Though always artistic and crafty growing up, I didn't start making jewelry until I moved to New Orleans in 2008. After teaching myself basic jewelry construction and beading skills I became fascinated with preserving things in resin and began working with plants, shells, and insect wings. Over time my work evolved into what it is today, leaving nature behind to focus on the preservation and artistic presentation of man-made media, particularly printed paper, which can be as fragile and ephemeral as pressed leaves. While I grew up surrounded by nature in rural Pennsylvania, the subject matter of my current work is more in tune with the urban sphere I inhabit today.
Emily McDonald is a New Orleans artist living and working in the Uptown neighborhood.
Questions & Answers
Describe your art in three words.
Accessories from ephemera
Describe yourself in one word.
What do you love the most about creating art in New Orleans? What particular part of your immediate environment, in your neighborhood specifically influences your work?
New Orleans is famous for its richness of culture both past and present, and fortunately even the smallest details of this incredible city have been recorded and preserved throughout the years in the form of thousands of printed materials such as travel guides, maps, stamps, tickets, postcards, flyers, menus and more. It delights the treasure hunter in me to go searching for and scavenging through such vintage ’New Orleaniana’ for bits and pieces to immortalize in resin.
Describe your creative process. Are there any rituals or rites of passage you exercise before you begin a new piece?
The majority of my work starts with the purchase of something second-hand, maybe a book, or a stamp collection, or a deck of cards. Due to the temperature and moisture sensitivity of the resin I work with, I'm tied to my home studio when it comes time to do a resin pour. Working from home can be very serene, but also socially isolating, so I sometimes prefer to do my pre-resin design work in coffee shops or bars, where I can people watch, listen, and converse while creating. It's not uncommon to find me sitting at a local dive with a stack of sheet music and a pair of scissors.
Where do you draw inspiration?
I tend to be inspired by the vintage paper media I work with. The more timeworn an item is, the more I find myself drawn to it. Signs of use and wear on an old playing card or recipe book are hints about the history of the item and the path it has taken to wind up in my hands.
Who are your artistic influences or gurus?
While I have great respect for the masters, I always feel specially connected to art that repurposes common items, images or ideas, particularly art born from materials that some would consider useless or trash.
In New Orleans, art and music go hand in hand. What type of music, band or song lyric best describes your work?
I love rock & roll, folk ballads, bluegrass—music that tells a story. I’ve been hooked on Springsteen for as long as I can remember. My favorite bands to listen to In the studio are The Everybodyfields, The Weakerthans, and Bastille.
Where can we find you when you are not creating art?
Usually eating or drinking, if not both. One of my favorite things about New Orleans is its endless list of great spots to enjoy a meal or a drink with friends.
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
I'm always looking forward to fall, which is a more prominent season in Pennsylvania, where I grew up. In New Orleans it means the end of summer humidity, which is good for resin work. When the weather hits that perfect seventies and sunny season, I can leave the screen door to my back yard open while I work in the studio.
What is something people don’t know about you? A fun fact.
My life is a constant battle between my resin work and my love of cats. Even with lint rollers, a roomba, and a lock on my studio door, cat hair always finds its way into my workspace. The pieces that get 'ruined' by a stray fur become the ones I keep and wear myself.