Interview by Daniel Mariotti
Photos by Daniel Mariotti and Rebecca Emily
Rebecca Emily is a printmaker and creative currently located in Phoenix, Arizona. She joined the Bollinger team in 2021 and has worked in various departments, finally landing in wax where she replicates textures and creates the gating systems in the lost wax process.
BA: Was there a difference moving into making sculpture coming from a printmaking background?
Rebecca: I think one lends itself to the other. They’re both heavily process-based forms of making art where each step is very important and informs the next. Depending on how well you do each step will change the final outcome of the piece. I also like the way something feels such as the tactility of paper. In sculpture not only do you have that massive feeling of weight but also so many different textural surfaces.
BA: Can you talk about making your first bronze piece?
Rebecca: Well, I first made some bronze bells at Arcosanti when I worked there for a year. And those were for the most part pre-made molds and sand patterns where I got to learn a lot about the process of casting bronze. However, I didn’t make my first independent sculpture from start to end until I got here for our group show, “Melting Point” at Vision Gallery. The whole process was exciting and challenging because the material does not lend itself to be easily understood or manipulated. It takes a lot of time. I really enjoyed learning the finishing ends of bronze work, especially here on the scale that we do things, and seeing all of that kind of come together.
BA: What jobs have you done other than being an artisan?
Rebecca: I worked as a printing apprentice for a Gyotaku (fish printing) artist in Salem Massachusetts. I worked with a lot of local fishermen. They would bring us their catch that they were really proud of and we would print the fish for them as a kind of artistic way of commemorating their catch. It’s actually an older Japanese art form used for capturing and recording a catch. I really liked that and also it’s super sustainable. You can just wash the fish off, and you’re good to eat it or sell it.
BA: I assume you don’t use a press.
Rebecca: No. You set up your fish how you want with things like insulation foam and then pin it down. You then ink that up, traditionally with Sumi ink, and lay the paper down on top. Traditionally, you’re using Japanese rice paper, so they have that more fabric-like quality to bend around the fish without folding or crinkling. And then you just rub it to create an exact image of the fish.
BA: Is there a favorite piece you’ve worked on here?
Rebecca: I love working on “Tingle, Tangle, Mingle, Mangle” by Misha Kahn because A) it’s really fun to say and B) I loved the shapes individually without knowing the final piece. And then when I finally got to see the full thing, I thought, “this is even better”.
BA: That seems to actually parallel really well with your work, you have a bunch of different pieces that are cool, individually, and create a great piece together.
Rebecca: Yeah, I kind of smash things together and it just works. I don’t know why, it just does.
BA: Do you have an art style you gravitate to?
Rebecca: I don’t really know; I think collage is probably the best way to describe most of the work that I’ve been doing. I like silly things. Fun arts, comics, cartoons. Using the whole page kind of thing.
What really makes me like creating is the experimentation and process of it all not necessarily about the pieces themselves. So, oftentimes my favorite pieces that I’ve made are based on how I’ve made them, like screenprinting cosmetic products to create an image.
BA: How are the things you learn at Bollinger transferred to your own work?
Rebecca: The things that I enjoy about this job that I would like to continue in my own life are making artwork for other people and that collaborative aspect of the process. Being the maker, not necessarily the creator or the idea pusher, but rather figuring out how to make other people’s ideas come to life, I think is a really valuable skill. Ultimately I would like to help other people make their stuff for as long as possible.
BA: Do you have a personal project going on?
Rebecca: Yeah. I’ve been working with some really great artisans here at Bollinger. Which also, what a perk of the job to work with other talented people who want to make things outside of what we make together daily. Anyway, we started a small collective called “Darore Collective”. We are pulling limited run screen prints and other things like stickers, upcycling clothes with our designs, and collaborating with other artists. It’s been great because I love printmaking. And I love it on a more casual, less commercial note, and I love the idea of an atelier for print like the women of Atelier 17 that I studied in school.
Besides that, I’ve been bedazzling. I love kitsch. I love the elevated craft. Especially stuff that toes the line between a children’s toy or a kitschy, bookshelf object and something you see on a white wall in a gallery.
Find out more about Rebecca through her website: https://www.rebeccaemily.net/
and Instagram page: @re_prints