Spotlight: Emily Eisenhart
Spotlight: Emily Eisenhart
Today’s Spotlight brings us one of the coolest, kindest and most creative ladies holding it down in Austin, Texas — visual artist, Emily Eisenhart. Emily and I met last Summer at the Austin Madewell Commons opening where she had worked on the store’s incredible construction mural, opening windows and in-store wall art — if you’ve seen a Madewell mural in the past year, she’s the brains behind the beauty. Now, I’m lucky enough to call her a pal and always leave a hang with her feeling inspired. There’s something about getting creative women together in an open space where the conversation goes in circles and back again, on all topics from creating, running businesses, to politics, travel and the list goes on — until you look at the time and it’s been hours. Last week I spent some time with this darling lady and gave her a few questions to answer for us, here’s what she had to say along with a few of her favorite quotes for an added dose of inspiration —
What’s been your biggest inspiration?
EE: I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, the daughter of an artist and anthropologist, and from a very young age was curious about color play, natural environments, and other people and cultures. I was fortunate to travel quite extensively with my family, everywhere from the American Southwest to Central and South America, and think that I began creating a mental archive of patterns—from textiles to paintings to ancient pottery sherds—that I still reference as inspiration today, even if subconsciously. I ended up studying Cultural Anthropology in college, which delved me even deeper into this subject. I was especially fascinated by ancient art and language (pictographs and petroglyphs, ancient hieroglyphics), utilitarian objects that felt artful (decorated clay pots, colorful frescoes, ornate wooden panels), and the ways in which objects were constructed and visual stories were told. At a show last year in San Francisco a visitor inquisitively looking at my line work asked “Are you inspired by petroglyphs?” and I realized for the first time that yes, that was very likely the case.
My work this past year has been especially colorful and vibrant. I’m constantly looking at the world around me—what styles and patterns people are wearing, the colors of a sunset or sunrise, the cast of shadow from a street lamp, the ripples on a lake on a windy day. Even paint scrapes on the side of a garbage dumpster can make a beautiful composition. If you think about it, nearly everything is—or could be—a canvas.
I also draw much inspiration from engaging with people. I learn the most about my art and process by hearing from others what they experience when they engage with my art—what they see, what questions they have. Being on a public mural site is a cherished experience. The joy people get from seeing the behind-the-scenes is palpable and the ability for me to connect with a community during the creation of a piece is powerful and rather rare. I believe everyone is creative, it’s just whether or not they tap into it. I’m ever inspired by kid artists. They are completely uninhibited and creatively very explorative. It’s a shame that many of us let that part of ourselves shrink (or—gasp!—entirely disappear) as we grow older. I have a 4-year old artist mentee here in Austin, Cora. We’ve collaborated on art pieces and she helps me with fresh perspective.
What’s your favorite part about living in Austin?
EE: I’ve lived in many great American cities—Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco—but Austin has captured my heart. There are many things that I love about this town. It’s fresh, lively, friendly, curious. There’s a very vibrant creative community. When a new restaurant or hotel opens, chances are the team is assembled by a group of creative friends—from the branding to the menu to the interior design, even the staff. It feels intimate here, and in my experience, much more collaborative than competitive. The small business community, especially women-run businesses, are very supportive of each other. I am grateful to be a part of several groups, including Broad Studios, which I helped launch in 2017 with five other exceptional women artisans. This town has dynamic and industry-diverse clients here (with more moving here every day) which keeps work thrilling. This has been the ideal city to start my independent art and design career.
From an environment standpoint, I love that you can be outside any day of the year, running on the hike bike trail around the lake or sitting on a patio somewhere listening to music. Much of my recent art is inspired by Austin’s sunny disposition (in personality and in weather), its native plants, and the fun-loving spirit of this town.
What projects can we look for?
EE: I’m a visual artist whose canvas is always changing, be it a 150-foot wall awaiting a mural, textiles looking for a vibrant print, or a canvas ready for paint. I feel fortunate to have a diverse array of clients and projects. It keeps my creative and business life dynamic, and there is always something unique in the pipeline. I’m currently working on designing my largest mural yet—it will be seven stories tall on a prominent corner of a new building in Seattle. Designing for this large of a scale has pushed my craft and process in exciting ways.
In expanding my studio space on the east side, I’ve allowed for more opportunity to invite people over. I’ll be launching a series of creative workshops this fall—from collage, to sumi ink, to block printing. I’m also hosting workshops at other spaces in Austin (September 26 at The Commune ATX, and December 3rd at The South Congress Hotel). I will be participating in the East Austin Studio Tour in November and invite everyone to come through. I’ve been polishing a series of prints that will be launching on my site in early October.
2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year—I’ll be participating in an artist residency in Oregon in January, then head into SXSW in Austin, and in May I’ll be having a solo show at Preacher Gallery. While painting and illustration are my forte, I’ve been experimenting with clay and am about to dive into more sculptural work. I look forward to what lies ahead!