Emma Crabtree

Emma Crabtree
BA (Hons) Illustration // Leeds Arts University ‘20

Emma is an artist and illustrator based in Leeds. Her current drawings, ceramics and publications combine her love of writing with fine art and image making. She finds charm in the often overlooked; discerning beauty in the mundane and piecing together visuals with threads of narrative. From this, she evokes meaning, revealing her own interest in the preciousness and value of things. She plays with the definition of desirability and aims to examine her “own questionable taste” in order to make objects which “can exist somewhere between ugliness and beauty”.

“My most recent project, Touchstone, explores the interplay between taste and material surroundings – culminating in a 20-page publication. The objects and drawings speak to each other through their own unique taxonomy, forming their own narratives by complementing and contradicting one another. An animated text in the form of museum-like captions invites the reader to question what is real and what is deceptive, and which precedes the other – text or image. Like a living organism, the work grows, shifts, and spirals inwards on itself”.

The project was inspired by an object caption found in Leeds Discovery Centre: ‘small, squat, globular vase with frilled neck and three feet’. Emma was interested in the fact it was specific, yet descriptive, and both formal and creative at the same time. This duality spurred a cycle of production where she would respond to the description through drawing and making, complimenting her creations with self-written captions, which acted as visual prompts. From drawings she would make objects, and from objects write descriptions, and so on.

By isolating ‘ordinary’ objects and placing them on a pedestal within the museum catalogue context, Emma finds a way to fabricate an imposed importance and sense of history. In this way, she plays with the learnt semiotics of interpreting museum artefacts and collections – playing with the viewers trust and rethinking the way in which knowledge and fact is imparted in these settings.

Emma hopes to push the project into a solo exhibition, showcasing her handmade artefacts as if they are a collection of archaic findings. This context is the ultimate example of her efforts to subtly allude to the worth of these objects as more than just the accumulative sum of their parts.

Touchstone recently won the LAP Books Artist Books Award and will be published and available to purchase in Autumn/Winter this year.

[Text adapted from an essay by Hannah Carlile].


previous arrow
next arrow

Spiral-bound publication
20 pages, 19 x 25 cm each
Price TBC


2017 – 2020
BA (Hons) Illustration, First-Class, Leeds Arts University.

2016 – 2017
Foundation Diploma Art & Design, Distinction.


Leeds Arts University Degree Show, Online.

Print and Pull, Old Red Bus Station, Leeds.
Final1.jpeg, Colours May Vary, Leeds.


Winner of the LAP Books Artist Book Award