Artist Profile: Emily Orzel - Tucson


Hi Emily! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Emily Orzel and I am an illustrator and designer based in Tucson, AZ. I make and sell products (shirts, totes, buttons, stickers, cards, etc.) with my designs on them in addition to doing commissions.

What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
Ever since I was a kid I was always drawing. When I went to college I was very lost about who I was and and what I wanted to do with my life. For awhile I was a painting major and then at the end of college I switched to graphic design. My focus wasn't on illustration in college and I only took one illustration class. Art school is a strange place of concentrated comparison and competition. Illustration was what I wanted to do but my mental health wasn't great and I was afraid of judgement from others. It wasn't until I was out of that environment that I felt comfortable to draw whatever I wanted in whatever style I wanted.

When did you know that you wanted to pursue your graphic design and illustration as a business?
I didn't have a lightbulb moment of deciding to pursue this as a career. It just felt like a natural path mostly because of the happiness it gives me. After college I was just really enjoying just having fun with art again. Then I sold some prints at a market (CULTIVATE Tucson!) and was doing commissions here and there. I kept using all the money I made to reinvest in my art. I bought a printer, a button maker and more products to sell. I was working away and starting to build the foundation of my business without being fully aware that's what I was doing. Looking back I was just trusting my gut and doing what felt right for me. I still have a part-time job as a graphic design/ administrative assistant and I'm working on making the transition to doing what I love full time but I trust myself and the process fully.


What is your design process? Do you actively think about new designs to create or do you create when an idea comes to you?
When it comes to ideas I've found that illustration (and really any expression of creativity) is a muscle that must be exercised regularly for it to grow and become strong. If you wait to create only when you have a brilliant idea your creative muscle might be strong enough to executive that idea properly. I make myself draw even if I’m not in the mood for it. If I am feeling particularly out of practice I do sixty days of daily drawing. Some of those days I have trouble thinking of something to drawing or I feel like I don't have time but I make myself do it anyway. It's interesting to see what comes out of it. Some of the drawings aren't great but some of them feel like little pieces of magic that might not have existed without just sitting down and drawing that day. The more you exercise that muscle the more freely ideas flow. I also keep an idea journal with me always. I’m the queen of having a good idea and then forgetting it five minutes later so I write everything down!

What is your relationship with social media/the internet and your artwork? It's a great place to have your work seen, but sometimes it also takes away/discredits the artist behind beautiful designs. How do you navigate that space?
Social media is so vital for visual artists! I wouldn’t be anywhere without it. It has connected me to so many wonderful people and opportunities but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a downside to it. Being a visual artist on social media in an age of constant visual content comes with risk. Often in the process of sharing and re-sharing of someone else's work the artist credit gets lost. It feels violating having your work and energy be used without your knowledge. There isn’t a ton we can do except look out for each other (See a post without a credit? Kindly ask the account to find their source and credit!). If you do repost from an artist please tag them and credit them in the caption (bonus points if you ask them first!).

How do you connect with your customers and community?
My favorite way to connect is at markets. I love meeting people face to face at markets and chatting with them. It is literally the most rewarding part of what I do. Social media is, of course, another valuable tool to connect with others! I also regularly meet up with other local makers to talk shop and support each other whether it's through bouncing ideas off one another or figuring out solutions to problems we're facing.

Has Tucson helped shaped your business and designs?
Absolutely! Tucson is so community-based and it has really opened my eyes to the power and importance of supporting those around you. My business wouldn't exist without the support I've gotten from the Tucson community. It's also a very visually interesting place. The color palettes and cacti definitely creep into my illustrations!

You draw a lot of cool looking ladies - what draws you to illustrating women?
Women are my favorite subject to draw! I think I draw them so frequently because it is another way for me to explore my own experience as a women.

What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
There are two main reasons that I make art. The first is a bit selfish, but illustration helps me process my own thoughts. The bulk of my work has a positive undertone which is from me processing the negative in my life and giving myself an affirmation to feel better or make sense of things. The other reason I make art is the connection with others. Connecting with someone over some random thing that came out of my brain is an amazing thing! It reminds me that this world isn't as lonely of a place as I sometimes feel.

seated lady2.jpg

What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your work?
Figuring out the whole business side of things is a definite challenge! Also, having to confront my own weaknesses. It's okay to ask for help!

At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
For so long the narrative for women has been that there isn’t enough room for all of us so we must look at each other as a threat and look out only for ourselves. We were subconsciously taught to internalized each others successes as our own failures. I’m happy to be living through a time where that narrative is actively being dismantled. We are seen more when all stand together so it is important to make sure that no one gets left behind. A lot of this also comes down to "Shine Theory", coined by Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, which states "I don't shine if you don't shine" and it is the truth!


What creative women do you find inspiring?
This could seriously be a never ending list for me! Diana Williams is a Tucson-based seamstress and designer. Her business is named Worst Western and she makes killer clothing (especially lingerie) that is inclusive and empowering. She also works to create spaces that showcase and empower women/POC whether that be at markets or teaching sewing classes at her new sewing studio. Other creative women I find inspiring are Ryann Grove (owner of Luca Ryann in Tucson), Marissa Johnson (Tucson-based creative and co-owner of CREAM Design & Print, where I get everything screen printed!), Tuesday Bassen (L.A.-based illustrator/ designer) and Frances Cannon (Melbourne-based artist).

Is there someone who helped shape your career path?
I've been lucky enough that many people have helped shaped my path! My mom, my sister, other creatives and my partner, Spencer, to name a few! Their support is a critical part of where I've been and where I want to go.


How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
Self-doubt is an inevitable part of the process of being an creative (and human being). I’ve gotten to a place where I treat it as a separate as a voice/entity from my own. I give it space to speak it’s doubts but I try to remember that what it has to say often comes from a place of fear trying to keep me complacent in the status quo. By treating it as a separate entity I don’t internalize the negativity as truth and can get to the root cause of the problem quicker.

I’m not perfect and sometimes self-doubt (and it’s friend anxiety) can take a stronger hold on me. When that is happening my first go-to is making sure I'm taking care of myself as best as I can. I run through my “housekeeping” list. Am I eating well? Drinking water? Moving my body? Over scheduling myself? Do I need to make a therapy appointment?

What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
There is always more I want to learn! I want to learn more about finances and business to strengthen that side of what I do. In terms of art, I've been teaching myself to make block prints. Since so much of my work is digital it's been a fun thing to do!

What are some of your favorite places in Tucson?
Exo Roast Co! It’s my favorite coffee shop, breakfast spot and makeshift office - I’m there a few times a week. The Annex at Mercado San Agustin just opened and is filled with amazing local shops! Also, not sure if this counts, but one of my favorite places to be in Tucson is on my bike. It's a fairly bikeable city and one of my favorite ways to explore Tucson!


Find Emily at: