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Emma Shaw Chalk Board Artist

Words: Annie French

Images: Emma Shaw

Emma Shaw (ES) is a practicing artist, a mum, and works at Chesterfield College as part of the West Studios team. Emma talks to Annie French (AF) about her art, mental health and her inspiration.

AF: This month's S40 and S41 Local front covers are both on the theme of ‘Peace, Love and Positivity’. Where did this idea come from?

ES: Simon and Bekah, the editors of S41 Local, sign off their blogs with ‘Peace, Love and Positivity', and this got me thinking about what that means. Being a good person, human nature and staying positive in life are what many of us aspire to. I got this idea in my head and my creativity started to flow. Sometimes I don’t know where an idea will take me.

AF: How did you get into art?

ES: I don’t know, it’s something I've always done. I did Contemporary Arts at University, in dance and performing arts, I then went to work for the Pigeon Theatre Company in Manchester.

AF: How did you get into Chalk Board Art?

ES: Before my degree I worked in a pub and really enjoyed creating signs, I think it fed my need to make my art perfect. I’ve worked on local commissions in Chesterfield. The Society Coffee Shop and Bar wanted me to use Gold Leaf on their board, which was a steep learning curve, but it was really satisfying to achieve straight lines with such a delicate material.

AF: You used flowers for the magazine cover boards, can you tell us more about this?

ES: Years ago, whilst I was studying for my degree, I read about sacred geometry, the Fibonacci sequence and how it can be found all around us in nature. I wanted to use the flower of life in my design for this board, the overlapping geometric petals of a flower.

AF: Emma you’re a single mum, does this inform your art or distract you?

ES: It’s a juggling act. I suffered badly with post-natal depression, I just felt I could not do anything, I could not produce anything, I felt stifled and did not feel like myself, everything I tried felt pointless.

AF: Has art helped you through this?

ES: Not in the beginning, my brain was fogged, my hands wouldn’t work, I couldn’t get the information from my brain into my hands. Slowly it lifted and I started doing small projects from magazines using textiles, and the creativity gradually came back. A lot of my textile art is to do with my need to create but not having the time to perfect it.

AF: Art can play an important part in mental health recovery; do you see your career moving in that direction?

ES: No, I’m too close to it. I would be better participating in a class than facilitating one. I’m very happy with where I’m at now, watching my son grow, doing chalk board commissions. That’s not to say I’m not ambitious. I’m hoping to put together an exhibition in the next few years.

AF: Are you working on a theme for this?

ES: Motherhood, juggling with time and the stream of conscience that plays with my need for perfection. I am constantly battling with these issues, so instead of fighting it, I’m working with it to see what I can create with the materials available to me.

AF: Thank you for being so honest about your mental health and how it affected your art. So, my final question, who is your favourite artist and why?

ES: I would have to say Escher; my Mum had a book at home that I used to look at for hours. I also admire the artist Alphonse Mucha, who created beautiful decorative theatrical posters... there are so many.

AF: Thank you Emma, I’ve really enjoyed talking with you, I hope our readers enjoy your story too.

Annie French.

Peace, Love and Positivity (It’s catching)


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