Embracing the Artistic Process

Emie Hughes

Emie Hughes.

Former theatre arts major Emie Hughes ’13 blended her love of movement and the visual arts to form her company Blue Jar LLC, through which she teaches workshops on cyanotype, a photographic printing process, that blends science and art.

Emie Hughes.

Former theatre arts major Emie Hughes ’13 and an example of the cyanotype artwork she produces and teaches workshops in through her company Blue Jar LLC.

Can you speak to how Dickinson’s useful liberal-arts education helped you along your career path? 
My time at Dickinson gave me the foundation to think in creative, expansive and multidisciplinary ways. The more experience I gain as an artist and business owner, I realize just how crucial those skills are. In my field, there is never just one answer to an obstacle, and Dickinson prepared me to problem-solve with confidence and resilience. I love that I was encouraged to take classes that I was excited about, whether or not they counted for my major. As a theatre arts/dance major and psychology minor, I took classes in dance, photography and film, which greatly inform the mission of my business and art practice. The passions that I explored deeply at Dickinson ultimately led me to found my business Blue Jar LLC in 2019.
What was your favorite activity/organization at Dickinson? 
Dickinson’s Dance Theatre Group (DTG) was my favorite group. DTG is like a crazy fun art-making group of theatre and dance artists, and it quickly became my Dickinson family. I still am close with many DTG’ers! 
How has Dickinson’s focus on global education impacted your life or career since graduation?
One of the original reasons that I attended Dickinson was the emphasis on travel and “engaging the world.” During my junior spring, I studied abroad at Accademia dell'arte in Arezzo, Italy. This program was through Hendrix and Muhlenberg colleges, and I was the only student from Dickinson to attend my semester. The program was very small, and we spent so much time together—eating, talking Italian, taking the bus into town for ballet, creating theatre and dance pieces—that by the end, we were our own artistic family of dancers and actors. Many of my close friends are people I met and danced with during this program.
What jumps out as a great memory from your time at Dickinson?
Winning the Weiss Prize for the Creative Arts my senior year was one of my favorite memories. I had a solo evening to present my work “Opus Feminna” on the mainstage. I controlled the entire process—from casting to costumes, choreography to programs. This experience prepared me for producing my many choreographic works in New York City from 2013 until now!
How do you stay involved with Dickinson? 
Being a resource for current students and alumni is extremely important to me. Before I started my business, there were so many people who sat down with me for coffee and phone calls, helping me sift through questions of how to move forward with my career. I want to be that same resource for fellow Dickinsonians—and fellow artists/business owners in general. I also stay connected to my advisor, Associate Professor of Dance Sarah Skaggs, the Department of Theatre & Dance and many other fellow Dickinsonians from my time there. In the future, I am hoping to return to campus through the Department of Theatre & Dance to lead workshops in movement and cyanotypes with Blue Jar LLC.
How did you get interested in your work, and what about it excites you most? 
In addition to my dance/movement practice, I have always had a visual art practice. I come from a family of artists and have been creating paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc. ever since I can remember. The “starving artist” paradigm is one in our society (and world) that hurts many artists. I believe, and I am seeing proof of it as I grow my business, that artists can be financially successful while also doing what they love. I have always known that ultimately I needed to be my own boss. The trick has been finding a medium that acts as the container for what I need artistically, that allows for financial and professional growth. The cyanotype process—also known as sun-printing—has been that for me. It is the oldest photographic process and is actually where the blueprint gets its name. With this form, I am able to combine my love of movement and visual art into a sustainable business model which also allows me to keep exploring, creating and learning. With cyanotypes, I can also create a schedule and world that allows me to create in and among nature, which makes me the most happy and most grounded version of myself. It can be done anywhere, so I can use it to experience and document new places and people. The more classes I teach, the more confident I become in incorporating mindfulness practices, dance training and mind-body theories into my lesson plans.
What does your current work entail? 
When thinking of business names, I wanted to combine two things that I love most—in art and everyday life. I put blue plus mason jars together, and voila! Blue Jar was born. At the center of what I do is my love for blue, nature and the beauty of the process. To put it simply, my mission is to create more beauty in the world. I focus on teaching workshops at my home studio, schools and community art centers. Since so many people don’t know about the medium of cyanotype, there is so much magic in sharing it with others. I have found that there is a real need in many communities to connect with nature while creating something beautiful. It is also the most inspiring intersection of science and art! I love teaching students of all ages and treating the process as an improvised dance. I also create artworks on paper and textiles and design products with my artwork. 
What comes to mind as something unforgettable that you’ve done since you graduated?
I am so proud to have found and married another Dickinson alum, Patrick Reiher ’12. We didn’t know each other at Dickinson, but we were introduced by Holly Spalding ’13 and Matt Guariglia ’12 in NYC! In 2013, Associate Professor of Dance Sarah Skaggs cast me in her work in NYC at St. Mark’s Church, which was my New York dance debut! This experience gave me the confidence and support that I needed to move to Brooklyn only months after graduation. Another memorable moment was when I started my business Blue Jar LLC in 2019 and combined my love of photography, art, events, choreography and the color blue into one beautiful container!


Published September 30, 2021