The artist behind the design of our International Women’s Day Coffees is Emma Currie, a former roaster at Allpress Melbourne.
A brilliant roaster and an equally talented artist, Emma has captured the spirit of this campaign with her own unique style that celebrates the female form.
Known for her lyrical female nudes exploring the conflicts of contemporary womanhood, we asked Emma a few questions about the inspiration behind her artwork created for this campaign.
From the farm, to roasting, packaging, labelling and branding; the Rwanda Coffee is a labour of love for women, by women.
Was there a distinct moment early on in your artmaking where you found your groove and really started to develop your signature style?
A few years after I finished my Fine Arts degree, I had decided not to pursue art in any serious way. I still wanted to paint though, so I was making abstract works that were just blocks of colour on canvas because it felt nice not thinking about the outcome. I was also doing a lot of casual life drawing classes around then and the two practices started merging. I realised I had accidentally stumbled onto something that I wanted to explore and put out in the world for people to see.
The way we see the female form is influenced by a long history of men painting women’s bodies. How do you find yourself pushing back against these ingrained stereotypes in your own work?
Male artists created a set of rules for the representation of the female body in art which has pervaded western culture since antiquity. As problematic as these classical masterpieces are, I still find myself drawn to them. I want to use my work to investigate how these images have dictated what we have been conditioned to think of as beautiful in the context of femininity.
Part of me wants to adhere to those conventions and make aesthetically pleasing, classical compositions, but another part of me wants to deconstruct those conventions all together. It’s an ongoing process of untangling my attachment to that visual language and attempting to co-opt it outside of the traditionally objectifying lens.
Who’s one of the most influential women in your life?
There are so many, it’s hard to pick one! Carolee Schneemann, Marina Abramovic and Tracey Emin are inspiring artists that have had an impact on my own art. They serve as a reminder to make art that is true to yourself. I studied them at Uni and was blown away by their willingness to put all of themselves into their work. They had such strong voices and were pushing every boundary which really inspired me. I try to channel a little bit of their boldness when I’m feeling doubtful or hesitant.
You’ve been involved with Allpress for years - how did you first start out working with them, and how has that evolved to now?
I started as a Roastery Assistant at Allpress and during that time I was given the opportunity to explore so many aspects of coffee production- from quality control and single origin selection, through to roasting.
Working with the Brand team on this International Women’s Day project was a fun way of seeing different aspects of the business. The entire crew at Allpress are absolute legends and such great advocates for women in coffee. Getting to be a part of highlighting that using my artwork has been an amazing experience.
When did you first become engaged with the idea of coffee as a vehicle for doing good?
For some people, getting a coffee at their local cafe is the highlight of their day. Learning someone’s name and coffee order as a barista and having a quick chat over the machine – it’s such a lovely interaction and fosters a sense of community.
Roasting at Allpress, I became aware of the industry’s scale and the long history of exploitation of coffee farmers. Allpress has worked so hard over the years to establish proud relationships with sourcing partners to ensure that there is traceability to the producer’s farm, which has a huge impact on the lives of people producing coffee at origin. With a focus on sustainability and community, there is so much good that we can achieve in the coffee industry.
The artwork you’ve created for Allpress is beautiful! The two forms embracing each other beautifully embodies the solidarity of the Nziza Women’s initiative and KCRS Women’s Cooperative. Was this a firm idea you had before starting the artwork, or did it evolve naturally?
The stories of the Nziza Women's Collective and KCRS Women’s Cooperative are so inspiring. I wanted to portray both tenderness and strength, and for there to be an overarching ‘women supporting women’ theme. It was important that all elements of the piece were bold and complex yet balanced, to create a sense of harmony and illustrate overcoming challenges through community and solidarity.