Emily Joyce is an enamelist, jewelry maker, and sculptor. As a former student and then teacher, she finds inspiration in the learning experience. Her nostalgia for childhood blurs the line between play and learning. In her work, this is a mixture of protractors and playgrounds, composition notebooks and a passed note in school.
It’s also the playful approach she takes to a highly technical medium. She knows that too much seriousness can lead to self doubt – and that it can put an end to the creative process. She shares her inspiration and her demons, and the tools she uses to keep herself captivated.
Here is her story.
I am captivated with childhood and the experiences that come to define who we are. When I was young, I was a little quirky. I enjoyed solo play. I spent a lot of time outside. I dug in the dirt pretending I was an archeologist. I collected things. I cut the hair off of Barbie dolls. Once, my aunt asked my mom if there might be anything wrong with me because she walked in the kitchen and all of my Barbies were tied to the legs of chairs. I remember doing this. Not as a weird torture for the Barbies…but to make the chair more interesting. I believe that as children, we are our most authentic, creative selves.
I find real inspiration in the school experience. From the time I was in Kindergarten up until 2020, not a single year went by that I didn’t find myself in a school building. I went from being in school to being a teacher, which seems ironic considering I was not a great student. I reflect a lot on the feeling of inadequacy I felt as a student. Those memories of how school felt interest me greatly. how did we feel taking a test? What did we do at recess? What experiences in elementary school were the most embarrassing? What made us the most proud? I love conveying these emotions, conjuring these memories, by creating beautiful new school objects from enamel and metal.
Relatedly, I am also fascinated in handwriting and notes. I feel such excitement when I find a grocery list in a shopping cart or a note on the floor at a school. I find myself examining the handwriting and making up stories about the person who wrote it. I can fabricate entire lives of people from a single grocery list. I also imagine the way the paper was folded and put into a pocket. A simple piece of folded paper, recreated in enamel, makes the process of folding and unfolding somehow seem more important, like a ritual.
My biggest challenge as a professional artist is self-doubt. I am constantly fighting the negative inner dialogue. A quick glimpse: I’m not good enough. I don’t deserve this. I’m not experienced enough. I don’t try hard enough. I’m out of practice. I’m too weird. I’m not weird enough. I should be more intellectual. I should be more playful. And the list goes on! These are my demons. If I don’t work at keeping them away, they can take over and put an end to creating.
It has taken me years, but I have developed a few tools to combat that pitfall: I write a lot. I work between the hours of 5am and 1pm, which is when I tend to be my most creative. I give myself permission to slow down and play with materials. I rest a lot. I try to go outside every day. I talk to people who know me well and who I trust about my ideas.”– Emily Joyce
Thank you Emily for sharing your work and your story! You can find Emily’s work on her website or on Instagram at @emilyjoyceofficial.