Words by Marléna Ahearn
Photos by Julia Merrell
As an artist, Emily utilities her quilting knowledge to create pieces that don’t look like quilting at first glance (she enjoys being able to break the boundaries of what quilting is and how it is perceived). Only upon request does she make traditional rectangle blankets — her specialty is making “weird” shapes, juxtaposing bright colors, and making it unexpected.
Her pieces are not only bold in terms of colors and patterns, but she takes advantage and creates movement to create something really eye-catching. Her piece “Fractured Memories” was showcased in the Art in Craft Media 2017 exhibition at the Burchfield Penney Art Center and was selected for the Sylvia L. Rosen Acquisition Award. She has also exhibited at the Memorial Art Gallery’s ‘30 Under 30’ show and had a recent solo exhibition of quilts at Rochester Brainery.
Emily graduated with a BFA from Alfred University in 2011, and went on to get an MFA from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2016. Now, as an adjunct professor at RIT, she teaches a beginners quilting class and a business class for art majors to help artists build a brand and learn the legal operations of a business. With her years of practice, she loves to share her knowledge of quilting techniques and the business tools and advice she wishes she had when she started to her students at RIT.“It’s not easy, and the harder your work, the more it pays off. Running a business takes a lot of time, and it is really important to dedicate the time it deserves in order for it to flourish,” says Emily.
But, quilting wasn’t always her passion. Growing up, Emily’s mom was a traditional quilter and she rebelled against it, thinking is was boring.“I always thought quilting was really lame, but then when I was in undergrad I found an old chair on the side of the road. I thought maybe I could reupholster it with scraps [of fabric] I had. I created a huge panel of patchworking and once it was done, I couldn’t cut it up, so it became my first quilt.
From there she started Mmmily Handmade as a side hustle for coffee money during her undergrad. Now it’s her career. Supporting herself doing what she loves and being her own boss is a point of pride for Emily but nothing compares to comfort of creating something special in her home with her beloved cats Mang and Baby Cat.
“The most rewarding thing for me as an artist and business owner is when a person finds something I’ve created and they feel like it was made for them. I take a lot of time and care selecting my materials, so when someone falls in love with, or really relates to a design, I feel like I did my job,” says Emily.Check out Emily’s handmade zippered bags and lunch bags in our in-store retail shop!