Art: Emmely Elgersma
Have you ever sent an email when you've been a little drunk and it changed your life? That’s exactly what amazing sculptor and ceramist Emmely Elgersma did to fulfil her passion for football
Sculptor and ceramist Emmely Elgersma uses her London studio to create clay from kitchen products and papier papier-mâché out of household chemicals to concoct amazing wonky sculptures and objects. She is absolutely serious and utterly unserious at the same time and is currently waiting to see if she’s made it into the Guinness World Record books for making the biggest ever papier-mâché sculpture. Emmely’s sense of fun extends to listening to comedy shows while she works, and a drunken email to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club led her to fulfil her dream of becoming a qualified football coach.
Glorious: Tell us a little about yourself
Emmely Elgersma: I was born in Holland and moved to the UK when I was 6 to a village near Sherwood Forest. I did an Art Foundation at West Notts College and I then moved to London to study Textile Design at Central St Martins.
Glorious: Did you play sports through childhood and if so which sports?
Emmely Elgersma: I swam a lot and enjoyed cross-country, but always felt really awkward in my body and hated PE. I have horrible memories of being in shorts in the cold wanting to sling on a jumper and coat and disappear into a hole – I was more of a stay indoors and do colouring as a kid.
Glorious: How did you discover sculpting? Did you study it?
Emmely Elgersma: It was totally by accident. After I finished my BA in Textiles I was really lost and didn’t know what to do so I signed up for loads of evening courses at City Lit and the Mary Ward Centre, which I would highly recommend to anyone. One of them was portrait sculpture and I loved it. My tutor helped me create a portfolio and apply to do an MA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts and I got in!
Glorious: When did you start working with paper mâché?
Emmely Elgersma: It was during my MA that I really wanted to do large scale work, but I felt restricted by the kiln and costs of firing and clay. One of the women on my course suggested using paper-mâche. I found it weird at first, as I only knew it as a thing you did as a kid on a balloon and not as a serious sculptural material. I fell in love with it instantly because I could create what I wanted without feeling restricted by production costs.
Glorious: Your work was featured in the 2018 Royal Academy Summer show, how did this come about?
Emmely Elgersma: When I was studying portrait sculpture at The Mary Ward Centre I was playing around with glazes so I made tiny gnomes to experiment and would give them to people to take on holiday and leave in places. I had a few left when I went to study at Chelsea and on a visit to Grayson Perry’s studio where he did a talk, I hid one on his bookshelf, which he later tweeted about. He was the curator of the 2018 summer show so I took the opportunity to make a big gnome out of a laundry basket I found on the street and Ron (the gnome) ended up making it into the room exhibiting alongside Joe Lycett and Harry Hill, which was kind of surreal.
Glorious: You’ve recently been busy creating lamps for Atelier100, please tell us a little about this project.
Emmely Elgersma: Atelier 100 is a programme created by IKEA and H&M to offer support for local creatives via funding and mentoring. I had a sponsored ad on Instagram for the open call so I applied and was selected alongside 15 other creatives. It was a lot of hard work, but such an incredible experience that I feel honoured to have been part of the programme. We were given mentoring sessions which were really helpful in actually making me feel that the work that I do is a viable business.
Glorious: How did you source the tennis ball tubes that form the base of the lamps?
Emmely Elgersma: I spent a good two days on Google Maps searching for tennis clubs and emailing them individually telling them about my project and if they could help. Out of the 300 I emailed, I think 10 replied, but surprisingly, Wimbledon was really unhelpful – tennis ball cans are sold off once they are finished with them. I did hear back from some incredible clubs with players really involved and supportive of the project and I thanked them all by gifting them a lamp for their clubs.
Glorious: Have you always had an interest in football?
Emmely Elgersma: I grew up without a father, so not having that tradition of football being passed down to me (a stereotype I know, but in my case it was very true). I found it on my own when I was around 18 and chose Spurs by looking at the teams that my friends supported and who I wanted to sit in the pub with more.
Glorious: How much are you looking forward to the Women’s World Cup?
Emmely Elgersma: It’s another weird one this year with the scheduling, so I am going to be eating my cornflakes whilst watching! I’m excited because I’m going to the US for three weeks at the same time it’s on and I have an inkling (sorry England) USA are going to make it a hat trick…
Glorious: What do you think the future of women’s football is looking like?
Emmely Elgersma: I find it very exciting. We are on a nice trajectory and I especially have been offered more opportunities. I guess these things take time…
Glorious: Do you play/ watch any other sports?
Emmely Elgersma: In terms of playing, sadly not. I was enrolled in the Tom Daley diving academy for a while but then Covid happened and I had to give that up. (Plus the majority of the time I would just stand on top of the board, look down at the water and give myself a panic attack.) In terms of watching, I love the Olympics, synchronised swimming is my favourite.
Glorious: Why did you decide to enroll yourself in a football coaching programme?
Emmely Elgersma: I remember watching my little brother years ago playing with his Saturday team and a dad of one of the kids was the coach and he was totally vile to his son in order to make an example of him in front of his teammates. It made me realise that there are A LOT of people coaching who shouldn’t be. (I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I hear the ‘Oh, I was meant to be a footballer but hurt my knee’ story.) It is very similar to what I found with the majority of art school teachers being bitter as they never really hit the ground running with their art career and would take it out on art students. I guess my point is that there should be more coaches and teachers in fields who are not tainted by their own personal experiences. A few years later in 2018, I became really obsessed with fantasy football and was fairly good at it. I was a little drunk one evening and sent a screenshot of my points to info@tottenhamhotspur and asked if they could help me to get into coaching. The next day I received a reply asking me to go along – we start tomorrow. The rest is history…
Glorious: Who do you coach and why do you enjoy it?
Emmely Elgersma: I coach a variety of different ages with Spurs, and part of my job alongside coaching is going into schools and inspiring young people and running art classes for children in care. All the art galleries in London have teams too and I coach the Tate’s men’s team.
Glorious: If you could invite five inspiring women to share a dinner with, who would you invite any why?
Emmely Elgersma:When I am working on a project I don’t tend to listen to music, I have my laptop playing shows in the background, as in a weird way I find it more soothing than listening to music, especially because what I do can be quite repetitive if I have a big commission (Atelier 100, I made 50 lamps in total!) I love comedy and grew up obsessed with Smack the Pony and Green Wing, so I would definitely have to invite some funny women. Jennifer Coolidge – I am obsessed with The White Lotus and loved The Watcher. Daisy May Cooper – Am I Being Unreasonable was one of my favourite shows to come out last year. Maxine Peake, as I think she is brilliant and for me I always found it reassuring to watch someone on TV with a similar accent to myself. Es Devlin, as her installation work is just breathtaking, and I am so curious to understand how her mind works and would love to work for her! Lastly, Lee Krasner, as she is one of few painters I really love.
Glorious: What’s next for Emmely?
Emmely Elgersma: I have been given a stage to design for End of the Road festival this year and also just been accepted to do a year long artist residency with Sarabande (Alexander McQueen’s foundation) so that is exciting. But first I need a holiday!
Glorious: Where can we stay up-to-date with you?
Emmely Elgersma: Instagram @emmely my website is www.emmely.co.uk and you can always email me on email@example.com for collaborations or commissions!