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Artist Spot: Emma Oberle

Emma and I sat down in early April to talk about her most recent project for Emma Bug Studio, where she designs charismatic plant pots with bulging eyes, mushrooms, and plush lips. She currently lives in Atlanta where she has a full-time job and pursues art in her free time. We spoke about how she grew up, her influences, and her plans for future projects.

Emma Oberle and Her Plant Pots

Tell me a little bit about yourself - where you’re from, where you grew up - does this inspire your work? If not, what does?

I grew up in the suburbs, between the cornfields and the city of Chicago. Where I grew up doesn’t influence me, but the way I grew up definitely does. My mom has been a huge influence on me, she’s very crafty, very artsy. She was constantly introducing me to all these different things so it was always available to me. Growing up and being surrounded by art definitely influences how I am now. Constantly creating anything I can.

Why plant pots?

Plants are very trendy. Anyone in their 20s who has a space of their own is decorating it with plants. I personally am not into plants themselves, but I know a lot of people who are. People treat them like their pets and name it, I think it’s really cool and cute. Being able to make art for people’s plants to go in and give it that personality is really cool. I like to make art that’s functional, it doesn’t just hang out on a wall, you can incorporate it into your daily routine. Cute and functional.

I love the bulging eyes, why?

I love that I can give them so much personality. Giving them a face, giving them eyes… so much emotion is shown through your eyes. That was a big part of it, I wanted to be able to give each piece a personality of their own, and I like things that are just a little bit ugly, you know? Big intense eyes are creepy but cute, and I love that combination.

Plant Pots by Emma Oberle

Why are most of your pieces crying?

I made them cry because I really wanted to play with textures. For the tears I used UV resin - which I was excited to experiment with, I’d never tried it before. I’m always looking for new ways to use different materials and have different textures. I love the shine compared to the matte paint. I put glitter, or gold foil...any kind of different textures. The experimentation is where a lot of the fun is for me.

What inspires the design/colors for each piece?

My mood honestly, that’s the great thing about doing freelance work through Etsy. I can work in my own time --- I have a day job and I’m also a writer. This is therapeutic, all art is really. Writing is such a different kind of therapy. When I have so much on my mind I just want to write it down but with painting or sculpting and physical art, when I don’t want to think about anything and just get out of my head, it gives me something to think about. Throughout this whole pandemic writing has been hard but having something physical to focus on has been so helpful for me. That’s why I started Etsy when I did. Any mood I’m in, I can just start painting. If it’s a rainy day, I’ll make the crying ones but if it’s a bright sunny day I’ll make all the happy mushroom ones.

How long do they take to make?

If I have a day off I’ll do the sculpting, which takes 24hrs to dry so on my next day off I’ll move on to the painting phase. It takes a few days to complete each step and depending on the design it takes longer.

"Rumi" by Emma Oberle

How do you make each piece?

All of my bigger pieces are terra cotta and then I build on top with different kinds of clay, gesso [an absorbent primer coat], and then paint on top. I am experimenting with doing pots from scratch with polymer clay, but it’s tough because I don’t have a kiln in my apartment so I can’t do ceramics. I want to do different designs and more variety of sizes. Buying a pot I’m kind of limited by size and design, so I’m excited for the future.

Which one is your favorite to make?

Anything with the eyes - the ones with a bunch of eyes are so much fun. That fits my aesthetic, I want to decorate my apartment with all of those. There is so much I can do with it, all the different colored eyes, eyeshadow, and glitter.

Are you going to expand and explore other designs?

I’m going to do some suncatcher designs with crystal beads that catch the sun. I also want to explore with lighter colors. I want to stay within the home decor realm. I want to make smaller and more affordable pieces, a bigger range of designs and things. Keep an eye out!

Art by Emma Bug Studio

I love Emma’s pieces, and when I told her she lit up, “knowing people are enjoying them makes me happy.” I cannot wait to see what she brings us in the future!

If you want to see any more of Emma’s art, follow her on Instagram and TikTok or check out her pieces on Etsy at EmmaBugStudio

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