The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Drawing from a mix of personal imagery and cultural sources, Emily Jane Wood weaves strong personal mythology in multiple media.
I met Emily Jane Wood at the Hamtramck Street Festival over Labor Day Weekend, and could tell immediately from her range that I was dealing with an individual who carries the mixed blessing of having multiple expressive gifts. This week I paid a visit to her studio in Hamtramck, which confirmed my suspicion that Wood has no shortage of outlets for her obsessive treatment of subject matter.
Wood may render the same reference material, especially specific "totems," over and over, as with this Hamtramck house in photo, needlepoint and ceramic. The original structure is now gone.
The "wig head" displays in downtown Hamtramck beauty supply stores are another of Wood's totems, rendered here in a ceramic mug and magnet.
Several of Hamtramck's most iconic churches appear obsessively in Wood's work, though in a totemic rather than religious capacity.
This inspiration seems drawn in equal parts from a loving and decade-long connection to life in Hamtramck, her vast array of research materials (Wood appears to be a master of internet sourcing for art books, fabrics and other creative fodder), and an eclectic educational background that includes a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology from Wayne State, a Masters in Molecular Biology, and studies that stopped short one year from completion of her PhD. Despite her long investment of energy in a science career, Wood sees that her path lies elsewhere.
One of Wood's Dia de los Muertos felted skulls in progress.
Wood pays homage to her conventional history, with felted versions of the all-to-familiar inter-office mailing envelope.
It takes a special kind of person to head down the road less traveled by, particularly when one has made a great deal of headway along conventional routes. But to hear Wood tell it, it wasn’t much of a choice. “The essence of art,” she says, “is doing what you can’t not do.” In Wood’s case, there seems to be little that she can’t not do. From her background in 2D drawing and painting, she has expanded into ceramics, lately working as an apprentice to Pewabic Pottery. She hooks rugs, makes quilts and creates intricate felted wool assemblages featuring totemic objects and appropriated cultural histories that bear the earmark of her experience in anthropology.
Though much of what Wood does–such as this intricately detailed hooked rug–might be termed "craft," she shies at the term, pointing out that many things relegated to the arena of craft are, perhaps, "women's arts."
Totems are a major subject of the day, with Wood and I in agreement on the power of personal mythology. Each object you create holds power, Wood says, and each time you use it, touch it, interact with it, you increase your power. If that is true, then Wood’s little studio on Sobieski Street is a veritable power plant of creative energy, and only time can tell what it will bring to light.
Shine on, Emily!
You can catch up with Emily Jane Wood at the Pewabic table at DIY Street Fair Ferndale this weekend, or through her website. Though there is not a lot posted on her Etsy page, you can contact the artist with questions, inquiries, or compliments on anything you see here!
DIY Street Fair Ferndale: Sept. 13, 14 & 15 at 9 Mile Road & Woodward; DIY Street Fair Ferndale. Admission is free.