Renowned sculptor Emma Rodgers has exhibited her striking work worldwide, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, to the Royal Academy of Art, Collect at The Saatchi, S.O.F.A. in Chicago and New York and the Grande Palais Paris. Her work is constantly in demand and she has also worked with Marvel films on the sets of Guardians of The Galaxy and Avengers Age of Ultron.
She has recently received great acclaim for her statue of Liverpool icon Cilla Black, which is proudly displayed in the city.
But despite her success, Emma has never forgotten the help and support she received from the University of Wolverhampton, where she studied a BA in Ceramics and Glass and an MA in Art and Design (Ceramics).
“When I attend art fairs, one of the first things you get asked is where you studied,” says Emma. “I tell everyone about Wolverhampton; my course was really diverse and gave me the confidence to take risks. It was absolutely brilliant.
“Even now, I am still in touch with the staff, 20 years after graduating. The support doesn’t just stop when you leave and they are fantastic.”
It was while studying for her degree that she received her first big break. “We were encouraged to go for things to gain experience and push ourselves forward. I was urged to apply for Ceramic Contemporaries 2 at the Victoria and Albert Museum and I was accepted into the exhibition. It was great to get that recognition and things moved on from there.
“I was then able to fund my part-time MA by exhibiting my work.”
Emma has pioneered new boundaries for age-old mediums of clay and bronze, pushing them to the edge of their elasticity to create powerful, challenging, delicately beautiful statuary. She has deliberately abandoned the solidity of form traditionally associated with both classical and modern sculpture.
She was delighted to be approached by Marvel for set sculptures for the box office smash Guardians of the Galaxy. “The sculptures were featured in a laboratory and museum set, based on Knowhere a fictitious mining planet, which also serves as the headquarters of The Collector, played in the film by Benicio Del Toro.
“The sculptures I created can be seen as part of The Collector’s personal possessions. I was asked to create pieces that were not instantly recognizable and they had to feel ‘other worldly’. One of the pieces created was Man & Ape, influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is two porcelain skulls layered with details using found objects including shells for teeth, latex, wire and threads for flesh. Another is Mother and Child, where I have aimed to capture the relationship between the animals and their offspring.”
The pieces range from small table top size sculptures through to an 8ft bronze puppet.
Emma’s iconic 60s era Cilla statue, a collaboration with artist Andy Edwards, was unveiled earlier this year. Cilla’s family wanted to gift the statue to the City as a thank you for all the support and comfort expressed by the people when their mother passed away.
“I remember from the original meeting thinking ‘she had great legs, you have to feature those legs!’”
Wirral-based Emma is strongly connected to Liverpool and is a finalist for Merseyside Woman of the Year, an “amazing honour”. She also designs and makes the shields for Liverpool FC and created the You’ll Never Walk Alone award for Steven Gerrard.
With international demand for her work, Emma rarely stops; there are exhibitions in Beirut and Holland and she is currently shipping pieces to New York, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
Plans are also in the pipeline for new public art pieces for Liverpool, Manchester and Salford, which are currently under wraps.
Emma is passionate about art in the community and is excited to hear about the Wolf trail taking shape around Wolverhampton.
Given the chance, she’d love to return to make her mark on the city she called home. And the wolf theme is a perfect fit. “I often imagined a small pack of them pacing, possibly alongside Lady Wulfruna, near St Peter's Church,” she says.