Interview with artist Emma Gale

river bennett ( photography river bennett)


"All I ever wanted to do, for as long as I can remember, was to be an artist." 

It was like a wave of gratitude rushed over me as Emma Gale said these words across the phone line. I'm not exactly sure why it did, but it did. Maybe it was because I was grateful that for someone out there being an Artist was something to strive for and achieve as a career, and not let the God-given talent fall into neglect. Maybe it was because I knew her work, and how much I wanted people to see it and experience the same emotions that I did when I saw it. 

It was the colours that immediately lured me. Vibrant, fresh colours. Colours that sang as though they had never been seen before. I could see Frida Kahlo's influence. Quickly drawn strokes packed to the brim with culture. Brown skin and flora. Bikes and fruit. Romance and simple living. It spoke of travel, wonder and real life stories. 

I spread word of her paintings to friends and collogues multiple times before I met her. But it wasn't until I met her that I realised she wasn't just a painter. Emma’s work expands to other mediums like clay pottery, and take-your-breath away Frida and Diego decorative plates, as well as running a successful business alongside her husband – and did I mention she is mother to two children? 

Tucked away in Byron Bay’s hinterland Emma’s studio lies in a sweet, homely street beside her home. As we shared a cup of tea I found out what exactly makes this WolfpackMrs. come alive. 

When I was a little girl …

… I was always drawing, creating something with my hands, making something. I was a bit of a dreamer - constantly living in my head - I still do! I remember all I wanted was the biggest packet of Derwent coloured pencils - with every shade of green and blue and yellow – and when I finally got them it was like heaven to me!  They were my prized possessions! 

I knew art was in my blood because I couldn’t see myself doing anything else!!!!!!! School was a chore for me and my mind was always elsewhere  - I had a very romantic notion of the world and how I wanted to life to be.

In art class I was introduced to Frida Kahlo and was totally mesmerized. Her whole life story was so bold and brave and so eccentric - I just wanted to be a bohemian girl and live that lifestyle, surrounded by art, creative, interesting people and exotic locations.

My day-to-day looks like

I get up at 5:30am and go walking to clear the head and energize the body for the day. After the school run I head to my studio for the day. Some days I paint, some days I paint and hand-build clay, and sometimes just clay! The school ends, and domestic life begins and it’s busy until bedtime. 

Pottery is…

… very grounding for me. The process of hand-building is like connecting to the earth, and my shapes are very organic and rustic. They resemble tribal shapes and forms, or old vessels from the Grecian and Roman periods. I have a love for ancient civilizations and all their glorious pottery and jewellery. Cultures and their rituals and adornments have always been a great love of mine.

My latest work is….

The Gardener - inspired by a succulent Indian summer garden in British colonial India - hot, sticky, the air thick with moisture.

If I wasn’t an artist I would be…

… saving the world, somewhere in Africa! Being involved in some kind of aid work was a deep interest for me and that dream became a reality when I was 19 years old. I set up an Arts & Craft program in Cairo, Egypt, helping Sudanese refugees learn a skill and create an income from screen-printing fabrics and sewing. It was very rewarding, and although it had its challenges, I enjoyed every minute of the job. I also loved living in a magical city like Cairo, as it was back then - bustling, gritty, earthy, dirty, but fabulous at the same time. I loved buying my fruit from the donkey carts and walking the souks, which are open-air market places. I managed to go to some amazing places in Egypt - like the Siwa Oasis near the Libyan border.

One of the biggest challenges being an artist is…

… that dark day where I don’t feel connected to the paint. Usually I’m feeling blue and that’s when I go do some clay - it seems to be very therapeutic for the soul.

My studio is..

… my hiding place! It’s MY place, my space. I like to be surrounded by my art books, my inspiration board and all my bits and pieces. I listen to the radio and the hours pass too quickly. It’s my therapy! It’s part of my soul, and part of who I am. I need it to feel human, and to create is a natural integral part of me. I get a buzz when people buy my art as each piece is like a relationship, it has it’s ups and downs, and it’s a journey to the finished end.

Living in Byron Bay is…

… gorgeous, but living in a small town has its challenges for me. It’s a wonderful place to bring up a small family, but I do miss the city vibe and all its nitty-gritty!

I balance life by…

Motherhood brings balance for me, and also helping out 'behind the scenes’ in our food manufacturing business, Byron Bay Muesli. Having your own business is great but also has its challenges. There is always planning, marketing, product development etc. so that’s where I come in! I create the product styling and the social media content. We also nut out ideas together and keep it real! My part is the creative think tank of the business. 

The best piece of advice I was even given…

… have belief in yourself, follow your heart. 

The older I get I realize - don’t waste a minute! Life is so precious, we must pursue that dream, go for that trip, take that chance. Be bold, be brave.


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