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We Are MA: In conversation with Emily Cannell and Rachael Long

Rachael Long completed her MA Fine Art in 2018 and is known for many of her sculptural pieces, including the Lifeboat Horse situated in Wells-Next-The-Sea. Emily Cannell graduated from MA Fashion in 2019 and has been working with Rachael this year to realise a new body of work. In this conversation, Rachael and Emily discuss their collaboration and inspiration, and celebrate their differences as well as their shared interests. 

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How did you meet each other?

Emily: I knew of Rachael through her incredible sculpture Lifeboat Horse which is installed at Wells-next-the-Sea, but we actually met at an exhibition I was involved with at St Mary’s Works in Norwich in 2019, and experienced a mutual connection. It felt as if we had known each other for a long time. 

Rachael: I was totally struck by Emily’s use of the space – using the fabric to define the building in a totally different way.

Can you tell me about your collaboration and how it came about?

Rachael: Emily contacted me in early 2020 to ask if she could come and do some welding with me. We didn’t manage to meet until September but very quickly realised how many interests we have in common although our work is so different – from the materials to the presentation.

Emily: I wanted to combine my draping with something more structural, to see how the materials would interact. As we spoke, we discovered some uncanny connections within both our practices, such as our fascination with memory and place.

Our collaboration is a culmination of these conversations and moments which occur whilst walking in landscape and spending time together. We have also been working on the possibility of a kinetic sculpture which is activated by wind. This is in the early stages of development, but we are both very excited by its potential. 

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What sort of conversations happen throughout the process of making?

Emily: Conversations about journeys, home and relationships are inherent in the making process. It all seems to come together in some intriguing moment, which we capture and document, like a form of catharsis.

Rachael: We’ve discovered we both have a fascination for family history and working out how they have influenced us as artists and women. We also discuss how to make work and how to survive financially but make the work you believe in.

Emily: We have also spent time a lot of time talking with Rachael’s brother, Vic Long, who is a pilot and makes aeroplanes. Vic has helped us immensely to realise the technical aspects of our moving sculpture, and how far we might go with our project.

What are you hoping to communicate or evoke with the work?

Rachael: When we started working together, we just followed through on our responses to what we made and did – we didn’t have an outcome in mind but it is now beginning to emerge. The theme of the work is the elements, but also memory and loss.

Emily: Spending time at Rachael’s home, I experience such a powerful sense of the memory held within the beams and the old farm machinery. In the woods, which was planted in the 90’s and is still quite young, part of an old Victorian bridge remains. I hope that these experiences come through in the work.

Where and how do you find inspiration?

Emily: We share a love of textiles, and the notion of lineage through object and material is important to both our practices. But also through our conversations whilst drinking tea and eating cake! 

Rachael: We are both inspired by the stories we have told each other, our strange connections, each other, what we like and dislike. I’m inspired by the way Emily comes in and looks differently at what I do and vice versa. It has felt liberating and is a rich seam of discussion.

What inspires you about collaborating across disciplines?

Rachael: This collaboration brings different ways of seeing our disciplines and has opened me up to the richness of working with someone who has a very different practice. It helps to kickstart new ideas and projects. 

Emily: Having someone ask you the questions which get you to pinpoint what it is you are wanting to say, and who encourages you to nurture this. I have learned things about myself during this collaboration that I may not have found otherwise.

Explore more of Rachael’s work on her Instagram or website

Explore more of Emily’s work on her Instagram or website

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