Emily Jolley

As part of our Interview series 1, we spoke with Emily Jolley an abstract artist and founder of Huntingdon Art Gallery. She tells us about her own experience of being an artist as well as how to collaborate with others on projects.


Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Emily Jolley, I’m an artist and also gallery founder.

As an artist, I’m primarily a painter, I specialise in expressive abstract paintings.

My favourite material of mine to use is actually emulsion paint, as in the kind of stuff that you put on your walls.

As a gallerist and kind of arts organiser, I’ve founded a small gallery called Huntington Art Gallery, which shows emerging local artists and I
curate the shows there.

And I’m also involved in various local arts groups and professional groups, so ranging from Visual Artists Association to an AN to local groups like the Neotists, Cambridge Open Studios, Cambridge Creative Network, as a result of those connections.

I do other arts-related project management and arranging shows through that as well.

How did you get into the creative industry?

Again, there’s two sides to that, I guess.

So as an artist, I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t make art.

So and it’s something I’ve always felt compelled to do. So I guess I’ve kind of always been on that journey. And in terms of where that journey’s
taken me, I studied an Art Foundation year. I studied fine art at university, quite a kind of traditional route up to that point, I guess, after which I did have quite a long period of time where I was pursuing another career, but was always still making art, had a studio alongside.

I’m now in a position where I work part time at my other career and part time at being an artist and a gallerist, which is a great position to be in.

Key things for supporting me on that journey have been the networks with other people, you know, whether formal or informal, and they’ve played a really important part in that.

And swinging over to the gallery founder, curator, collector even now, because I can’t help myself, you know, investing and supporting a lot of other people’s work, it really motivates me.

That’s very much fallen out of the relationships, connections that I’ve made, the groups that I’ve been part of, which have provided opportunities to work on shows with people and has then also provided the kind of ideas, support networks that’s made that side of what I do possible and viable, I guess.

What tips would you give to someone starting in the creative industry?

I would say don’t go it alone. There’s no need to. It can sometimes as a creative, I think, be kind of quite a lonely place. And sometimes that’s really valuable. Actually, sometimes you do just need to kind of take yourself into your own space to follow your own ideas certainly when it comes to making.

But in terms of being known for what you do as an individual artist and being able to be effective in supporting other people by running shows and stuff like that, those networks are really valuable, really important, and really, really affirming and validating.

And a huge part of the kind of joy of what I do actually does come from those relationships, meeting those people, seeing their work, seeing how their artistic journeys evolve as well, which is great.

And I’d also say take some time for self-reflection, both about your own practice and also kind of other side hustles that you’re doing related to
showing your work and the groups you’re part of.

And ask yourself some really basic questions, really, you know, am I enjoying it? And is it helping me get to where I want to be? And hopefully the answers to those questions will help you figure out your own next steps.