Emily Armstrong | Episode 643
Emily Armstrong grew up on Long Island, New York and moved to Portland Maine in 2011. Emily graduated from the Maine College of Art in 2015 with a BFA in Ceramics. Emily currently works out of a community studio (Running With Scissors) and works full time in Portland’s booming restaurant industry.
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How would you define creativity?
I think creativity is, for me it is harder to describe than it is to act out. I think everyone can be creative. Everything can be creative. It is all about putting your truest self and emotion into it. I don’t know if that sounds lame, but putting something that is important to you into what ever you are doing can make it creative. Whether it is writing an article or painting on pots or painting a mural or making a sculpture. I think creativity comes more from who you are and what you enjoy rather than this notion of…a painter is creative, or a potter is creative, everything can be creative.
Is that different from being innovative?
I think so. I think creativity comes from more like your heart and this place deep inside of you where innovation is more like a smarts and a brain thing. You don’t necessarily have to be a smart, quote, unquote, person, but using your brain in a way to think logically about something and how to change something I think is more of an innovation tool. But I do think innovative and creative are very much hand in hand. They go together very well. Being innovative can inherently create this creative nature out of someone and vice versa.
How does creativity and innovation…how do they go together? How do they work together to create a new look or a new aesthetic?
I mean I think for me personally, with the work that I make right now, I look at old school forms. I am looking at traditional forms, you know, function over design all the way. But I want to make it exciting and the things that excite me are patterns and texture and color and composition. And I think for me that’s where innovation and creativity flow in my work. I am taking something that has been around forever. You’ve seen the mug. You’ve seen the cup. You’ve seen the bowl. They’re basic. And that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that but making it personal, making it new, it’s all just about handling it and how to go about designing it. I look at my work very separately. When I’m throwing on the wheel it’s this whole other part of me that kicks in. I throw everything by eye. I wouldn’t call myself a production potter but I throw in rounds. I will sit down at the wheel and I will throw thirty mugs, thirty bowls, and thirty tumblers, planters. And then once I am trimmed them all and it’s this army of work that is just sitting there. Then I will sit back and each one has something different to say. I will sit with each piece for ten to fifteen minutes just looking at it and seeing what it needs and wants. It’s hard to explain.
Does creativity have to be completely original?
I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I think you can take a basic idea and put your own small spin on it, whatever that spin might be. A lot of my imagery is super basic. I look a lot at shadows and plants. Which is not uncommon but it’s transposing it into something that is aesthetically pleasing. I think for me that is wear the creativity comes in. I think a lot about the shape of the cup that it’s on and how the lines will curve around the shape of the cup. So that they are intriguing the whole way around.
Can a person be creative and look at other people’s work for inspiration?
I think so. I mean I do think it’s a fine line between copying or plagiarizing versus inspiration. I think it has always been a fine line. a lot of my forms and I look back at historical pottery and that is where I derive a lot of my forms from. But I’m changing them, I’m altering them and moving them out of what I want to see of them now. A friend of mine gave me this wonderful reference book that he found in a dollar store and a lot of it is Meso-America shaped, styled pottery and I see that work then and I think , Well that’s awesome but how can I make that valid now? And how can I make it just as relatable now? I think it is a fine line between finding your inspiration through something versus just saying, I like that. I want to make that as well.
What tends to block your creativity or can there be blocks to creativity?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, for me personally, I put a lot of myself into my work. I spend a lot of time with it and it’s very meditative to me to be throwing and to be painting my work. It takes a lot from my insides and my soul. It’s funny, because a lot of people that know me aesthetically I am just this rough and tumble girl, I am usually wearing all black, and I probably have a punk jacket on, and I can be intimidating to a lot of people but for those that know me I’m this really soft, sincere person and if my creativity is blocked it’s usually because I am getting in my own way. I overthink. I doubt myself. And then I feel like I am not making work that is good enough. and then I will get out of my own head and I will just kind of let it go and instead of planning out a pot I will willfully start painting all over it and seeing what happens. And when that work just flows it is awesome and it feels so good.
Is creativity found more in quality time or quantity time?
You know, I don’t know. I think it’s hard to say. It looks different for each person. For me, I think I am a mix of both honestly. I can spend two weeks being so introspective thinking about what I am going to make next. What is going to be more exciting? How do I keep myself excited and keep this interesting and get new ideas? But then it can also come really quickly. I come up with so many different ideas in a matter of ten minutes and that’s being creative. I definitely think it varies from person to person. Everyone has their own creative niche it’s just about finding it and finding what works for you.