Creativity has always been a part of Emily DeBuys’s life, but it hasn’t always looked the same. The talented creator has pursued everything from woodworking and metal-smithing to watercolors and sign-making. Every medium is an exciting adventure for the inspiring artist - something new to be explored. As DeBuys continues to push in new directions, she stays rooted in the love for art that has always been a part of her life.
“My dad is a woodworker. I grew up in his woodshop helping him do stuff and learning about woodworking at a very young age - probably too young of an age to be around heavy machinery,” DeBuys recalls. Her dad was also a sign painter who eventually founded a woodworking school. It’s safe to say his impact could be felt on Emily at an early age while growing up in Chattanooga. She would eventually move off to college to pursue art in her favorite medium - metal-smithing.
“I was a metal-smithing and jewelry design major in college at Appalachian State,” DeBuys explains of her art history, “I moved to Birmingham right after college and started a jewelry design and metal-smithing company called Alchemy Design.” The business was a success, but Emily soon learned that metal-smithing was such a joy that she didn’t want to mix it with business. This revelation led her to become an elementary school art teacher while continuing to enjoy her crafts on the side.
The next big shift occurred when Emily had kids. Her favorite type of metalworking dealt with toxins that she didn’t want to be around while pregnant or with small children, but she still felt drawn to creating while at the house with her children. “Making art is completely natural to me. I just do it whether I want to or not. It’s something that I’ve taught myself how to do - like the two-dimensional artwork,” DeBuys shares, “I studied all three-dimensional stuff in college so it was born from the necessity of being in the house and kids and needing to do something creative and make art. So I taught myself how to watercolor. I do acrylic. I do murals. The floor projects that I’ve done several of are just because somebody trusted me.”
As one of Emily’s favorite professors loved to say, being an artist is actually being a problem solver. How to bring light into a painting? How to put beauty in the world? How to change your approach from acrylic to watercolors? The answer to the last question is that the highlights come first in watercolor, something Emily perfected while working on her hyper-realistic bug paintings. “It was mainly practice but people like them, so I sell them,” DeBuys muses.
A canvas is far from the only thing that Emily has painted on. Her father was also a skilled signmaker, and taught her the art at an early age. She can also be found painting in people’s homes more than ever.
“I’ve done several murals and painted people’s walls instead of them putting up wallpaper so that they are one-of-a-kind walls. I started doing that a while ago when a designer that I know - Lisa Blake - decided to paint her floors she said ‘You can do this for me, right?’” DeBuys recalls, “It turned out beautifully and it couldn’t have been any better and she’s since had me do some of her client’s floors. That’s become a whole different arm of my artwork just from taking that one chance.
If there are two truths that Emily can center herself around it is that art is problem solving and that anyone can do it. Finding beauty in everyday things is a gift that we can all possess. “The reason I named my jewelry design business Alchemy Design was because the idea that taking something that is trash, no good, useless material and making it something beautiful has always been appealing to me,” DeBuys shares, “That’s why taking a bug that most people wouldn’t think twice about stepping on, killing, spraying, and not seeing the beauty in it, to taking it and painting it and spending so much time and effort to make it beautiful.”
DeBuys sees a growing creative scene in the city around her - especially amongst women artists and business owners - and is excited to be a part. “Having grown up in Chattanooga and seeing the artist community grow so exponentially from my childhood to adolescence was really inspiring to see,” Emily shares, “I see it happening in Birmingham slowly, but surely. Maybe I just didn’t know as many people, but I feel there is an exciting creative community that has grown in the last ten years.”
There has been a lot of growth in the Magic City, and nobody has explored the different methods quite like Emily DeBuys. You can see more of Emily’s work on her instagram account: @e.debuys.art