BeFab Be Creative, Meet the Maker, Uncategorized

Meet the Maker – Emily May of Tequila Mockingbird

What is your greatest achievement so far, and what are you particularly proud?

I graduated in 2014 and at New Designers won the Clothworkers’ Award for Printed Textiles.  When Scarlett Oliver presented me with the prize she said ‘we loved your work, but we loved you too.’ It was a comment that sent my confidence through the roof and made me believe that I was capable of anything as long as I was true to myself.

I went on to enter The Winston Churchill Design Competition with a silk scarf I created and was lucky enough to win second prize and 13 months of experience working for Pentland Brands Plc.  The Clothworkers’ still invite me to their annual banquet and this year asked me to go back to New Designers and judge the 2016 winner.  I owe an awful lot to them, not least that unshakable determination they gave me.

How would you describe your work?

I love words and a passion for narrative and storytelling lies behind everything I create. One of the things I find most fascinating about scarf design is the fact that a scarf is a simple square, it has boundaries, but the things you can do within them are endless.  It gives me a real buzz to think that when a client comes to me with a list of things they love and I turn their ideas into a beautiful one off piece it’ll be sparking conversations for years to come.


Describe your work space?

I have a studio in the garden that’s crammed full of old tins, bits of embroidery, and posters of the digestive system.  It never really dawned on me till recently how influenced I am by vintage objects and faded typography, I must have been unconsciously collecting for years, I looked up, suddenly realised I was surrounded and thought ‘ahh, I understand why I spend my weekends painting down at the junk yard now’.

When do you work best, are you up with the lark or a night owl?

I’m a bit of both really.  When I have an idea my brain doesn’t really pipe down until I’ve got up and dealt with it.  That does involve working late, but sometimes a problem I’ve been struggling with works itself out overnight and I’ll start really early to plot out a design.

How do you overcome designers block?

It depends on how big the block is because sometimes I find just by putting down the pen and hand rolling some hems helps.  It’s a really therapeutic process and needs just the right amount of concentration to let your imagination wander.  But if the block is a tough one getting out of the studio is always the answer.  It doesn’t have to be to anywhere exciting, just by going to look at some shops and seeing what’s occurring currently in the design world can work wonders.


Where did your love for design originally develop from, what or who have been your influences?

It’s no new thing to hear that a designer is dyslexic.  When I was small struggled with everything academic and spent rainy day playtimes drawing cats dying of starvation (still have this) and very unflattering pictures of my mum with an enormous bottom washing my sister’s hair in the bath (this too).  I’ve always been influenced by art that’s made me laugh or kept me interested for more than just the time you spend standing in front of it.  One of my favourite pieces of all time is ‘Wooden Boulder’ by David Nash, look it up and I dare you not to fall in love with it.

Your home is on fire, what is the one thing you save from the blaze?

I have a beautiful old Winsor and Newton wooden paintbox.  It’s a great conversation starter if I’m drawing out and about people are generally more interested in it than the thing I’m working on at the time.  It’s also one of my favourite things to illustrate, I like to paint it every year or so as it makes a great marker to see how I’m improving.


In terms of procrastination, what are you doing, when you should be doing something else?

I hate to say it but I’m always on instagram.  When I first started sharing my work it was a sort of necessary evil for getting myself out there but it now plays an important part of my process.  Anyone creative is bound to be very visual and instagram is just that, loads and loads of pictures.  For me it’s a great place to be inspired and test what works and what doesn’t without any pressure.  People don’t have to draw pictures to develop their own aesthetic, and you can look back through posts and feel like the curator of you own little museum.  It is great.

It’s been a long week, what’s in your glass (or mug) on a Friday night?

Anything cold & crisps down at The Brown Bear in front of the fire.

You have clients coming round, do you bake or buy in the treats to go with your tea/coffee, what are they and why?

Being a coeliac I am forever unhappy with what the shops have to offer so I’m always testing out new recipes.  Although, my latest craze is homemade hummus so if a client makes an appointment at the moment they’re going to subjected to various different flavours including peanut butter, and artichoke, with oatcakes.

Music: What’s on your Studio Play list:

Physical Track:     Girlfriend is Better- Talking Heads

When I commuted every day this was my walking into work, power up, ready for anything song.  Still makes me feel fierce and cool.

Inheritance Track:     The Ballad of Barry and Freda- Victoria Wood

My mum made sure that my sister and I were exposed to Victoria Wood from a very young age.  I have a vivid memory of singing ‘bash me on the bottom with the woman’s weekly’ as I stood on a stool to brush my teeth.  Age 6- this is the first song I ever learnt all the words to and there’s hope I’ll never be any less inappropriate.

Emotional Track:     Cut Here- The Cure

An old favourite.

Album:     Anything by The Divine Comedy, they’re my favourite band of all time.  But, at the moment I’d say their ‘Victory for the Comic Muse’ gets repeated more than the neighbours can tolerate.

Advice: A few pearls of wisdom here.

What is the best advice, you’ve ever been given, business, creative or both and who gave it to you?

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”  Ira Glass


If you were starting out again now, what advice would you give your younger self.

Just keep going.

We like to hear about new and up and coming designer and artists, can you recommend someone new that we should know about, and why do you like their work?

I got involved in Handmade at Kew this year and made some fantastic new friends and met some great new designers, Rachel Mynott is both of these things.  Her collection of ‘Up the Garden Path’ silk scarves are stunning.  She uses ink to illustrate her designs and has the most beautiful autumnal colour palette, and I really really want one.

What is it that draws you to work with fabric and what benefits to your process does Digital Printing bring?

I love the idea that a scarf can be something to make someone feel beautiful, contain a print to make a person laugh, or simply be a piece of art in itself.  I work in watercolour and chose to print onto silk twill because the weave of the fabric brings out the variations in the colour and gives it a unique depth.  When a design is printed, and the hem has been hand rolled a very tactile and magical object is created.


And lastly, whose words inspire you, a quote to live life by?

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out” Dr. Suess

If you want to find out more about Emily you can find her in all these lovely places too:

Website : Facebook : Twitter : Instagram : Blog


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