The holiday season is just around the corner, and when it comes time to put up your tree, you’ll want to save a branch for Maymont’s first-ever commemorative ornament! This limited release is the inaugural piece in a planned series featuring local artists.
Starting November 13, the first 80 people to purchase a family membership will receive a complimentary ornament designed and hand-crafted by this year’s artist, Emily Delahunty of Morris + Norris. We stopped by Emily’s studio for a behind-the-scenes look at the ornament-making in action and to chat with her about RVA, what inspires her work and what she loves about Maymont.
How long have you lived in Richmond?
I moved to Richmond in 2006 for college, so I’ve lived in Richmond just about 11 years now.
What about living in Richmond inspires your work?
I’ve always been interested in the interplay between old and new, and Richmond is full of that in many senses. There’s an older, ornate style of architecture alongside more modern constructions, and new murals on the side of the same older row houses. Another great thing about Richmond is the vibrant cultures and perspectives that are present here. I’m hugely inspired by the ideas, communities, and events that flow and mesh together.
What’s your background? How did you get into what you do now? (And what do you call it?)
Well, going way back, my Dad has always been a renaissance man. He’s an accomplished potter, woodworker, and watercolorist and also creates stained glass. Following his example, I loved to hang out in my dad’s studio with him and just make things. In college, I studied Painting and Printmaking and Literature at VCU, but it took about six years after college to get back into making things. About two years ago, a good friend and talented jeweler, Danielle Stevens, encouraged me to lease a room with her in a studio space called the Elevator Collective. That was a game-changer. I was surrounded by six women who owned businesses and were supportive and knowledgeable.
As for what I do, I’ve always found it a little hard to describe. I guess I’m an ‘illustrator,’ because many of the things I design and create start as illustrations. They may end up on hand-painted, meticulously cut out little wooden shapes, or screen printed onto a tea towel, but it all originates from my own hand.
What does your creative process look like?
Often, the things I’m inspired by are the things that I’m really interested in, and therefore spend a lot of time thinking about. For instance, I made a pattern for a notebook cover using the color palette from a page of a 12th century illuminated bible, and a flower motif pulled from 16th century decorative printmaking initials. That design essentially came out of my geekery for medieval art and history. I feel pretty lucky to be able to delve into my interests and pull something out that I can reinterpret for customers. Everything starts from sketches, though. After I’ve developed an idea enough, I sketch and sketch and sketch. Sometimes, what I’m working on will become a digital illustration, and it will be scanned and adjusted in Illustrator or Photoshop. Regardless, it all starts from research, sketches and notes.
Your friends are in town visiting – what’s their one must-see at Maymont?
The Japanese Garden. It’s restrained, elegant, intentional and meticulously maintained. I’ve always been interested in Japan, and even took three years of Japanese in high school. I think the understated beauty of the Japanese Garden reflects a really interesting cultural aesthetic. It’s wonderful to take visitors to stroll around this part of Maymont—it really is a peaceful place that is perfect to escape the bustle of the city.
What’s your favorite feature at Maymont and why?
The Italian Garden. I love that it’s at a higher elevation, and it feels a little endless, with flowers as far as you can see. It might also be because I spent many hours volunteering for a VCU class, and planted roughly a zillion bulbs one spring! (I might still be a little proud of that, as small as it was in comparison to the hard work of the permanent employees!) I loved learning about the care, love, and expertise that is put into every inch of Maymont, and I think the Italian Garden is a perfect example of it.