Emily Gray is an artist and a writer, and one of Make-It Springfield’s 2022 Resident Fellows. For a number of years, Emily has been working on a series of comics and short stories called “Iris Tiger Tails” that are inspired by the East Springfield/Liberty Heights neighborhood where she grew up—”it’s pretty much a giant love letter to my childhood.” Emily has already begun to map out area landmarks for inclusion in future drawings and believes that Springfield’s future includes many special things ahead. “I would love to have the chance to influence its future, and I believe my project can be a part of that.” Emily told us about her goals and inspirations:
First, how did you find out about Make-It Springfield? I kept seeing my Facebook Friends sharing posts with different workshops and events going on at Make-It Springfield, which made me interested in learning more about it.
What do you hope to accomplish as a Residency Fellow? I’m almost 43 years old. I remember when I was younger I used to laugh at my dad when he would say that life goes by so fast. That’s something you don’t understand when you’re in your teens and 20’s, that time is a limited resource, and that one day you too are going to wake up middle aged. And you’ll look back at your younger years and say to yourself, “What happened? It went by so fast!”
I certainly didn’t mean to make it to 40+ without doing much with my creative work. But winning this Fellowship has made me even more determined to live my dream of becoming an artist and a writer. I may not be as young as I used to be, but I still believe in myself and in the quality of my work. Not everyone is meant to follow the same path in life, and some of us are late bloomers. I hope to prove that age doesn’t have to be a limitation when it comes to following your dreams.
What or who inspires you or your creative work? As I mentioned, I’m an artist and a writer. Right now I’m working on a series of comics and stories called Iris Tiger Tails, which is inspired by my childhood growing up in the late 80’s/early 90’s. I loved growing up when I did, because it was the last era where children got to experience a non-digital childhood.
I remember so much from back then. The clothes I wore, the friends I had, the slumber parties where we’d all squish together in one room and play Bloody Mary and talk about boys.
I guess I would say Iris Tiger Tails grew out of my desire to share everything that I remember from my childhood.
What would you like people to know about your background, as it relates to your creative work or otherwise? I grew up here in Springfield, MA. I moved away for about 20 years, but after my divorce I came back and I am now once again a proud Springfield resident. When I was growing up, I moved around a lot. But my favorite neighborhood by far was the East Springfield/Liberty Heights neighborhood, which I lived in from ages 8 to 12. And those are definitely the most memorable years from my childhood. So once I started getting the idea for Iris Tiger Tails, I spent the whole day walking through my old neighborhood. I took reference pictures of different homes and buildings in the area, and especially of the elementary school that I attended and the park that I played in back then. I also have maps drawn out of the town where the main characters live, which is based off of various sections of the neighborhood where I grew up.
I plan to work lots of western MA and Springfield “Easter Eggs” into Iris Tiger Tails as the series progresses.