Emily Blaschke grew up with folk art, quilts, and vintage objects repurposed as art. The daughter of a well-known Malibu, California interior designer, she spent more hours of her young life in antique stores as her mother shopped for clients. But after studying art and education at the University of California, Berkeley, and an early career as an art teacher, the treasure-hunting gene eventually emerged. Today, Blaschke works in a studio full of items waiting to find their way into her work—old maps, marbles, toys, letters, doilies—much of it gleaned from her local dump, flea markets, and thrift stores. “It’s been six solid years of collecting,” she says, showing me a piece she’s putting together “like a puzzle, with pieces of a chair that fell apart.” Having recently come across a faux horse head, she’s hunting for equine-related materials.
While her children were young, Blaschke did figurative painting, including portraits. “They were realistic, but I would add colorful backgrounds and things like a favorite toy for a portrait of a child,” she says. A longtime Maine summer resident, she and her family moved here permanently 14 years ago, and Blaschke has since seen her art evolve. “I used to call my work mixed-media, but I’ve found my passion and it’s assemblage,” she says. She often “paints” with expired nail polish, which she likes for its resinous quality as well as bright colors and adds shimmer with bits of old jewelry. “I love sprinkles, sparkles, and confetti.”
Recent world events have inspired Blaschke to incorporate messages into some of her work. Love, heart, united, hope, unity, and American are spelled out in old Scrabble pieces and other found objects against an American flag backdrop. “Vote” sends a clear signal in a piece dedicated to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But many are dedicated simply to whimsy. “I’ve been doing some flower pieces lately with colorful marbles,” Blaschke says. “People want color and joy on their walls.”
She also does commission work, including a piece to display a client’s wedding dress. “She said I could do anything I wanted with it,” says Blaschke. “Her favorite color is blue, and she’s a boater, so I used an old map of Casco Bay that you could see through the dress.” She also incorporated the lyrics to the couple’s favorite song, and blue glass tops from old Mason jars as a border.
In addition to their visual and emotional appeal, there’s another element of Blaschke’s art that makes her work even more compelling. The odd and disparate objects she repurposes could have ended up in a landfill, but instead they create beauty.