Inside, she would pull out pencils and markers and paper to draw:
And despite her love for art, the idea of being an artist as a career was barely a thought. In her isolated hometown, Emma saw women become full-time mothers or work in part-time jobs… but career women? They were rare.
That’s not to say she didn’t have career dreams. At first, with her love for animals, to be a veterinarian was the ultimate goal. Emma worked hard for it… until she had to dissect a frog in year 10.
But the world of art opened its gates to more than impromptu notebook sketches, as Emma discovered powerful conceptual works from the likes of Barbara Kruger. More and more, the realisation that this could be a job dawned on her teenage self.
Far from a design hub, when work experience opportunities popped up, Emma seized the chance at a small boutique agency ran by Peta and Elizabeth.
She learned not to make booklets in Photoshop. How to work with clients. How to create a presentation.
Then another big opportunity fell into Emma’s hands: the chance to manage a hotel owned by Tassie hospitality royalty. It would be stable.
Emma says. Her partner encouraged her to pursue the steady job offer, but there was a catch: she would have to quit all her freelance work.
Street art had lit a fire in Emma during her university studies, and there was something calling from the mainland, telling her of the potential to voice important stories.
With her suitcase packed, Emma watched Tasmania fade into the distance as she stepped into bustling Melbourne in her early 20s, with the aim to stay for a while and return home eventually.
But we all know what happens with Tasmanians who move to Melbourne.
Separated from her partner, struggling with the cut-throat big city competition, and the finances of moving to a new city, finding a job was easier said than done. With time, Emma was finally able to get a creative job in her first big agency role.
With the freedom to be creative and a lot of on-the-ground learning, she took on both the dull and cool jobs, thriving when there were social enterprise facets of the business. But as she grew her skillset to a managerial level, the fulfilment began to fade, and her work-life balance began to skew more and more.
Her big break came unexpectedly in a tumultuous time. As the Black Lives Matter movement rose against police brutality, the bushfires razed Australia, and COVID-19 infected thousands globally, Emma started feeling fired up again.
Here was all this horror caused by political negligence or straight-up oppression. Here was a chance to respond to what was going on in the world with her own voice.
On Instagram, she began showcasing her own illustrative and political work. She didn’t expect the numbers to grow; but with authenticity came a positive reception from underrepresented communities and more.
Now, Emma’s work embodies her values. It embodies her time, money, and effort.
As part of BE. Collective Culture, she created a Hoddle St billboard for International Women’s Day that showcased an intersectional feminism that was rarely found in advertising at the time.
There have been activity books for vulnerable young girls who couldn’t participate in their local sports due to COVID-19, representing girls playing sports, mazes of their menstruation journeys, and more.
And now, as a Collarts lecturer across design units, Emma is able to impart the valuable lessons she’s learned to make a direct impact on her students—and help the future industry shift, in turn.