own” as an artist just after my daughter was born. I began doing a painting a day for several months and really developed my “style” and love for the creative process.
4. Do I remember hearing that you were also a virtuoso? How did you chose between art and music as your primary focus?
I don’t know that I would say virtuoso (oh gosh!), but I did play the violin and piano for hours a day until I started college. The creative process between art and music actually feels very similar to me. But, something about creating art relaxed me and just felt right, whereas creating music drained me instead of fulfilling me. I love both, but am refreshed by art in a super powerful way.
5. You write often on your blog, Beautiful Hello, about the work that goes into being a creative. Tell us what you think is the biggest misconception about artists.
Some days I’m frustrated because I imagine that I should spend each day happily painting in my bright studio, coffee in hand, music crooning. But that’s not really how it goes down. So much of my energy is spent doing things that are far less creative but are just as valuable to my business. It’s so important to be not only a skilled artist, but also a pretty savvy business person and marketing guru to make it in the art world these days.
6. Your girls, three and four years old, join you in the studio most days. What are some of the joys and challenges of having your girls there with you while you work?
Like all parents I want to lead them by example. They are such hippy art bebes already, but, whatever they choose to become as they grow older, I want them to explore it and master it as much as possible. So how can I do any different? Sure, days in the studio with two little ones can get hard at times, but they belong there as much as I do. Maybe even more.
7. Your commissioned work is booked well into the spring of 2015. How does that process work? How specific do people get about what they want? How challenging is it to cater to the preferences of others in your artwork? And do you have other people like me who covet the work that someone else commissioned?
Commissioned artwork is SO much fun because I get to know each collector individually, then I get to create a piece of artwork that has so much personality and meaning to that person.
Usually when someone commissions a painting they understand my creative process (I’m pretty vocal about that on social media) and they basically just ask for certain colors, mood, and size and I set to work! It’s a really loose and organic process.
Outside of commissions, I do a few “open” paintings each month and sell canvas reproductions of artwork.
8. How do you combat creative fatigue?
Creativity is energy. It is passionate, intuitive, curious, and exciting, but it is really, it is just harnessed energy that evolves into creativity. If you are passionate about something, you are willing to suffer for it (literally). Long hours, sore fingers, hours of thought, sacrifice, emotional drain… In the end, these things are totally worth it because creativity gives to you 10x more than it takes.
It is important to rest, to give your mind a break from creating just as your body needs to rest after a long run. Creativity can also be strengthened and trained, just as your body can be.
9. For anyone who wishes they could paint, sketch, etc., what would you recommend as the first step toward becoming an artist?
It’s so important to realize that every single thing you create is an experiment (no matter how advanced you are). Each project will teach you something new about your art, creativity, the world, and (most powerfully) you. Your hands will learn how to refine their motions, your mind will figure out all the mini-puzzles that make or break your creation. It is such a process and you can’t rush it!
Be pleased with your work and give yourself a lot of room to screw up. So many artists become frustrated because we are our worst critics (by far) and that’s hard to live with! Before you become a professional artist you have to first become a professional cheerleader in your own head. Find people in your life that will echo those cheers. If you can do those two things, the creative ability will evolve naturally.
10) What are your resolutions/goals, work or personal?
To find time to stop and enjoy — and to do so for a little while every single day. I often REALLY enjoy my work, but I have to consciously put away my tasks (even the creative tasks) and just focus on the sweetness in life. Doing so will help me become a more inspired & creative artist, editor, writer and person.
A huge thanks to Emily for taking some time to chat with me! Isn’t she the BEST? Her pieces are already highly coveted, but I see even higher heights for Emily in the future. And I’m so proud and lucky to count her as a steadfast friend who inspires me ALL. THE. TIME. High fives for great friends who push you to up your game, right?
The Creative Genius series on Made + Remade features fabulous DIYers and makers who inspire us. Meet more Creative Geniuses and help us share the spirit of DIY!