‘Making A Mark’ by Emma White

Emma White Exhibition Flyer

Artist Emma White agreed to meet up with me last week to talk about her upcoming exhibition ‘Making A Mark’ at Freedom Hair Experience. I have seen Emma’s varied work many times and whether it is print making or painting she most definitely has a unique and delightful style. The colours and textures that she uses are truly inspiring and always so well executed. I am looking forward to seeing her current works up in the salon.

Hairdressing at Freedom is not just about hair – it’s about people.  It’s about discovering your lifestyle, self perception and aspirations. Irving is very passionate about art and even more so about supporting local artists. He is delighted that Emma is going to be exhibiting with him this month.

Emma portrait

Where did the inspiration come from for your ‘Making A Mark’ exhibition?

“It came from exploring personal identity and how your work becomes like your own signature.  It reflects my day to day life and love of textures.”

Would that be the inspiration for the rest of your art too?

“I tend to create more artwork when I need to have time to reflect and think. It helps me to focus.”

What else inspires your work?

“I’m inspired by surface textures like that of a rock face. Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s paintings of rocks and scenery inspired me when I was young. I like the repeated patterns that objects naturally have in them. ”

“Hundertwasser is my biggest artist inspiration. I like how he mixes colour with the surreal, in architecture and functional items. I also like how he was interested in preserving the planet and promoting human rights. I have many books of his work and one that is my absolute favourite. I have a collection of the stamps that he created for the 35th anniversary of the universal declaration of Human Rights, I love those. ”


“My dad is also a huge inspiration. During my childhood my dad was always painting. He does very nice scenery. He was a guest artist at my school when I was at primary school. He taught us how to sketch forest scenes. He had to judge the best… I didn’t win. I thought I was in with a chance too, since I knew the judge” she laughs. “I can’t remember what the prize was.”

What are your things that you use to create your work? Do you have a favourite medium, tool?

“I am a curious person and I like to experiment with materials, I am interested in the process and not so focused on the outcome. I like using clay. It’s pretty cool as it’s earth that you can make something functional out of. Like a bowl! I like carving rubber stamps and using pallet knives for painting. When I paint I like to make use of the effects of light and shade and work to reflect textures with a simple block print look.”

Emma White

Do you think that you have a ‘style’?

“My style, if I were to describe it, would be that I like to merge printing and surface texture.”

Emma White Silver Birch Oil Painting

Do you have any favourite pieces?

“I don’t tend to keep things that I make. Once I finish them, I usually don’t want to see them again.” Emma laughs. “I really enjoyed doing a head sculpture with clay because I was able to spend a couple of hours working on one specific facial detail. I once spent many, many hours creating a collage of a scene in Dundee using macro photographs, by hand. After a trip to the Giant’s Causeway I was inspired to paint and that was probably my favourite painting.”

 Have you exhibited before?

“This is my first solo exhibition” Emma replied looking slightly nervous but smiling too.

Emma White Camera Print

Tell me a little bit more about you…

“I was born in Belfast. When I was a baby my parents moved to Canada, so I spent my whole childhood living on the edge of Lake Erie. As a child I liked going on holiday to other cities like Toronto. A 1980s drive to New York was brilliant, with the highlight possibly being getting lost in the Bronx!” she laughs telling me more about that adventure. “I also loved regular trips to the Detroit Science Centre.”

“I went to Secondary school in Stranraer, after moving to Scotland in 1990. I had a fantastic collection of art teachers and I particularly remember the travelling art gallery bus. My art teacher also shared a love of Dr Seuss. I was particularly jealous that he bought a collection of first editions from the town library for 50p each when they were moving premises!” Both Emma and I are massive fans of Dr Seuss so I shared in her gasps of horror at this!

“I studied Psychology and Biology at University in Dundee from 1995 and have stayed here ever since – except for a brief period in south London. I spent nine years working specifically with adults with learning disabilities and complex physical needs, which included working with Scottish Autism as a Resource Manager.”

“I moved on to become a self employed community artist, mainly working to provide opportunities for young people to be heard and have their say. I then went on to co-found a creative social enterprise, Diaosu with a passion to provide art opportunities for people who were isolated and in need of building confidence and skills. We are working within Sheltered Housing, with looked after young people, in our local Hilltown area and also with local artists who come in to use our space and resources, such as the kiln and dark room.”

“I have two kids and their health needs have made me eternally grateful to the charities that support the NHS, such as the Archie Foundation. I recently achieved a super cool medal, that’s really heavy, because I ran up the hill of Fare, across hills and through mud to do a half marathon for an event called the Fare Challenge. I raised £415 and 8p! Don’t forget the 8p” she laughs.

“I like eating chips, which probably means that I should run more than I do!”

Any other random Emma facts that you would like to share?

“I have a very small dog.”

“My mix of accents is a constant source of amusement for those around me. Just don’t ask me to say ‘mirror’, ‘oven’ or ‘water’!”

Emma White Dundee Building Illustration

I explain to Emma that Irving (from Freedom Hair Experience) likes to challenge everyone with three questions:

  1. What is Creativity?

Emma screws up her face and I tell her that I and everyone else who has been asked these questions have done that exact same face as it’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer!

“It’s like an action, a thing that you do. It’s expressive. It reflects a little bit of who you are. I work with lots of people who say that they’re not creative, then they go and make lots of great stuff!”

How do you use it?

“I use it to learn about myself. Sometimes it’s easier to be creative than to verbalise things.”

Describe it in three words

“Genuine. Raw. Exposed.”

Is there anything else you would like to say?

“Yes. Not only is this my first exhibition, this is the first time that I have finished things to a final, presentable state. They are usually found lurking behind furniture and in cupboards,” Emma Laughs. “I support artists putting their art out there and it’s about time I did the same!”

You can find out more about Emma and her work on the Diaosu website and on her blog Oranges Are Round. You can also contact her via email on: emma.white.diaosu@gmail.com.

Don’t forget you are invited to come along to the opening night of ‘Making A Mark’ on Friday 3rd October (7-9pm) at Freedom Hair Experience, 17 Dock Street, Downtown Dundee. Emma, Irving and I shall see you all there!

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