Every so often you stumble upon such an aesthetically pleasing Instagram page that your scrolling thumb eventually begins to stiffen in protest. This is what happened when I discovered the glorious profile of Emma McDowall – the brain child behind Edinburgh-based homeware brand Studio Emma.
KK and I went along to her studio to find out more about how Emma’s business has developed from experimenting with materials in her parents’ garden shed to shipping her concrete creations to household names around the world.
Like most people of our generation, at some point post-uni Emma found herself making the obligatory move back in with her parents to figure out Life’s Next Chapter. It was during this period that she was able to exploit her spare time and lack of uni commitments to start creatively experimenting.
“I didn’t have access to all the textile equipment and materials I had at Art School which was frustrating”, she explains.”But it led me to source other materials and make new processes so I could satisfy the craving I had to just make!”
After discovering cement in her dad’s shed, she began experimenting with it, mixing together different materials and using objects she’d found to create forms.
After this of course came the introduction of her trademark bright colours. “I found the contrast of concrete as a solid, industrial material and the playful colour palettes an interesting concept, and it was something I wanted to experiment with further”, says Emma.
Concrete and colour
I find Emma’s designs so intriguing because they’re simple yet mysterious, with an end result that is so far removed from the mental idea most people would have of concrete (for me: ’60s architecture and road maintenance.)
One of the most popular pieces she makes are the square vessels, whose shape is quite industrial but whose sides resemble what Emma describes as “tiny abstract paintings”. Of course it’s this deviance of concepts that makes her art so eye catching and unique (…as I said before, an Instagrammer’s dream).
…how does she do it? “I mix the concrete adding vivid colour before pouring the moulds in layers”, Emma explains. Leaving them to dry, she then removes the pieces from their moulds – the part of the whole process which is Emma’s favourite. “The surface pattern and texture is unpredictable so that makes it exciting – no two pieces are ever the same.”
The colour, the texture, the sheer unpredictability of it all. Instagram is one thing, but it proved too much for me in the flesh.
And that, readers, is how I ended up buying an entire box of homewares to adorn my flat with.
Home and away
When we arrived at the studio and immediately began fawning over all the different shapes and colours of some of her finished products, we found out that lots of them were on their way to Iceland for stockists there.
When prompted by two excitable fangirls masquerading as bloggers, Emma listrs in casual nonchalance some of the exclusive brands who stock her products, and it’s clear her products command a universal appeal.
But what is it about the brand that attracts both a domestic and an international following?
“I think people like the use of colour in the designs. Colour makes people happy and they find the products to be fun.” If anyone’s looking to practice better modesty as a New Year’s resolution, we’ve found your gal.
“I also think sometimes in our culture full of cheap, mass produced design people find craftsmanship refreshing. They like something which has been made with consideration and passion, it makes the product feel special and with each piece being complete unique – it is special!”
Photos by KK Land