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Meet Emma Diffley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emma Diffley.

Emma, before we jump into specific questions about your art, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I sit here and I feel strange to write “My Story” due to the feeling that I am still at the beginning of Who I Am. If I could describe my visions, they look like blue skies with cotton ball clouds.

I am 20 years old and undefined. Some would characterize me as an artist, entrepreneur, painter, person, student, coworker, or peer. But I feel more like a factory worker. I’m in love with productivity. It makes me tick. When I work on anything, the fluttering, chaotic feeling of fitting pieces together and “making something happen” makes my heart expand out of my chest.

What I do now, I did when I was young. When I was six, I told my mom I wanted to be a rainbow. Now at 20, the rainbow is my life. I revolve around the color wheel and it spins me into painting, designing fabric, reupholstering furniture, constructing shoes, weaving yarn, and dyeing clothes. The list goes on.

My logic has always been, “I love this so much. I want to do this every day of my life. How can I make this happen?” The Answer: Business.

Between the ages of 10 to 13, I started a “Bookmark-Making” business that financed a brief Book Club I created. In addition, I launched a blog that focused on embroidery and crochet tutorials. My goal was to open an online shop on Etsy, but I wasn’t old enough at the time. The blog today is truly embarrassing. I remember lying in bed one night, apologizing to God, saying something along the lines of, “I’m sorry I don’t love you as much as I love to crochet.”

In high school, I became a “pin dealer.” I took the paintings I made, printed them on pin-back buttons, and sold them to my peers and teachers. This instigated a whole line of necklaces, tee-shirts, and editions of pins that I continued to sell throughout my Junior and Senior year. Around this time, I officially opened an Etsy shop called, “Arte de Emma.”

Immediately following high school, I worked at the $10 or Less Bookstore located in Northridge, CA, which is where I first publicly displayed my paintings long term. This is how I scored my first art show when artist Jessica Marie (@artnjess) came across my work and invited me to showcase my paintings at her show called “Art Baesl”, located in Chinatown back in 2017. This ignited a series of art shows I participated and sold merchandise in for the following two years.

In 2018, I transferred into Otis College of Art & Design as a Sophomore into the Fine Arts department. And this is where I am now. Currently, in the midst of my Junior year, I am the Curator of the hallways of the Fine Arts building. And on the weekends, I work at a movie theater & chuck bags of trash into the trash compactor.

Right now, I am sewing shoes.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Bumps in the road – my perfectionist screams at me. I consistently battle my own standards. I shoot to build a castle when I may only have the ability to build a house. Shooting for the moon is my religion, yet I forget to learn how to pray. By this, I’ve lost myself to spurs of frustration, crossing limits I didn’t know I had. Pushing myself harder than I can handle — and not asking for help.

This leads me to the feat of finding the courage to do things outside of my comfort zone. My natural desire is to retreat from things that seem like monsters. But with my goals, I’ve had to make choices and take action in areas that felt like jumping off a diving board into a pool I didn’t know the depth to.

I must quote a book I read in a forest.

Sheila Heti writes in “How Should A Person Be?” , “They must work – without escaping into fantasies about being the person who worked. And I don’t mean work for its own sake, but they must choose work that begins and ends in a passion, a question that is gnawing at their guts, which is not to be avoided but must be realized and live through the hard work and suffering that inevitably comes with the process.”

This is everything.

We’d love to hear more about your art.
In essence, my work is a rapture. The word itself is defined as, “an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion / a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion.”

I have no other choice but to do what I am doing.

I paint people because I am drawn to the feelings creased around the eyes. I love the exhilaration of scribbling an oil pastel, overloading a brush with paint, and drowning it in a cup of turpentine. The result is cathartic. My figures tend to be in landscapes of leafy greens or mundane rooms. These situations evoke feelings of peace.

What sets me apart from other artists is what I do with my paintings. For me, the art world has distinct borders that I am not interested in. Instead, I cater to the everyday individual. This person appreciates art but would never be able to afford an original Van Gogh — yet, they can beautify their lives with products printed with Van Gogh designs. Therefore, with my paintings, I aim to offer something similar. Every product I make begins in Fine Art.

My current projects include designing fabric taken from my paintings, reupholstering furniture and sewing hats with my original fabric designs and handmade weavings, and the most recent — shoe-making. I am obsessed with making my art functional and I aim to open an online store that offers these items (and then some) in the near future.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
When I was 12, I remember visiting a family friend who had opened an Etsy shop selling stuffed animals. She invited me to come over and help her sew them. So I did. She had two of her friends over and they were making pizza from scratch. I remember thinking one of the girls was one of the coolest girls I had ever met. She painted her nails black and told me she sewed her own prom dress. She showed me a picture and it was made out of blue chiffon. I was obsessed.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Olivia Albritton, Jennifer Jones, Emma Diffley

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