As I’ve aged, I’ve become more and more interested in handmade things. For one, they’re usually way more beautiful than mass-produced objects, and secondly, they have meaning – a meaning that is present from the moment they are conceived as ideas in the artist’s mind, until the day you finally place it lovingly in your home, where it will remain for years to come. Not only is that object unique and special, but purchasing it means that you’re supporting small businesses, keeping our economy more community-centered rather than homogenized and corporate.
I think the best way to start incorporating handmade goods into your home is though pottery and art prints. I don’t have the budget to buy large handmade furniture pieces or original canvas paintings (which is my dream!), but I DO have the resources to purchase an earthy hand-thrown mug to drink coffee from in the morning, or a small print that I can incorporate into a gallery wall. In fact, I only own three mugs at the moment because I’m holding out to find handmade ones that fit – I want to assemble a meaningful collection, not just a pack of identical objects filling my shelves.
About a year ago I came across the Instagram profile of Emily Jeffords. She’s a painter based in South Carolina most known for her Abstract Impressionist landscapes. I recently fell in love with one of her prints, so I bought it. It’s called From the Valley. I love the soft turquoise in the sky and the saturated bursts of gold in the clouds. Something about the scene spoke to me.
So, being the former Art History student that I am, I had to figure out why exactly her landscapes resonated with me. After thinking about it, I noticed some similarities between Emily’s body of work and other artists’ that I’ve studied in the past. Of course, it almost goes without saying that her paintings remind me of Impressionist landscapes, such as those by Monet and Pissarro. But there are other, more unexpected artists that came to mind as well.
My first thought was that her skies remind me of J.M.W. Turner. He was a Romantic painter who often created seascapes that were far too abstract for the public’s liking at the time, and in that way he can be considered a precursor to Impressionism. He really emphasized huge, majestic skies, full of emotion, energy and vibrant light. They look as if they could swallow up the rest of the canvas at any moment. His most famous painting, The Slave Ship, is a pretty good example of this… although one could argue that it’s the sea that is about to swallow the canvas, not the other way around.
The second artist that came to mind was Mark Rothko. Now – I admit that this comparison is a bit of a stretch, but stay with me for a minute. The particular print I purchased isn’t the best example, but if you take a look at all her other landscapes, you can definitely see subtle parallels. In a similar way to how Rothko would stack colors in horizontal sections and fade them into the background, Emily’s landscapes are composed of beautifully blended colors layered upon one another in graceful little arcs. Furthermore, Rothko’s paintings convey some kind of indefinable emotion (usually heavy or negative), while Jeffords’ also communicate feelings, but generally more positive ones like joy, peace, serenity or thoughtfulness. Some of her color palettes are slightly more melancholy, but nothing nearly as dark as some of Rothko’s.
And finally, the last thing that came to mind when I purchased From the Valley was the animation of Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli. First of all, I have to say that his films are some of my all-time favorites. They’re incredibly beautiful and fantastical, yet realistic and emotional, and I can’t even begin to fathom how much work it takes to hand-draw an entire movie.
The landscapes in so many of Miyazaki’s films echo the colors and movement I see in the print that I bought. Every time I look at it I get a hint of the feeling I get when I watch Studio Ghibli movies – a sense of gratitude for how beautiful life can be, but along with that, a necessary grain of melancholy for the inevitable tides of change and transformation (which often mean loss) that go along with life, which I feel are really well represented by fast-moving cumulus clouds.
While I was snapping photos of her painting, I also had to give a little attention to my bouquet of pink and purple tulips that I picked up form Trader Joes. But I still have yet to find a great place to buy flowers – Grocery store flowers are – let’s face it – lame, boring and manufactured-looking most of the time. Nothing I’ve found here so far even comes close to the florists in Paris, but these tulips will do for now!
If you’d like to browse the work of Emily Jeffords, see her website here.
And I highly recommend that you follow her on Instagram! Her Stories in particular are a treat. She’s always sharing peeks into her artistic process and personal life. Her two little girls are precious!