My hope when leaving ECA was to find job and begin a career in a field related to art, to continue my own art practice on the side, then see where the two things might take me. I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself about finding a specific thing, so the only criteria I gave myself was 'art related'. I applied for what feels like every job vacancy without catching a break, so I came up with a new plan to do any kind of paid work to support myself and my art practice and do some voluntary work, to try and gain the experience I was lacking.
Were there any opportunities that came your way?
The first opportunity came from my degree show at ECA, I was fortunate to be selected for RSA NEW CONTEMPORARIES. This meant that I had something concrete to aim for and I had to keep developing my ideas and research to come up with a brand new piece. I also got a job in a cocktail bar, so I was working full-time, volunteering my free-time to set design and events decoration, and working on my RSA ideas in a studio called The Art House. I've been really busy.
Then out of the blue, two weeks before the opening of the RSA exhibition, I got an email from The Suttie Arts Space in Aberdeen. They had seen my work in the ECA degree show and tracked me down to commission me to make a new sculptural piece for them, to be on display for 8 weeks from the beginning of May 2016. My first ever paid commission!
What is your biggest achievement since leaving ECA?
My biggest achievement since leaving ECA has to be that from my work in the RSA New Contemporaries Exhibition I was awarded the Glenfiddich Artist in Residency Award. What makes this award special is that it is an opportunity for me to completely immerse myself in developing my practice by providing me with a house, a studio and a budget for making new work, without having to support myself by working alongside making. As an emerging artist there really isn't anything greater than what Glenfiddich are offering me; total creative freedom, and the space and time for it to thrive.
What advice would you have for anyone who is leaving this year?
Try to keep a positive relationship with your artist practice, putting too much pressure on yourself to be 'successful' overnight is unrealistic and it can make how you feel about your art pretty toxic, rather than something that you have passion for and enjoy.
Keep the momentum going. Apply for every opportunity, say yes to as many things as you can. Having a keen interest in current art events also helps, you'll meet people and hear about things which will open doors for you, or at least help you out along the way.
Get used to getting knocked back, but have confidence in your ideas, keep experimenting and trust your own judgment. Not everything works all the time, but get your work out there, it helps with your development.
Make sure you are easy to find online.
Emily studied Sculpture - BA (Hons) at Edinburgh College of Art. Find out more about this programme.