Some Kind of Spell

emily 1c

I was asked to make a map of Cornwall by the chap who owns Pop Gallery in Wadebridge. He’s doing a stall at the Port Eliot Festival and has asked a group of artists to each do an individual map of Cornwall for the show.

Cornwall is a huge part of me – my heart is here. I’m not able to live here at the moment, but whenever I come home it’s very difficult to leave – it makes me cry every time. It’s where most of my family live and I’m pretty nostalgic. I always hark back to my childhood and you can see that in my drawings and paintings.

My childhood was terribly free. We lived on a farm so we were able to run free until stupid o’clock at night when we got hungry. I remember the noise of the swallows in the summertime –and the wood pigeons. We ran wild in the old milking parlour and made our own dens. Childhood is where I get all my ideas from – and the horrible stories my mum used to tell us. She didn’t really read us the Disney Snow Whites and Cinderellas – it was more the Grimm version – the girl with no hands and the horrible version of Cinderella. My pictures used to be quite dark, but they’re less so now. I think giving up working in advertising has made me less angry. Probably because now I can come home to Cornwall more or less whenever I want.

I was looking at some of my work from childhood and I found a picture I drew when I was about twelve, of a fox in a coat. I think I’ve been accidentally copying myself, because that kind of image recurs in my work. I keep on redrawing it, and I ended up developing that image for an opera in San Antonio.

I had an exhibition in Chelsea and one of Roald Dahl’s daughters popped in and reported my work to her mother. Then about a year after that it came to light that they were going to produce Fantastic Mister Fox as an opera and they chose me to design it. So I went to meet Roald’s wife and family and we became friends because we’re all of a mindset. She’s lovely and she reminds me of my own mother. She’s colourful, peaceful, interesting, fun and kind, and there’s no pretence.

Once I started designing costumes they sourced these wonderful people in San Antonio who created them to the tiniest detail. They were so good. When I saw the set and the costumes for the first time I cried. It was just wonderful. I am hugely honoured and humbled by the whole process because it wasn’t me who did all the technical work – it was these very talented costume designers and set designers who did the work that would be put in front of all those people to be judged. It was a humbling experience.

I got asked the other day “Do you consider yourself successful?” and that made me really have to think. I haven’t got to where I want to be but I feel like something is just about to happen – like the egg is just starting to crack and the baby chick is just starting to appear. I can just see its little beak. You can’t get complaisant being an artist because there’s no security, but I have just given up my job in advertising and I’m just about managing to pay the rent. You have to be very careful with money though, because you can’t rely on the income from month to month.

I hope I do end up back in Cornwall. That has always been my plan. I think Cornwall has some kind of spell and that nobody can really ever leave once they’ve become part of it.


See Emily’s delicious drawings here: