Meet Glass Artist Emma Young
Emma Young is an artist who makes work mostly out of blown glass. Working out of the iconic Adelaide JamFactory studio, her blown glass pieces are bright and fun. Emma aims to evoke nostalgia and connection with her artwork, and enjoys discussing the feelings and memories her audience experience. Whether it’s her sleek thick-rimmed brown and orange ‘FruChoc Bowl’ or small spotted ‘Aussie Front Yard Flora’ vases, Emma delights in watching your face light up in realisation of the back-story informing the piece.
Ahead of today’s Instagram Live virtual tour of our Adelaide Gallery, we caught up with Emma to discuss the process of blowing glass, the path that led her to becoming a glass artist, and where she sees that path leading in the future.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?
It’s funny because I wouldn’t have labelled myself as an artsy person through school, apart from some scrapbooking with Mum. I felt very lost in art classes as the brief was overwhelmingly open, whereas maths and science classes seemed to make more sense to me. In high school, I excelled in my psychology class, and even did a year of a uni psych degree. Needing a break from essay-writing, I switched to a Visual Art degree purely for the relaxed, social aspects. I guess the life of an artist was calling to me, and after I discovered the Adelaide gem that is JamFactory, being an artist became a lot more feasible.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
There are hundreds of different techniques when it comes to making work from glass. The Corning Museum of Glass YouTube channel has some amazing step-by-step video guides. The basics of glass blowing start with a 1200ºC furnace full of clear melted, molten glass. We use a long metal pipe to ‘gather’ the gooey glass out of the furnace, then a variety of wooden and metal tools can be used to shape the glass, including our breath to blow into the pipe and inflate the glass. Adding colour to the glass can happen at different points in the process; for example, most pieces in my ‘Watermelon’ series have colour added in layers: black dots for seeds, then pink or red, then a layer of white after some more clear glass, and many greens on the outside for patterning. A very important part of creating a glass piece is having a magnificent assistant who you can trust!
People like to joke, “Oh, you must have great lungs if you’re a glass blower!” when in actual fact, the ‘blowing’ of the glass is maybe only 10% of the whole process! Another FAQ is how often we burn ourselves: well, we learn super quickly to NOT touch the molten hot glass, but most of our (infrequent) burns are from accidentally touching hot metal. We’re also sure to wear glasses, enclosed shoes, protective clothing and drink lots of water to keep ourselves safe.
How and when did it all start? How did glassblowing evolve into being your choice of creative path?
Being a Visual Art student at UniSA, I thought that photography was ‘my thing’ but upon having a taste-test of the other options, including painting, drawing, ceramics, print-making and jewellery, there was something incredibly magical about hot glass that drew me in. At this point, I had no idea what being an artist entailed, I was just thrilled to learn a new and exciting skill. As my bachelor degree finished up, I was accepted for the two year training program in the JamFactory glass workshop, where being a full-time artist really became a reality. JamFactory is accessed by so many inspiring people that it made it easier to envisage a career as there are many incredible examples to look up to.
What are some of the challenges you face as a glass artist?
A huge challenge to being a glass artist is also something wonderful – the lack of understanding the average person has about glass blowing. In a way, it’s very cool because people are mesmerised by blown glass creations, but, without any context into how the pieces are made, it’s easy to be confused by what’s involved and why different artworks have certain prices. The recent Netflix series ‘Blown Away’ (A.K.A. Masterchef for Glass Blowers) was wonderful for shedding some light on what is involved with the glass blowing process.
I also love to show followers of my Facebook and Instagram lots of behind-the-scenes content so there can be a more in depth understanding of my artwork. Many people may not even know that JamFactory have a free, publicly-accessible viewing platform in the glass blowing studio here in Adelaide – why don’t you visit us some time and watch the artists at work?!
What is some of the best career advice you’ve been given that made a difference in how you moved forward?
For years now, I’ve been working closely with another fabulous glass artist, Danielle Rickaby, whose discussions I cherish as we blow glass together each week. We’re interested in examining the role of a contemporary artist in 2020, and how galleries are only one part of our representation – social media presence is just so important! We love discussing our audience interaction and the real-time feedback we can receive from our direct followers. Nurturing the relationship between an artist and their fans online is a key focus in my own career development. I noticed the tangible effect my social media presence had when I hosted my 2019 debut solo exhibition ‘EYG’ at Urban Cow Studio in Adelaide; the opening night turn-out was incredible – such a blast!
Do you have any goals or ambitions for the future in terms of your artistic journey?
My life goal as an artist is just that: to live life as an artist. If I can adequately support myself in life as a full-time glass artist, achieving work-life balance and affording the usual comforts of a ‘normal job’ like buying a house and going on holidays, then I will be one happy camper! Ultimately, my artistic journey is empty without an audience, and I am most fulfilled when people share a connection with my artwork. If you’d like more insight into the career of a glass blower, follow me across at ‘Emma Young Glass’ on Facebook or Instagram.
Join us for another fabulous Instagram live event and take a tour of our new Adelaide gallery on King William Road. Hosted by our amazing Adelaide crew and regular IG live pro Freddy Grant, we’ll be showing off all the works currently hanging in the space. Joining our team are the amazing Emma Young and Brooke Walker.
We’ll be live from 4:30 AEST (that’s 4pm for Adelaide and 2:30 for Perth). Follow us for the notification when it starts so you don’t miss out! If you miss it live, you can watch it on our IGTV here.