I'll Try Anything Once

Emily Ciavatta talks about her process and tells us what makes someone an artist

Emily Ciavatta is one of the only artists I know that is willing to try anything. Any medium, any idea, any process. What makes following her on instagram and knowing her in real life so satisfying is never knowing what to expect but knowing she must be making something. There is never a dull moment when I view her work. One day she is taking photos, the next she is collaging the photos she just took, and the day after that she’s decided she wants to try block printing. I think it is an art form in itself to not pin yourself down to a niche, to never let yourself settle into what is easy. What is so inspiring about Emily is her commitment to art and how limitless her skills feel, how she doesn’t seem to let anything keep her from at least trying to make something. What solidifies my love of Emily and her art, is knowing she has a 9 to 5 job that has little to do with art in the first place. She’s creating all this work because she loves it. It feels as though she needs to create not for approval, but for herself. I was so excited when Emily agreed to do this newsletter with me because to me she has always seemed so unafraid to go for it. A trait I have found to be quite rare. Emily embodies all the best parts of art for me. To watch her create and and try every medium under the sun has made me a more willing artist. The Q&A I have with her feels so important because I think a lot of people are quick to believe they are not an artist because they don’t make money off their passions or live off their hobbies. In the newsletter below we disprove this theory by talking through Emily’s process and her thoughts on the blurred lines between what it means to be an artist.

Please tell us a little about yourself, maybe describe who you are and then tell us a little about what your art is.

Hi! I’m Emily: 25, gay, triple earth sign, originally from NJ… I think that’s the most important stuff. I live in Philly now (but most recently lived in Brooklyn for 3 years). I sell vintage and make lots of random art. I primarily collage, but dabble in various mediums and am fully self-taught. Nothing I make is that serious!

What has your journey in art been like? Where did you start? Where are you now? Why did you start creating art?

I guess I’ve always been a creative person and found interest in art, but was never told it was something I could really do. So I think my art journey started more recently. In 2019, my biggest hobby was taking film photos. I made a zine that year, shot with friends and YouTubers, took day trips to random parts of New York with the sole purpose of getting a good picture. It was a fun way to venture into more creative hobbies. In 2020, I started collaging, and realized that making art didn’t have to be this serious thing. That became my next big thing, and then I found myself venturing into even more mediums over time just for the sake of doing it. I think I started creating art because I realized it’s easy, and I never saw it that way until recently.

Name all the mediums in which you make or have made art. Even the ones you didn’t like but at least tried 

Film photography, writing, collaging, block printing, screen printing, upcycling clothes often with cyanotype printing (I don’t even know if this is what it’s called but..), hand lettering (? also don’t know what to call this one) and one time I wrote a song

Who are your biggest artistic influences? What mediums inspire you the most?

The people in my IRL life are for sure my biggest inspirations: Rachel (Beach Bod makes some of my favorite music ever), Jane, Kennedy, YOU (Ava), Chloe, the list goes on. I honestly also find a lot of cool shit on Tik Tok LOL. Music, too, of course (which I have to give some credit to Jane, Rachel and Ian for). I use a lot of lyrics in my art. Some of my favorite artists/bands are: Caroline Rose, Cocteau Twins, Courtney Barnett, Boygenius, The Strokes, Mannequin Pussy, The Smashing Pumpkins, Wednesday, etc. I’ll be listening to a song and hear a lyric that I like, and next thing you know, it’s the focal point of my latest collage.

Are there any themes you find yourself following for your work? Any ideas that you revisit that inspire you to make more work?

Hmmm, the only theme I can think of is my “Painted Blue” mantra, if you will. I used the phrase in that song I mentioned earlier, and then started incorporating the two words into my writing and art quite often. I made prints about it, plastered it onto thrifted shirts. I think I will continue to incorporate it into my art for as long as I feel connected to it.

In the past you haven’t done art full time, and lately I’ve read multiple articles saying that Boomers telling their kids to do what they love as a career was a mistake for millennials and Gen Z (good to know now that I graduated). By not majoring in art in college do you find yourself happier? I guess that question is quite loaded, but since you know a lot of artists, do you find that you are happier fulfilling your artistic practices when you want instead of relying on your skills for income?

Tough question. I fully regret my college major (I studied comm). I think our parents are onto something, and I do wish I had studied something more practical in college and done something else to pay the bills, but such is life. Of course it would be a dream to make art full-time, and I think I would really enjoy doing that, but I don’t hone in on one thing specifically enough to make that a reality (yet). There’s always someday though! A job is a job is a job, so although my day job isn’t something I’m passionate about, it’s necessary for RN. I wouldn’t say I’m happy about it, but not sad either.

I know you talked to Chloe for her newsletter about mediocrity. While you were not there to declare your art as mediocre I think we all recognize, especially since Chloe and I have known you a few years, that you embrace that you won’t necessarily be good at something right away. Which I love, you are a really talented artist. But you’re also able to accept that not everything will be good which I just can’t do. Was that something that was natural for you or did you really have to teach yourself to keep pushing through even if you don’t like it?

I think it came fairly natural, but that could also be because I went into this so late, knowing there were going to be so many people that were already better than me. It’s different if you grow up playing music or drawing or writing, then you feel some sort of obligation to be the best. Since I didn’t start making art until well into my 20s, I wasn’t expecting to be all that great.

Are you ever afraid to try something new? I think some people can get caught in a niche or get too comfortable which I don’t think I’ve ever seen with you. You just are always looking for the next thing which is so inspiring. 

Thank you! I don’t think I’m ever afraid to try something new. Sometimes I procrastinate and forget to get around to something I’ve been meaning to try, but that’s usually just me being lazy. If I try something and I really don’t think it’s for me, then I just move onto the next thing.

In elementary school we were taught not to erase, I don’t know if you were too, but there was that thing that all art teachers told me which was that “in art there are no mistakes!” Do you believe in this philosophy? I ask this because of your stamp that you accidentally carved “painted blue” into backwards but after flipping it forward so the words weren’t backwards on the stamp you ended up liking the “mistake” better anyways. 

Yeah I do remember hearing this and would say most of the time it’s true. When I mess up it never looks *that* bad. But, that’s also just the style of my art. With that being said, I definitely don’t love how everything turns out and have certainly collaged over old pieces before. I just try to not do it too often.

I feel like when I look at your work, I sense a lot of release in it. You letting go of the things that bother you or being completely vulnerable. I think you are one of the most honest and vulnerable artists I have come to know. Do you use art to confront your feelings? Is it easier for you to say what you feel when making work as opposed to “in real life”?

What a sweet compliment this is! I would definitely say so. I’m pretty blunt and honest about my feelings most of the time, but art certainly makes it easier to say the hard things.

Do you have one piece in particular that means the most to you? 

Ahhhhh! Don’t make me pick one!!!!

What is your process for making work? Where do you start, how do you get ideas? This can be for any of the mediums you practice or all of them! 

It honestly varies so much and definitely changes over time. The way I approached making collages last fall is so different than how I do it now. When I think of an idea, whether it be a phrase or lyric or anything that I want to incorporate into something, I jot it down to remember for the next time I sit down to make art. This is how the process has been for the last few months. From there, I just kinda do whatever.

How do you decide what medium you think will best fit an idea you want to execute?

To be quite honest I’m not really sure. I guess I just try to envision what I think the piece will look like in the end, and then decide what route will help me get there best.

What mediums do you think you’ll want to try next? Do you have any goals as an artist? Things we should look out for?

I really want to try incorporating paint into my art. I’m just a really bad painter. But one day! As far as goals go, I would love to start working with bands, local businesses, or anyone really to make cool shit with a purpose.

Do you have any tips for someone who might be nervous to start doing an art form they didn’t study? Or maybe advice for artists who are unsure of starting at all because they’ve never studied art at all?

Is saying just do it a cop out?

What is something you’ve learned about making art or art in general that you think everyone should know?

That if you make art, you’re an artist.

If you’d like to view more of Emily’s work visit her instagram here!

or her website here!

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