Erin: What are you curious about?
Emily: I really love to travel, to explore and visit new places. Lately, I've also been pretty obsessed with trying a range of new techniques with my work, like resist dyeing, embroidery and block printing with dyes.
Erin: Describe your work and describe your process.
Emily: I start usually by making drawings and paintings or block prints on paper. Then I scan those drawings or pieces into the computer and work with them in Photoshop or Illustrator to put them into repeat that will - well, repeat all over a fabric.
Erin: You studied printmaking and painting in Georgia and have an MFA from Tufts University. With an education in art and having worked in interior design, how have these backgrounds influenced your current work?
Emily: It's funny - I come from a background in Studio Art, but I also took a lot of Art History classes as well. I was in grad school for painting and I had started to make paintings about design and architecture. I was especially interested in some of the utopian art and design movements of the 20th century, like the Wiener Werkstaette and the Bauhaus. I became more and more interested in the textiles and patterns I was seeing in some of the exhibition images and at a certain point I only wanted to paint the patterns. Then it moved to wanting to make my own patterns and then I thought that it would actually be better to screen print the patterns rather than paint them. Finally, I just really wasn't interested in only making paintings, but I wanted to make fabrics and wallpapers that would become part of a total environment - not at all unlike what the Bauhaus and Weiner Werkstaette were trying to achieve. I also had a lovely experience working at an interior design firm here in Brooklyn. I worked with a great and talented group of people, was exposed to a lot of great fabrics and designers - and gained a lot of helpful experience for my own work as well.
Erin: How do you begin creating your block and screen prints?
Emily: Sometimes my ideas come from an idea that I can visualize pretty clearly, and in those cases, I usually have an idea of how I want to get there. Other times - I start with a technique or process or maybe a material or even just a shapes, and then just really enjoy letting that guide me. I will work through trying different things with whatever I am working with.
Erin: Where do you pull your inspiration from for your playful designs?
Emily: With my background in studio art, my trajectory was pretty interdisciplinary. I did a lot of experimentation with printmaking, sculpture and photography as well as painting while in school and of course afterward. So a lot of my inspiration actually just comes from working in the studio and trying different things. But I also have a bit of an academic side, I love to spend time researching different artists, architects and processes - looking at books and going to libraries and museums is a big source of inspiration for me. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Walter Gropius House in Lincoln, MA and the Harvard Museum of Natural History are some of my recent favorites.
Erin: Tell us about your choice of fabrics and your non-toxic inks!
Emily: I really love fabric with a lot of texture - cotton and linen blends are my favorite and I try to source organic fabrics as much as I can. I print with non-toxic water based inks that are free of heavy metals and use very careful wash out and disposal methods - I really don't waste any ink. The digital printers I work with use non-toxic pigments and low impact fiber reactive dyes - one of the great things about digital printing is that it uses a lot less water and electricity than traditional processes in industrial printing - as much as 80% less. I'm also really conscious of not wasting any fabric - I re-use everything and even the margins of yardage left over from pillows don't go to waste. I reincorporate everything into new products.
Erin: You share a storefront studio space with your husband, a fellow artist and a few others. Do any collaborations come from this shared space?
Emily: I love sharing my space with my husband who is an artist along with another textile and surface designer and a fashion designer. Non of us have collaborated on anything yet, but you never know! It does make for a really motivating environment.
Erin: How did the name, Au Retour come to be?
Emily: Well, first of all, I didn't want to name my business after myself. Au Retour was a good-bye salutation used during the days of the french revolution - it isn't in common usage now. I think in that context it literally means "see you on the return" or "on the way back". But it also has the connotation of a return "home" - I like that as a metaphor for how I feel about my creative process.
Erin: What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given and by whom?
Emily: My parents have always encouraged me to work hard and cross each bridge as you come to it.
Erin: If you had one superpower what would it be?
Emily: If I had to pick a superpower... It would probably have to be to be in two places at once. That would be really useful sometimes.
Erin: If you could have a budgetless dream project, what would it look like?
Emily: I'd love to build a house with my husband - that would really be a blast with no budget!