We first started talking to Emily Brookfield of Emily Only
at the end of 2019, we had discovered her work via Instagram and were determined to get her online before Christmas and have her as part of our pop-up shop! Little did we know (being our first pop-up) that Christmas pop-up shops are rather time-consuming and not a great time to try and add a new maker.
Finally, after many chats backwards and forwards we welcome Emily Only to our list of talented creatives, we are so in love with her pastel tones and irregular textures, we hope you love her too. Today we chat to Emily about learning the ropes, finding her style and why shopping small is so important.
1. You're relatively new to the ceramic scene having only taken your first class in 2016, what was it that you found so appealing and lead you to study ceramics at RMIT?
I've always been creative in some way from a young age but struggled to find something that I'd stick to. I'd always lose interest pretty quickly. I was working in retail in a tea shop at the time and they would get in these gorgeous hand-thrown stoneware tumblers and chawans (Japanese tea bowls) with amazing textures and glazes. I was really drawn to the texture and tactility of the pieces (I still have a few of them and I'm very attached to them.) I always wished I could make them so I eventually looked up local studios for classes and then one day on the train into work I bit the bullet and signed up for a class and it began from there. I learnt how to make functional pieces and was selling them at markets around Victoria. While I really loved it, and I might revisit the market scene again, I had no time for developing new things so I lost my inspiration to create. I decided to go to uni to change my thinking from purely functional work to sculptural and even after one year of uni (I'm currently in my second year) I have seen a huge shift in my personal practice.
2. You're already expressing a personal style and direction with your pieces, would you say this is intentional, or is a large part of your work still highly experimental?
I would say it's still evolving and will always evolve. I feel that there will always be an element of my work that is functional in some way and that I will always have a distinct style that is my own, as do other artists and makers, but I'm learning new things every day about ceramics and I don't believe there will be a point in my lifetime that I will have learnt everything there is to know about the medium and that's what's driving me. People change over time as well so it would be boring if I kept making the same work all the time (in my opinion haha).
The new Emily Only pieces available to shop online now
3. Your use of pastel tones is very unique and one of the original things that drew us to your work, what inspired you to divert from the classic ceramic colours we often see?
I've always loved colour and wanted to find a way that I could incorporate it into my work that was playful and fun but was also tasteful at the same time. I wanted this particular body of work to have the colour as the supporting act to the texture of the pieces and I think it's worked out really well. While I like traditional colours in pottery it's not really my personal style or taste so I wanted to create pieces that were more of a true representation of me, if that makes sense?
4. Tell us about your space, where do you create your work, do you work with others or have your own space?
Currently, my space is a spare room in my rental out in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I have space for a wheel, kneading table and a few shelves and that's all I need really at this stage. I do have a little kiln in the shed which has been super handy and I love it. On my shelves, I have an array of indoor plants because they just make everything better and liven up the space. I've also own lots of notebooks where I've scribbled ideas and measurements etc. I've also go work from friends, test tiles, tools and ceramic/pottery books.
5. What makes for an inspiring workplace for you? Are there any objects or keepsakes that you have in your space that inspire you or you hold close to your heart?
Definitely a light-filled space with lots of nature surrounding me is important. Also as mentioned in the previous question I have pieces from friends around my studio. I definitely believe that surrounding yourself with objects you hold dear is important. They hold the markings of the person who made that piece and they each have their own personality and quirks which I find makes the space interesting.
Sometimes working from home alone can be isolating so finding a balance where you can spend time alone but also time with others that you can bounce ideas off or even just a chat with is really important. That's another reason that drew me to going back to uni - being surrounded by other like-minded people regularly. Ideally, I'd love to work in a shared studio space with other artists and makers but that's something to work to for the future!
6. At Maker's Mrkt we believe that shopping small, shopping local and taking care about who you support with your spending is very important. Why is shopping small important to you?
I definitely believe that shopping small and supporting local makers and artists is so important. Especially now more than ever we need to keep the community going. The money you spend on a piece from a sole trader or small business is going directly to supporting that person to pay their bills, put food on the table and put that money back into the community where it matters. You know who's making the work and how much time and effort goes into each and every item and most small businesses owners and sole traders are taking on the role of social media officer, marketing manager, photographer, stylist, accountant, retail assistant, customer service and maker all in one.
7. What are some of the main struggles that you face as a young artist developing her practice?
Patience. One thing ceramics has taught me is patience. The entire process can be so unpredictable and blow up in your face at any time so practicing patience and keeping a level head has been a huge learning curve for me. Social media and the internet are amazing tools to gather inspiration but it can also impact negatively on your practice because you can find yourself comparing your progress with others. That coupled with everything has to be new and now and you always have to be making new things and posting about it in order to get seen in order to sell etc it can get overwhelming. I've been teaching myself to switch off from social media when possible so that I can focus on my work and make work that I enjoy making and that is uniquely me. It's ok to be wherever you are in your creative practice, don't try to rush things.
8. Tell us about your creative process, are you a big planner, or more prone to just get in and see what happens?
I am not a planner AT ALL. I get a vague idea in my head and go with it and see where it goes. sometimes I hate it and sometimes it turns out amazing. I've started making models and test pieces at a smaller size to see how they turn out and if they need tweaking I'll make another and when I'm happy with it I will create the final piece. But mostly I just get in there and it usually turns out how I want it.
9. What are your plans for 2020 (other than just making it through all of the nightmares), do you have any new collections you're working on, any shows planned? What's next for Emily Only?
At the moment my main focus is on uni and getting through the madness. I will be part of a group show at Red Gallery called Rock Paper Scissors in May though and I do plan on creating a collection to be launched this year but I'm not sure of the dates/times etc. Keep an eye out on my social media for more info and updates though! @emily.only
10. You're a young creative, what makes a home feel homely to you? What do you think makes a beautiful home space? Do you have your eye on anything?
What don't I have my eyes on!!!?? But seriously, I would looooove a wall piece by Louise Kyriakou. They're so cute and I love the geometric shapes and tribal patterns she uses to create her pieces. Really anything by local makers and friends. I love trading as well. I traded a mug for an old film camera with a friend not long ago. It's so much fun! Pieces that have a story to tell make a house a home in my opinion. My partner and I rent and the majority of our decor is stuff that I or friends have made, photos of friends and family, mementos from our travels, pieces we've thrifted, books and indoor plants.
You can shop Emily Only here