Emily Counts is a visual artist and jewelry designer, born and raised in Seattle. She currently lives in Portland where she creates work in her home studio. She studied at the Hochschule der Kunste in Berlin and the California College of the Arts, where she received her BFA.
Currently, her large-scale ceramic piece, Sisu Sequence, is on display in the Store. The work featuring cast bronze, silver, and porcelain pieces, is part of a series in which she experiments with stacked and connected objects, which are made by placing individual, largely ceramic, pieces on a rope like over-sized beads. We spoke with Emily recently.
Photography by George Barberis
What was your main area of focus during your years in College? How has your practice changed and evolved over the years?
I received my BFA in painting at the California College of the Arts. During that time I worked initially in oils then transitioned to watercolor and gouache works on paper. After graduating I immediately started to experiment with installation and sculpture. For many years I created large installations but my practice and interest in materials has become more focused. I am now creating sculpture mainly in ceramics with the addition of other materials such as wood and bronze.
Tell us about your studio practice. What does a typical day look like for you?
I have a home studio that includes areas for my ceramic and sculpture work, as well as a metals work bench and production table for my jewelry company St. Eloy. Throughout the day I am in and out of the studio and I also usually work late at night when there are very few distractions. I separate blocks of time into one project such as ceramic glazing or metal finishing. I tend to work on art on different days than I make jewelry; although these two practices share a physical space I prefer to have mental separation between the two.
What is inspiring you right now? Art, music, fashion…
Lately I have been drawn to sculpture with simple forms that are stacked or have the appearance of balancing—certain pieces from William Turnbull, Constantin Brancusi, and Isamu Noguchi. I am interested in pieces that have the ability to play with gravity and perception. Along with these more abstract forms, I am also inspired by work that deals with the body by sculptors such as Alina Szapocznikow, Louise Bourgeois and David Altmejd.
How does the landscape and culture of the Pacific Northwest inform your work?
As a child I spent a lot of time on beaches around Puget Sound and I think that all the objects I found there—rocks, barnacles, agates, beach glass—have influenced my work. These things that tumble around in the salt water connect to my affinity for clay and other enduring, elemental materials.
What’s next? Are you working on any special projects or commissions?
I am currently working on sculptures for an upcoming solo exhibition at Carl & Sloan Contemporary in Portland, opening in March 2016. Several of these pieces will be large-scale, challenging structures that extend through space. I am excited to experiment with new materials and techniques such as cast concrete, larger cast bronze components, and ceramic marbling.