Today I would like to introduce you to a lovely person, Emily Zampeti from Emizart. Emily creates beautifully sculpted dragons in her Etsy shop. I can’t wait for you to meet her.
About Emily Zampetti:
I’m currently in school, working toward completing two associate degrees while also enrolled at VCU. I plan to complete my undergraduate degree in either English Literature or Communications in the coming years (Go Rams!) I love being outdoors, and I’m working on designing and building a custom home on a beautifully wooded five-acre lot with my partner in a more rural area of Virginia. Our plan is to finish our home, then travel and explore the world as much as possible. I have a wonderful Australian Shepherd, Sampson, who is a grumpy old man, but I love him to death. As a fun fact, I played competitive soccer for 22 years, and I miss it a lot. I like having some kind of sport to keep me physically engaged, and (aside from soccer) that has included biking, volleyball, boxing, running, disc golf, and now pickleball! Other than that, I have a great-niece and nephew who keep me on my toes, and I also nanny twin boys part-time. I read pretty much every day. I’ll read anything and everything, though naturally, my favorite genre is fantasy
What’s the History of Your Art & How You Got Where You Are Today?
I developed an interest in sculpture back in early high school, but didn’t really start playing around with clay until my senior year. At the time, I was making snowmen and gingerbread men based on tutorials in books. My work took a new direction several years later when I was working in a tabletop game shop. I had painted murals in the shop’s bathrooms, so some of the customers knew I was an artist. I soon received my first commission for a clay dragon, meant to accompany the client’s set of dice. I hadn’t tried sculpting anything like this before, so it was certainly a challenge! However, I fell in love with the concept, and luckily for me, a few of the client’s friends also wanted matching dragons for their dice. It sort of took off from there, and Dragonlings by Emizart was born. That was back in 2014, and I’ve been growing my brand and my business since then.
What Makes Your Art Unique?
One of the aspects of my Dragonlings that helps them stand apart is their scales. These have been referred to as spots, speckles, and even freckles! I also offer many Dragonling “character” designs, available in different poses, but always the same character. This is because I’m working on a series of children’s books starring the various Dragonlings with important lessons and fantastical stories. I think a lot of the similar sculptors out there like creating one-off dragons in some really impressive designs, but I like my ‘usual suspects’ line-up in different scenarios. I want my followers to be able to connect with certain Dragonlings based on their personalities and characteristics.
Where is Your Art Created?
I technically work in my bedroom, though roughly half of that space has been converted into my studio. I do my sculpting at a 3×4 drafting table and have a 6’ folding table directly beside it that I use for all my photography and shipping needs. It’s not my ideal setup, but I’m planning on having a more dedicated and efficient workspace built into my future home.
What’s Your Favorite Thing to Do with Polymer Clay?
I love challenging myself with scenery or environmental details that accompany some of my more intricate sculptures. Polymer clay can do just about anything you ask it to, so I’m currently loving sculpting (of all things), rocks. Trying to replicate natural rock formations and textures is challenging, but can turn out really cool. This is my current side-focus, but at the end of the day, I’m still just trying to perfect the Dragonlings! I strive for consistency in their design, and I’m amazed to see how much my style has developed and improved over a few years.
What’s Your Process Like? Tell Us About It.
When it comes to the Dragonlings, a lot of my work is driven by a desire to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I like trying new, big concepts that sometimes fail. Through this, I learn about better structural supports, bonding techniques, and additional materials that may help larger pieces survive.
Nature and mood influence my work a lot. I’ve been sculpting hermit crabs for a few months now, and I really like working their colors and textures to match certain vibes. Some of the crabs will result in bold, loud colors with lots of sparkle and shine, and others will be more subdued earthy colors and more of a matte finish. I just think these little figurines speak to people and represent their own emotional states. It’s neat to find that connection with others through my work. As for hermit crabs in general, I started sculpting them during the pandemic because I knew a lot of us were feeling alone and isolated. The crabs helped me to cope with everything going on.
What’s Your Favorite Item and Why Did You Create it?
I’ve been making these seasonal Autumn Leaf Mini Dragonlings pretty much since my first year in business, and I never get tired of them. I use a lot of different mica powders to get really shimmery fall colors on the leaves, and sculpt the Dragonlings to match. They are a seasonal favorite with my customers, and I love creating each and every one of them. Here in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Mountains are a major attraction for tourists and locals alike during the fall. They are incredibly colorful, and definitely inspiring!
I also love my snails! I started making the snails on a whim, and they really took off. In my Dragonlings universe, “shimmer snail” shells are a tasty candy-like treat to baby dragons, so snails are often left shell-less. They slowly slug around looking for decent replacements, and that’s why I started adding all sorts of things on my snail’s backs. If it’s even roughly the right shape, a shimmer snail will use it as a shell.
Lastly, I wanted to share my Storytime Dragonlings. The original creation was created in response to a custom order request, but I have sculpted many more since. I read just about every day and love this concept. Families sharing time to read together is such an irreplaceable treasure.
I like to sculpt small groups of pieces together following a similar theme. At one point, I ventured into “steampunk” Dragonlings. I really liked every piece in that set, but my favorite was a special Dragonling character I decided to call Icarus. His story was that he was born too close to a fallout zone, and the radiation levels resulted in him never growing a pair of wings. Undeterred, Icarus took to dabbling in mechanical engineering. Before long, he had built himself a fully functional jetpack and “skipper pads.” The pads were specialized footwear that defy gravity in small bursts, granting him a long bouncy gait, like a stone skipping on water. I sometimes come up with these short little tales to go with my creations to give them some context, and to help others see them the way I do. Icarus, of course, represents perseverance in the face of adversity, and I hope he inspires others to keep going, even when it seems like everything is hopeless.
Who is Your Polymer Clay Idol?
Definitely Melissa Terlizzi. Her whimsical, unique style in both sculptural design as well as painting, texturing, and finishing is just so inspirational. I’ve never tried to model any of my own work after hers, but I’m so enamored! I never get tired of browsing through her work, and I’m also awed by her community presence and efforts to make polymer art accessible and approachable to all. She’s a phenomenal artist all around!
Where to Find Emily Zampetti:
I don’t currently teach online, though I have provided real-time walkthrough video streams of my process in the past (with commentary). I occasionally take custom orders on a first-come, first-served basis, and I sell through my own website, Etsy, my Facebook page, at conventions and craft shows, and recently through a small local gift shop in Richmond, VA.