Tuesday, February 26, 2008

New Bio (or why I do what I do)

My name is Emma Stronach and I am an artist and small business operator living in Newcastle, NSW. I am currently enrolled in the government initiative NEIS, which supports me for a year while I get my new business venture off the ground. I paint, create artworks out of origami paper and make plush toys. So here’s my story, so far... how I came to be where I am today, and why I do what I do.

I began making Origami when I was ten. My family had a Japanese exchange student stay with us through the Rotary Exchange program. Her name was Mie. She told me the story of ‘Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes’, the book of which is now read to most Australian primary school students. Sadako lived on the outskirts of Hiroshima and contracted leukaemia after its bombing in the second World War. In accordance with the Japanese tradition, Sadako began making paper cranes to recover from her illness. The legend tells that the crane lives for 1000 years, and the Japanese believe that by folding a thousand of these beautiful little paper creatures they will live a long life.

I have struggled in recent years with serious illness (long undiagnosed Coeliac disease and an immune systemic response to wheat and gluten which results in anaphylaxis if ingested). About six months ago a friend reminded me of Sadako’s story and I decided that I would make a thousand paper cranes myself, thereby psychosomatically healing myself... or at least getting a better immune system or some appeasement from the allergy gods.

Once I completed my thousand cranes I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do with them. I started suspending them from a giant Smiggle paper clip on fishing line, using colourful beads as spacers. Friends and family who saw these commented on their delicate beauty and asked if I would sell them. I had mildly considered this, selling these results of my hobby, but I was more interested in engaging others in this act of creation, so I began making kits containing everything needed to make a string of cranes, so that people could make them for themselves. For a bit of a diversion, I also developed a line of soft toys made from felt, based on my drawings, to fill up the rest of the stall I had booked at the markets. I’m working on a kit for these as well.

It’s been almost six months since I started on this path. I now run a fortnightly market stall and have my work for sale at several specialty stores and the Maitland Regional Art Gallery Shop. My dreams are evolving, I am no longer an admin assistant engaging in a very occasional hobby, but an artist who sells art and craft products to other creatives. I’m making the kits, for both origami strings of cranes and the plush toys, so that kids can make their own versions of my Creatures. So much art these days is locked away in a cupboard somewhere, hung high up on a wall out of reach, priced way out of the budgets of normal aesthetes... I thought it was about time that someone made art that kids could afford (or at least art that was priced so reasonably that the pester power factor would work). So I imagine myself back in a time when there were fairies in the bottom of the garden and monsters under the bed and I make things that I would have loved back then.

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