Emily Haasch has a delicate sensibility for visual cues and the tactility of a material. This heightened sense of formal structure and composition has resulted in a diverse practice that does not limit itself to design or collage. In fact, Haasch’s collage and design work seem to inform each other on a fundamental basis that has developed into larger projects such as Offline and Mixtapes. Emily has kindly taken some time to share some of her process, motivation, and allows us a peek into her studio.
From the beginning of your process to your final product, how do you collect or record imagery, text, information, or materials?
My materials come from a variety of sources: book sales/stores, antique shops, recycling bins, the sidewalk, and so on. I have a habit of picking things up wherever I go, which is most everywhere. I sometimes look for specific materials based on needs of my collection and certain cues (such as human movement or types of patterns/textures/visual noise). My studio space is also quite limited, which forces me to consistently be very selective about what I acquire.
Although the act of collecting materials is very fleeting, experiential, and process-based, I am more interested in their usage and further transformation from their original (or found) context. Within a lot of my work, I tend to explore structure through certain architectural forms and liken the process of layering and subtly manipulating paper to that of building a house. I am also interested in the physical gestures and visual cues present in an image, and how play and manipulation of such transforms its presence.
You also run a publication called Offline that focuses on self-initiated projects by designers, artists, and makers in Chicago. Could you tell us more about this publication, what you are currently working on, and how people can get involved?
Offline is a co-creation between myself and another graphic designer in Chicago, Darrin Higgins. Like you mentioned, it’s a small-run publication that features interviews with others about projects created without the constraints of a client, art director, or gallery influence. As designers and makers, we are often shuffled into work that isn’t entirely expressive of our own hands or ideas and limits us to certain channels of expression. We’re both interested in letting go of this to investigate experimentation across unfamiliar mediums, processes, and directions- though both the content itself and the physical form of the publication, which is always changing. We wanted to showcase individuals who use their talent in meaningful, sometimes long-term projects and are able to create a discussion surrounding their relevance to the community.
We are in the process of planning another issue, due hopefully within the next few months. Although we have a secret idea for #3, we are currently soliciting people from Chicago and beyond. If you have something interesting to tell us about, drop us a line (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also buy a copy of the publication here.
How do you move from one project to the next?
In terms of projects that I work on, some are one-offs, but many are ongoing in the form of a series, such as Offline or the mixtapes. I generally chose to revisit them every couple months so as to give me time focus separately on each during its making. I don’t limit where and when I start things, and instead use the form of a series as grounds for experimentation, discussion, and further refinement, which I think should happen anyway with most projects.
When making collages, I also usually work in multiples. Usually when making a piece I might have a few others going at the same time, often as offshoots of the original idea, of which sometimes develop into more successful pieces of their own. I simply enjoy the experimentation with different variations on a form and feel that sometimes a stronger idea results from being able to revisit a series.
What is the relationship between your collage work and your design work?
Collage taught me how to design. Creating collage work heightened the importance of searching for visual cues within color, image, and structure and taught me the value of the tactility of material as a way of seeing or interacting with a piece. In addition, it forces me to be meaningful in my practice and through what I make, which, sadly, isn’t always emphasized in the design world.
Likewise, in my career as a designer, I’ve gained a steady reverence for the use of multiple forms as a means to an idea and have been able to push myself to be constantly changing within my practice, as design concerns itself with the new. Typography and the gesture of letterforms are also an influence to me.
Does your geographical location impact how and what you make?
For one, the art community in Chicago is wonderful in supporting emerging artists and providing a variety of spaces and exposure to foster good work. Same to the designers here- there’s a pretty high caliber of work without a whole lot of pretension.
As for your question, I don’t think I can deny this as I am a Midwesterner after all. Many of us grow up with such a strong connection to home and place however boring that turns out to be. In fact, there is a certain grayness and solitude to many parts of Chicago, particularly the more residential areas, that I find at once familiar and stimulating. Also, being a highly architectural, industrial, and American city means that there are always interesting structural forms present in the environment.