In Process #006 — Emmely Elgersma


In Process is a series of studio visits with artists, makers, dancers, musicians and other creatives.

Emmely Elgersma is a London-based sculptor, painter and ceramicist.

These images of Emmely at work were shot during her time on the Elephant Labs residency at ColArt in West London at the end of January 2019.

Emmely is currently showing in the ULTRA group show at Bomb Factory, Unit 2B2, Boothby Road, London, N19 4AJ. The show is open until 27 July 2019. Presented by OOF, it features art for the Women’s World Cup by eight female artists. Emmely’s piece highlights the tragic story of Abdelhak Nouri — former Ajax and Netherlands Under 19s star — who collapsed during an Ajax friendly against Werder Bremen in 2017, after he suffered a cardiac arrhythmia attack which resulted in severe and permanent brain damage.

I recently shot a mini doc following Emmely as she mounted a challenge to the Guinness World Record for largest paper mâché sculpture and hope to release it by the end of summer 2019.


What unusual habit or absurd thing do you love? This could be a studio ritual or something in your wider life...

Walking everywhere, I am currently aiming for 5 miles a day.

Are there any quotes that you think of often or live your life by? Or, what is a great piece of advice that helped you in your life or art making?

When I was doing my residency with Elephant Lab back in January, for the first week everything I made was utterly foul – the colours, etc. — everything was just off. I kept shoving it in a box in the corner where I couldn’t see it but then I had a studio visit from Becca, curator of Elephant West. She made me get it all out and curated a ‘ugly show’ for me, then told me that sometimes it is good to look at the bad stuff so that you can see what not to do again. That really helped me try to get over always having to be a perfectionist — sometimes it’s okay if the stuff you make is disgusting, because you have to get it out of your system for the good stuff to come. 


Who are your art icons and why? Who or what is the biggest non-art influence on your work?

Ron Nagle, William Scott, Kathy Butterly, Betty Woodman, Francis Upritchard, Morandi, CY Twombly, Arlene Shechet….  are just to name a few! And biggest non- art influence… Son Heung-Min. 

What is the book (or books) that you have gifted the most and why? Or what are the 1-3 books that have greatly influenced your life?

Carson McCullers The Heart is a Lonely Hunter but not because I have read it... I love Ballad of a Sad Café, it is actually one of few books I have read more than once. I  always wanted to read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter so gifted it several times in hope that one day it would come back round to me. It hasn’t yet, but I am totally in awe of her 


What made you choose the materials and techniques that you use? How have they changed over time?

I chose to use Papier-mâché as my primary material about 4 years ago. I felt it was a medium similar to clay, which I was using prior to my MAFA a few years ago. I found that the length of time it takes to fire clay really ate into my practice. I like to work with quick turnovers, so naturally I transitioned to a material which pretty much dries and sets over night. Also, it is cheap and readily available using the free papers you get on the tube, so I don’t become precious over what I am using it for. This frees me to experiment without worrying about the cost. 


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a 'favourite failure'?

I guess making big sculptures out of papier-mâché always results in a lot of failure because of the fragility of the material. I don’t have a favourite failure, but my most dramatic one must be when three of the 8ft pots that I made for my degree show decided to explode due to the pressure and stress of being transported from my studio to Chelsea College of Arts parade ground. I had 4 days to remake them… 


What are you learning at the moment?

I started working in an Adult University a couple of days a week in Wimbledon and now for the first time living in London, I have a long commute to work in the morning. I have been doing everything to avoid staring at my phone whilst doing this. I really struggle to read on the tube, so instead I am memorising the tube map. District, Circle, Victoria and Central are now locked in and I am working on the others in the hope that maybe it will lead to pub quiz success or something. 

What do you do when you are feeling uninspired or overwhelmed?

I know this is really boring, but simply a long walk seems to sort me out. An hour a day of just fading away mentally, listening to some music and getting from A to B. Also, the pub always seems to help if I have no clue as to what I am meant to be doing. 


Find out more about Emmely Elgersma here: / @emmely