Meet the designer: and interview with Emily Robson

by Maja Bayyoud on

Sadly, social distancing means most of us won’t get to see our mums today. We wanted to give pride of place to the mums of Motley, starting with designer Emily Robson. She named her second Motley collection after her daughter, Sunny, and was inspired by her own mum, Anne, to become a jewellery designer. We sat down with Emily who shared her experiences of motherhood and tells us more about what inspires her.

You’ve designed two collections for Motley now, each with its own highly distinct character. What sets The Sunny Collection apart from your first collection? 

This one definitely feels like a natural follow on from the first collection. I love that you can wear them at once and they really sit well together. The vibe’s the same, but they each definitely have a distinct spirit. You can tell they’re from the same family, but this one feels like the older chic sister!

Ancient Egyptian iconography is a common feature of your work. How did you catch the Ancient Egypt bug? 

It's more something that stems from an interest in a lot of different things. I love architecture and the history of art, and I’m obsessed with animals- nature is kind of the most perfect subject. I love the spirituality of nature, and how much inspiration you can get from it. 

There’s over 2,000 ancient Egyptian gods to pick from- what drew you to Ra? 

It’s the Sun God! Enough said. 

The Sunny Collection was inspired (and named after) your daughter. How has motherhood influenced your work? 

It definitely gives you more of a focus. It's a strange blend of wanting to do everything for them, but also wanting to do something for yourself more than ever. You want to make them proud and give them all you can. You also want to feel yourself again. It drives you more than ever to create, I think.

Emily Robson

I suspect we already know the answer to this one- but are you a cold or warm weather person? 

No surprises here- definitely warm. 

What would you say are the biggest challenges women, and mothers specifically, face as freelance designers? 

Where to start... I think the biggest challenge is trying to balance everything and not feel constant guilt about not doing enough or seeing enough of your baby. I also think it's very important to have the option to work if that is what someone wants to do. I think it's a broader social issue, looking at how women with children are treated in the workplace. 

What barriers do you think young female designers face when trying to break into the industry? 

I think young people, in general, have it very tough nowadays. You either have to work for free or very little. I found that to be my biggest challenge when I first started. Thinking right I love this and I want to do this, how do I balance this with having enough money to pay my rent, I think that’s very difficult!

You and your mum used to visit antique markets to find pieces to add to your collections. Is there a treasured find that you can tell us about? 

We’re all obsessed with very heavy Afghan silver. We’ve found some very beautiful bangles and rings over the years, heavy silver with lots of detail, lots of serpents! 

What’s your favourite market?  

I like old local village markets in parts of Europe- Mallorca has some great ones, especially for pottery. We went to one in Inca, Mallorca last summer I’d strongly recommend. They have beautiful stalls loaded with amazing textiles, and it’s relatively inexpensive. 

Do you ever get the design version of “writer’s block”? and if you do - how do you get rid of it?

Yes!! You just need to walk away for a bit and clear your head, it helps if you read and stop looking at rubbish on the internet/ Phone! 

What song are you playing on repeat these days? 

My daughter and I always have a morning dance to Dr John, ‘Such a night’. It wakes us both up pretty quickly. 

After Sunny and your other half, what’s the first thing you save in a fire? 

My cats Leroy, Orson & Ghost and a necklace from my Nana.

What’s your proudest moment? 

Having my daughter Sunny

What’s your biggest regret? 

Don’t have any

What would you change if you were queen of the world for just one day?

I’d start with this:  

  • Make sure women are paid equally
  • Give everyone a proper living wage 
  • Fund the NHS as it should be funded
  • Completely change maternity laws. Single or both partners should have equal parental leave, with a full year of paid salary. Nurseries should be subsidised to ease the pressure on parents. 
  • Face the climate crisis and take serious steps towards changing the course of this planet, including laws to protect all species and banning all single use plastic. 
  • Put a law in place whereby councils and governments can only build sustainable, affordable homes for everyone. Get rid of the ridiculous deposit people have to put down. No ugly buildings with small windows allowed, it's just a way to keep people down. I’d have Frank Gehry advise on all british councils for housing!
  • Eradicate homelessness. Set up rehabilitation programs so people can get back on their feet with dignity and have a safe warm place to live.
  • Create more green open spaces, and more free arts and culture
  • Get rid of tuition fees, because everyone has the right to an education. Children and young adults should know that they can do anything they dream they want to do.

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