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Artist Emily Wagner catches what needs to be caught

Emily Wagner is a San Francisco-based art student and jeweler. I connected with her through a mutual friend and was really excited to interview her because we both make jewelry. We met over Zoom earlier this month and our conversation launched a sweet new friendship as well as a zine collaboration between us. Emily shared the trajectory of her jewelry making and her artwork. Follow Emily @stolenforms and visit her jewelry shop here

Louise Buckley: How do you get started making jewelry?

Emily Wagner: I was drawing a lot of line contour faces and my friend said to me, one day, “What if you made them sculptures?” I was like, Oh, that's kind of a cool idea. The drawings were so fun to make as just casual doodles so I went for it.

LB: How is working with wire different than drawing?

EW: It’s really different! At first, I was playing around, trying to do all these crazy little loops, and all the jewelry I was making was one of a kind. Now, I kind of got this pattern down, I know how to make it sturdy enough, make it all the same shape, use the right tools. I follow a formula that I stray away from sometimes but it’s how I can make my jewelry in multiples.

LB: That’s such an awesome and fluid way to work between mediums. How would you describe the jewelry you make?

EW: It’s all really versatile, and not too heavy. It's definitely something that people comment on, and they're definitely statement pieces. I think that's why I keep making it - not for the comments, but for the excitement that it gives people. Getting people excited keeps me wanting to make this style.

LB: I bet also part of the excitement comes from the fact that it's handmade too!

EW: Yeah, exactly. I'm not a big business, and I don't have a lot of followers on Instagram, but word of mouth has been so helpful to me. I like getting to meet sick people and just starting a conversation about something else after they buy my jewelry. There is a lot of joy in handmade stuff.

LB: Totally. I think sharing what you make is such a generous and generative act. I like thinking about the group of people you’ve reached through your jewelry, and how everyone now has something in common which is this thing that you’ve made! It’s really special. Do you have any advice for people starting to sell what they make?

EW: Craft fairs are a great way to spread a small business. If you have a small business, definitely apply to craft fairs, just asking friends, friends of friends, and being in touch with other artists. Instagram now is a way to keep a business thriving. I have the most amazing group of friends who tell other people about my account who then tell other people to follow the account, and I do the same for all of the artists that I follow.

LB: Who are some artists you’re into right now?

EW: Sarah Sze, Pat Oleszko, Sara Hagale, Hail Va, and everything about Charline Von Heyl's work.

LB: I love Charline Von Heyl too, I'm going to have to look into the other artists! Are you still drawing? I’d love to see what you’re working on.

EW: Yeah. I go to Northeastern for studio art. I've been really into ink drawing and painting. Right now I'm really into world-making, meaning little universes inside universes, working with nets, and net texture. I love nets because they catch what is meant to be caught. And I think that's my philosophy life and that's, what's meant to be caught. I think that it's so much that they can hold.

LB: That’s such a beautiful philosophy and way of approaching drawing. I'm going to be thinking about catching what's meant to be caught a lot now. I would love to know more about what that means for you.

EW: I think that a lot of people, myself included, feel like they don't have a lot of control in life and are feeling like they need to cling on to things more because there’s this loss of control. To me, nets are kind of like a reminder that things, certain things will change in your life. Certain people will leave and you'll change and you shouldn't cling so tightly to any one thing. I find a net so elegant is because it catches, and it also releases.

LB: There’s so much poetry in your words and how they connect to the transparency and flow of your drawings. It’s such a sensitive idea that one drop of pigment can hold so much and create a whole world. Do you ever write?

EW: I don't really write poetry just because my art is like poetry in a way, but I love to write down random words and stream of conscious. I'm friends with a lot of jazz musicians. I write down words to sing and I sing. I think that's why these drawings are so satisfying to me because I'm just letting the net of water or the world I create, you know, do its thing, and make its own poetry.

LB: I love that a lot, we should all be able to do our thing and making our own poetry! We could talk all day about drawings and wire and jazz but I know you have a plane to catch. Thank you so much, Emily!

Photos courtesy of Emily Wagner


Louise Buckley is an artist, student, and enjoyer of water. She can be reached here.

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