An interview with one of our resident artists, shop all of Essery's prints here.
WRAPPR: Have you always wanted to be an artist?
ESSERY: No, definitely not! I think it took me a long time to see myself as a creative person, and then even longer to realize that other lifestyles/careers would not bring me the same kind of meaning I get from this one. That said, I’m not sure I see myself as an ‘artist’ even now. *Laughs* It feels like a bit of a loaded term I guess.
W: Tell us a bit about your background, and how you got to where you are now
E: Oh man, I got into it young. I began learning to code websites and use some archaic version of Photoshop when I was around 10. I grew up in a small farming village outside Ottawa so the computer and the Internet were very escapist for me. I started freelancing when I was 18. In university I learned the full Adobe creative suite and had access to cameras that allowed me to get into video. After I graduated, I moved to Toronto and started freelancing full-time, and slowly transitioned out of coding and into design. I worked briefly in marketing and film doing graphics and art directing too.
W: What type of work do you do for your clients?
E: Mostly graphic design, but I still occasionally take on small website projects, as well as video and photography.
W: Which of those do you enjoy most right now?
E: Probably photography because it feels the newest. I started shooting 35mm film about 6 years ago and picked up my digital camera for stillwork only recently. In comparison to everything I else I do, I like that the creation process is so quick. It’s literally a snap. I tend to overthink the first draft so photography is really freeing in that sense.
W: What type of work do you do for your own enjoyment?
E: I write, photograph, and design spaces.
W: What work of yours would you like to be remembered for? Or is it something you are working on?
E: It actually is something I’m working on! In a medium I’ve never worked in before.
W: What is your creative process?
E: This is hard because I think it changes depending on each project. I was watching Mad Men when I moved to Toronto - there was that Don Draper quote about coming up with a great direction, something like, “Just think deeply about it. Then forget it. And an idea will come to you.” I think about that all the time.
W: What are you planning to create next?
E: More designs for Wrappr!
W: What is your biggest indulgence?
E: Hm, that’s a big question. *Pauses* I think solitude. Like walking alone or taking a bath or sauna. I went to a couple of concerts/shows alone this year for the first time, that felt good. Anything you do for yourself and yourself alone feels like an act of rebellion and reclamation when you live in a city. I feel like the harder it is to find solitude, the more necessary it becomes to create or carve out for yourself, you know what I mean? But yeah, philosophy aside I also eat a lot of cheese and recently have loved indulging in shampoo/blow outs at salons because I’m almost 30 and still don’t know how to do my own hair.
W: Where do you find inspiration?
E: Right now I’m really noticing architecture. It has this inherent sustainability because it needs to withstand a lot of time and space (or weather). I’m curious about how the design choices, which are made in light of that longevity, influence the people who live amongst these buildings and how they feel about their environment. And I’m interested in how our relationship to design changes with time. Like it becomes influenced both by nostalgia, or ideas of the past, and what we consider to be avant-garde or ideas of the future. I guess how something ages visually is about its aesthetic sustainability. But even what we consider ‘timeless’ - like a black and white photograph, for example - is still an ever-changing dialogue as time passes, design evolves and becomes encompassed in history and then accessible or susceptible to nostalgia. If any of that makes any sense.
W: It does! Speaking of sustainability - How do you feel about being involved with Wrappr?
E: I mean, sustainability aside, it’s incredible as a designer or artist to work with people that are fully open to your expression and support you in that exploration. That’s amazing. Thank you. And on top of that, for it to be a project that challenges a culture of literally wrapping good intentions with waste makes it extremely meaningful and worthwhile to me. Also to be interviewed is nice, this has been so nice, so thank you, again.
W: Thank you. One last question: What are your thoughts on the climate crisis, zero-waste products, things you’re doing to be environmentally friendly, etc.
E: The environmental crisis is tricky - for so long it has been made out to be this personal problem for which personal solutions exist, like, ‘Recycle your plastics and it will all be fine!’ when in reality, it’s mostly these large corporations and factories that are singlehandedly ransacking the planet. That said, I think the choices we make individually as consumers - and recognizing the creative power of that choice - reflect what we culturally and collectively expect out of these companies. Supporting local craftworkers where you can afford to and honestly just committing to learning to mend and reuse things goes a long way. I buy mostly second-hand items and clothing now, but I also find ways to repurpose, tailor, or customize things I already have instead of getting rid of them. I think changing your relationship or cultivating care about the narrative path that objects take is powerful. I love that the things I find at thrift stores have already lived a life. I also love that Wrappr values that narrative too, and that these gift tags document, you know, a legacy of significant events and acts of love that were wrapped inside.