QÜESTIONS: An Interview with Emily Snedden:
Here at the Mütter Museum we are fortunate to have a collection that inspires artists and craftspeople the world over. In our Museum Store we carry some of their creations. From the cute and clever to the genuinely thought-provoking, we are pleased to offer a wide variety of interpretive work. It's a truly symbiotic relationship which benefits both artist and institution.
Since most of these folks are also really interesting people, we thought it would be fun to interview them. Our fourth QÜESTIONS interview features ceramicist, Emily Snedden, who also works at the Mütter Museum. Her beautifully detailed skull ornaments and masks are sought-after items in the museum store.
Now for our QÜESTIONS:
Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do.
My name is Emily Yates, a.k.a. Emily Snedden of Ma’amamics Ceramic Sculpture. The concept for Ma’amamics was developed during my introduction to ceramics & prominent ceramic artists, which seemed to be lacking in ladies. Changing Ceramics to Ma’amamics was my tongue-in-cheek response to the imbalance in gender. Of course, there are many female ceramic artists leading the pack, but I still love the origin of my understated, youthful rebellion. My work is generally ornate and highly embellished with flowers, keeping the eye moving over many details. I’m able to make ceramic work in my shared studio space within the Associate Artist Program at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia. Other than occasionally living at the studio, I live with my husband & 7 year old step daughter in South Philadelphia.
During much of my time, I work at The Mütter Museum dividing my week between the Collections/Exhibition Department and the Front of House. My favorite days here are when I am able to open drawers in the storage rooms and roam the library stacks to find rows of surprises and treasures. I’m fascinated with tools and although modern medical instruments are designed to be utilitarian and plain, The Mütter houses incredibly beautiful, ornate medical instruments. Design & function in an inspiring marriage.
What do you think motivates your work?
Material is very seductive. I find that clay can have a dialogue with an artist as it is being manipulated; it responds to touch sometimes independently of a person’s intent & offers so much with which to work. It also changes in the kiln: chemical reactions and shrinkage can transform a piece. Ceramic material is full of surprises & really inspires the final product.
If your life was a book, what genre would it be?
Stepmothers have terrible reputations in traditional fairy tales, but I believe there is room for a non-evil (even sweet) step mom in the modernly appropriated fairy tale genre.
What fictional character most resembles you and why?
Although Charlie Brown is not conventionally charming, I find his shy demeanor, avoidance of trends & appreciation for the potential in that sad little Christmas tree to be very endearing.
What non-fictional character most resembles you and why?
I appreciate the grit & determination of Annie Sullivan. She was firm, persistent, and cared about her work, which helped her to brush aside people who doubted her.
What's your poison?
A really delicious glass of milk.
What is the last song you had on repeat?
The Troggs “With a Girl like You”
Name three things that scare you.
Being eaten alive by an underwater sea creature
The other day I saw a baby eating sour cream & onion potato chips for breakfast. It sounds funny now, but at the time it gave me an alarming pause.
In your opinion, what is the greatest invention that has occurred in your lifetime?
The HPV vaccine boasts to be a “cancer vaccine”, which is an incredible concept. Also, I think etsy.com & youtube.com have connected the masses to art, instruction, and each other in a very impressive way.
If you saw a red door, what color would you paint it?
A red door is bold & classic like red lips. I might add some daring hinges, but I can’t imagine covering such a fearless color.
Direct attack or subterfuge?
I appreciate a direct approach.
What's the most rewarding part of your work?
Getting the work out of the studio & into a fresh context. Hanging a piece in a new space brings it to life.
If you could influence human evolution, what do you think a good physical trait would be?
How about non-physical?
An ability to defuse and eliminate all silly misunderstandings and miscommunications. So much time, energy, and emotion could be conserved!
How did you first learn about the Mütter Museum?
It must have been through my Grandfather’s association with the Fellowship at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, although we never visited the museum together. One of the last conversations that we shared prior to his death was debating the correct pronunciation of “Mütter.”
What is your favorite specimen?
The stone baby- a fairly developed Ectopic pregnancy, which was mummified inside the mother for decades. I’m amazed by it.
How does the Mütter Museum's collection inspire you?
The collection is very grand and grotesque, and I love that dynamic.
What's next for you?
The Woodmere Art Museum Store will have some of my more wintery ornaments for sale during the holiday season.
Thanks so much to Emily Snedden for taking the time to answer our qüestions.