Interview with Emmie Ray Hubbard
Emmie Ray Hubbard currently lives and works in the Peak District, United Kingdom. Emmie received her bachelor in Fine Arts at the Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London and received her master in Jewellery & Metal at the Royal College of Art, London, in 2020. Her dissertation was entitled “Artists in the Field: An Investigation into the Research Methodologies of the Social Sciences as a Form of Artistic Field Work”.
This interview is the result of a conversation that took place via videoconference between Felien Vandermotten and Emmie Ray Hubbard in July 2021.
How would you describe yourself?
I find this a hard question. Maybe since the pandemic, we’ve had so much time by ourselves that we don’t really know anymore. But simply, I’m an artist and I live in the UK, in the Peak District. It is the midlands of the Nord of England, in the countryside.
How I describe myself is related to my work. I am fascinated by history, that has always come through in my artwork. A lot of my work looks to future discussions or future urgencies and I look back in time to historic beliefs and practices for answers. I’m also someone who responds to my environment. I think I do that in normal life as well. It always effects my routine, my diet, … those behaviours translate in my art. I am very much inspired by the place that I’m working in.
How would you describe your work?
My work is always inspired by history, a historic narrative or a historic character. I look at the past to talk about things that are important to me today. I always look back to history and specially to historic crafts. Whether that is crushing clay back to pigment or looking at metal and looking back to the ore of the metal. I’m always looking at historic crafts to understand the material more. So that drives my work, it is very much material lead.
How would you describe your way of working?
I’m always responding to the environment that I’m in. My method would always be to research and experience where I am. For example, my recent work is responding to living in the Peak District. I have been collecting the clay from a local hill, then looking into the narrative around that area. It has a very strong history of bronze age, so I’ve been using that narrative. In my practice there is a lot of walking and writing, before I end up making anything.
What was your main motivation to apply for a residency in DIVA?
I studied jewellery and metal at the Royal College of Art. I just graduated when I applied for the residency. My work has always been very earthly, and I was looking mainly at sculptural work. I think I was attracted to the collection of DIVA, because there are a lot of precious materials and small delicate works. During my education I studied a lot of metal. Now I am interested in using the opportunity at DIVA to look at jewellery and more small and delicate objects that use precious materials.
My favourite way of working is to respond to an environment. After spending so long in lockdown and working from home, that option to work within a museum is an amazing opportunity. I just find it so inspiring to be in this kind of environment. To be in a different place. I’m really interested in the workings off this institution. I want to come and be a sponge.
It will also have an effect that I am not working alone in the studio but will work with someone else. Many artists have times where they are working by themselves for a period. This highlighted to me the importance of a studio and being with other artists in the studio. The conversations are the most important, the most inspiring, in everyday life and working. I’m excited to work with Simon Marsiglia in the workshop of DIVA. I can’t wait.
What do you aim to research or improve upon during the residence?
I saw a big contrast between my work and the collection of DIVA, with the use of precious materials and the use of diamonds and precious stones. I’m interested to see how my work could be worked in that way. That is something I really want to develop at DIVA. Whether that is working directly with these precious materials or just responding to them.
I used to work in the British museum. I found it fascinating talking to everyone who worked there and understanding what their favourite object was or what their stories were. You all make up your own stories to these objects.
Do you like to add that narrative to your own work as well?
I think it adds to the work, but I don’t like giving all the information. I think it’s very important that the viewer can imagine their own narrative as well. I love that way of responding to a museum or to an artefact, the part where you can almost make up your own mind, your own romantic idea of what the story was. That is why I like leaving some information out.
Could you explain your personal journey in art and which experiences shaped your artistic path?
I studied painting at Central Saint Martins in London. So, I come from a painting background. Then I studied jewellery and metal at the Royal College of Art. I went on a yearlong exchange during my bachelors, in Italy, at Academia di Belli Arti in Macerata. There I studied fresco, oil painting, stone carving and anatomical drawing. That is the first time I started working with 3D forms and became interested by how the same materials were used or transferred from 2D to 3D, stone to pigment for example. That has really inspired the way that I work. The way we make pigment is very similar to the idea of how I work with materials in metal. It is always this crushing back to its pure state and wanting to investigate materials, like I did in painting. The stone carving class was the first time that I carved wax, which is part of the process of casting metal. I think that is when I really started thinking about 3D, the first time I made something in metal.
What is your personal routine when working? Do you have certain rituals while working?
Besides walking, writing has become an important ritual in my work. I write continuous thoughts without thinking about it. Writing became a ritual to take a step back. Because sometimes you get so involved in the process of making things with your hands that you forget to see what it is you are doing in the room or in a broader context. It became part of my practice to either do continuous writing without thinking or writing poems or prose. Narrative about an object to broaden what I can do. Especially since the pandemic, because materials were limited, having a pen became the most powerful thing.
I think it is important, and not spoken about enough, to have general self-care rituals in the studio. In a studio you could be sitting all day, same as if you were working in an office. It might be unromantic to talk about as an artist but doing exercise and eating healthy are very important rituals. Especially because what you make has so much to do with your wellbeing.
Is your writing a work of art or more of a step in the process?
I never had the confidence to show them, it was just something I was doing for me. But only recently, I have been working on a publication for the Royal College of Art and that was the first time I produced a piece of writing that went public. It was about the pandemic. It was the first time I have written something for an exhibition and that has given me the confidence to show more of my writing.
How has your practice changed or evolved over time?
I worked with an archaeologist for a while learning the pre-historic methods for bronze casting. Working with him has really inspired me and evolved my practice. I now work with a more scientific approach. I think I will go back to archaeological research continually in the future. Working with another field is very important to develop your ways of working. Working with an archaeologist really highlighted our different mindsets and your position as an artist. We learned from each other because we have a very different approach to artefacts. The conversation and working with other people is really important in the development of my work.
What do you enjoy most? What is your favourite or least favourite part of being an artist?
My favourite is working with other artists. Having the freedom and opportunity to work with different artists, institutions or museums, working in collaboration and continuous changing conversations. My least favourite is working by myself. It has highlighted the importance of a studio for me. Working from home during the pandemic was my least favourite. Working in a team with people really inspires my work.
What inspires you to create? Where do you get your ideas from?
I get inspiration from materials from everyday life, like food. I like foraging for example. I try living with as low of an impact as I can. That really inspires how I make. I approach an artistic project in the same way. These daily interests inspire my ideas.
I want to change my eye a little bit and work in a more delicate way. The idea of preciousness speaks to me. I don’t know what that means yet. But I hope to make a body of work that responds to the museum. A body of research or work that would allow people to view the museum in a slightly different way.
What are your long-term goals as an artist? What is your dream relating to your art career?
I think working with people and other artist has become very important to me in these last couple of years. My dream in the future is to start a creative space and working with others. But dreams change all the time so we will see. But my eye is changed, I was always interested in making and me making things but now the most important part is working with others, making together and the conversation that that making has in a wider context. That is the dream.