If you’ve ever enjoyed a cuppa of one of our teas from the Wonderful Things collection, you’ll want to brew yourself some now and savor it while you read our interview with Emily Winfield Martin. Her book The Wonderful Things You Will Be was the inspiration for our three Wonderful Things teas. Enjoy getting to know Emily and discover what inspires her beautiful work. Plus, not only does Emily love tea – her baby girl is a little tea thief!
Harney: Hello, Emily. It’s nice to talk with you again! Let’s get started by telling our audience a little about you. Where are you from, educational/professional background, where do you live, family, etc.
Emily: Hello! I'm an artist & writer. I live in Oregon with my husband and little daughter among the big fir trees.
Harney: You’ve got so many wonderful talents. Let’s start with drawing/illustrating. How old were you when you first started drawing, and when did you know it was going to turn into something more than art you made for yourself?
Emily: That's very kind of you to say. I cannot remember a time when I wasn't drawing, but that's probably true for most of us, at least when we are small. In the same way, I've always loved to read and would lose myself for hours in stories. Drawing was another way to lose myself in stories.
To your second question, even though I've been working as an artist for a long time now, truthfully, I'm still not sure anything I do will turn into anything more than art I make for myself.
Harney: You were an Etsy success story, so much so that you were noticed by The New York Times, CNN and The Martha Stewart Show. Tell us about your Etsy experience and how you managed to stand apart from all the other artists in that crowded platform.
Emily: Well, the thing is that it wasn't a very crowded platform at that time, not the way it is now.
I just saw it as a place to sell my art and other things I made and was surprised when I pretty much immediately found an audience. It was a first stroke of luck.
Harney: What was the first professional book illustration you did?
Emily: My first children's book was called Oddfellow's Orphanage, a quirky chapter book filled with sweet and strange little drawings. My first fully painted picture book was called Dream Animals...it's one that I know is still special to people, and it always makes my heart leap a little when they tell me, "We know Dream Animals by heart."
Harney: There is such variety in what you draw, from florals to whimsical creatures. What inspires you, and where do you get inspired most? We can just picture you sitting in a wooded area, taking in the flowers and creatures and letting your imagination and talent out to play! Is that how it works?
Emily: My favorite places in the world are the forest and the sea. They are the places my heart beats the way it should, the places where I feel most myself. My work is often sparked by one or the other or both. Dreaming of hidden worlds in the trees, of warm fur, of wildflowers, of silver shells and mermaids, and the mysteries of the endless waves.
Harney: Let’s talk about your other major talent, writing. When did you first start to write?
Emily: It's a bit like drawing, isn't it? I guess the act of physically writing things down happens whenever we learn to make our fingers work that way. But writing is really dreaming. The actual recording, the writing, is this lonely, difficult task, the arduous weaving of a net to catch butterflies.
Harney: What was your first piece of published writing?
Emily: The same quirky little chapter book, Oddfellow's Orphanage. I was making these very narrative paintings and building stories around them and thinking of children's books, but nothing was bound and published until I met my editor, and our creative partnership sparked to life.
Harney: We’re obviously huge fans of your book The Wonderful Things You Will Be, which helped you become a New York Times #1 best-selling author. For those who don’t know, Wonderful Things is a celebration of love and possibility as a parent contemplates who their child will grow up to be. Where did the idea for this book come from?
Emily: It came first from the children around me, who made me feel the words of the text: "For all of your tininess / couldn't disguise / a heart so enormous / and wild, and wise."
It came secondly from what a small Emily needed to hear, what I think all children deserve to hear and know.
Harney: The concepts of “anything is possible” and “wonder” seem to run through your writings. We know you’re a huge fan of fairy tales – why do fairy tales resonate with you? What were your favorite fairy tales growing up … and even now!
Emily: My favorite fairy tale, the one closest to my heart, is called Snow White and Rose Red - it’s where my book Snow & Rose, a fairy tale retelling about two sisters in an enchanted wood, comes from. I also especially love Beauty and the Beast, Thumbelina, and The Wild Swans.
Harney: Snow & Rose was your first novel and is based on one of your favorite fairy tales, Snow White & Rose Red by the Brothers Grimm. You’ve said it was the most personal thing you’ve ever done. Tell us about that.
Emily: When I was a little girl, I had brown hair and rosy cheeks, and my sister was incredibly fair - white-blonde hair and pale blue eyes, and my mother called us Rose White and Rose Red, for the story. When I grew up and had the idea for my version, which expands and changes the original, I couldn't bear *not* to write it. There is a Nick Cave song that goes:
"Out of sorrow, entire worlds have been built.
Out of longing, great wonders have been willed."
Snow & Rose was that for me. Maybe all my work is, really.
Harney: What role do you think fairy tales play in the lives of children?
Emily: I think fairy tales are a way of comprehending that which is incomprehensible in the ordinary world. Spells, monsters, fate, magic, fairy realms...it's the way the world feels, even if it's not the way the world appears.
Harney: Where is your imagination taking you next? What’s coming up for you?
Emily: I'm working on a picture book so close to my heart, I can barely wait until it's out in the world. Also more books for the littlest ones, more books in general. Since having a baby, I've experienced this tragic irony in which I'm electric with inspiration but have so little time to actually work.
Harney: Since we have three Harney teas in partnership with you and inspired by The Wonderful Things You Will Be, we know you have some kind of relationship with tea! What kind of tea do you enjoy drinking? Do you and your family have any tea rituals or ceremonies that are special to you?
My baby has a ritual of crying out "tea! tea!" and stealing my cup. She was stealing my tea even before she knew the word.
Harney: Any Harney teas that are your favorites or that you’d like to try?
Emily: I truly love the Wonderful Things blend, but also Paris tea, your peppermint...I've never had a Harney tea that wasn't delicious. I also love sending it for gifts, it's such a cozy present.
We are forever grateful to Emily for collaborating with us on our Wonderful Things line of teas, which make wonderful baby shower gifts or a lovely pampering gift for new parents. Now that you’ve read about Emily’s work, see it for yourself on her website. We appreciate Emily’s time and talents so much. All photographs were provided by Emily Winfield Martin.