How I See San Francisco: Textile Artist Emma Keenan-Grice
Growing up, San Francisco native Emma Keenan-Grice always enjoyed painting and making things with her hands. She received her BFA from the University of Washington and studied abroad in Amsterdam, finding inspiration in the De Stijl movement. After graduating, she came back to the Bay and completed a graphic design program from City College of San Francisco. Emma continues painting and exploring other art mediums in her studio in the Inner Richmond.
We asked Emma where she finds inspiration in the City by the Bay, as well as what she thinks every visitor should do when they come to San Francisco.
What does a typical day in San Francisco look like for you?
I wake up and make a cup of coffee or go to the Richfield. I check my emails and fulfill some orders. Once that’s done, I’ll do some sketching and color studies. Take a lunch break, sometimes I go to King of Thai #2 in my neighborhood. Then it’s back to the studio and painting or starting to tuft a rug. Before it gets too late, I try and make my way to Ocean Beach to enjoy the sunset and unwind a bit. After that, I make dinner and then work some more, since I’m a bit of a night owl.
Which neighborhood, other than your own, do you like to explore?
I grew up in the inner Sunset. I recently moved to the inner Richmond and that is the neighborhood that I am having lots of fun exploring. It has so much to offer in terms of food and parks. I love the farmer’s market every Sunday.
You’re a prolific artist, expanding your creative output through many different mediums (painting, clothing/fashion, prints and rugs). Where do you get your inspiration and ideas? Is there a specific place in San Francisco?
I get a lot of my inspiration and ideas from the colors I see at Ocean Beach. I like to go at sunset and stay for the “after-sunset” because sometimes that’s when you get the more vibrant colors. It’s such a beautiful place to go and detach from your phone.
Is there a local artist you admire?
Kindah Khalidy. I am inspired by her use of color and how she explores so many mediums as a painter and textile designer.
How should visitors experience all the culture that San Francisco has to offer?
You should always check out the museums. A great place to see what artists in the City are doing is to go to Clarion Alley and Balmy Alley in the Mission. The murals there are always changing. You feel so connected to what artists living in the city care about.
We've all had to forego some of our favorite things this past year to keep our communities safe and healthy. What are some of the San Francisco experiences you can't wait to have again?
I can’t wait to go back to the rock climbing gym. I didn’t realize how much I relied on the climbing gym to be not only a great physical workout but also such social component to my life. I was spoiled with seeing friends and climbing 3-5 times a week. That is something I really missed.
With all your extra time this past year, have you learned a new skill or taken on a big project that you’ve always wanted to tackle?
Yes! I saw a video a few years ago of a rug being made and was immediately interested. I went all in and bought a tufting machine, loads of yarn, and watched all of the YouTube videos I could find. I built a tufting frame and taught myself how to rug from start to finish! I’ve really enjoyed learning a new skill and figuring out how to apply my artistic style in a new medium.
What's your favorite annual event that happens in San Francisco?
My favorite event is West Coast Craft. It’s a great craft fair that always has such a diverse group of artists and makers who show and sell their work. I love seeing what people are creating. It's always so inspiring to see others who are putting so much time and hard work into their art and what they love.
Where and what would you choose for your last meal in San Francisco?
My last meal in San Francisco would be from Shanghai Dumpling King on Monterey Blvd. They used to have a location in the Outer Richmond and I was so sad when that one closed. It turns out they have this location and I was so glad to know I could still get their delicious dumplings and string beans. They have amazing string beans! I haven’t found ones better than the ones I’ve had there. I also highly recommend their spicy wontons.
Which restaurant is still on your list to dine at in San Francisco?
Yamo is still on my list. It’s in the Mission and I’ve heard such great things about it from all of my friends. I can’t wait to go.
Where do you like to view sunrise and sunset?
I like to view sunrise at Tank Hill. It’s in Cole Valley and close to Sutro Tower. You get this amazing view of downtown, the bay, and Oakland. It’s gorgeous because you can see the sun come up and illuminate downtown. I love to see the sunset at Ocean Beach. A winter sunset at Ocean Beach is underrated. I’m a huge fan of listening to some music, dancing on the beach, and enjoying the view and colors as the sun goes down.
Tell us about a time you felt most at home in San Francisco.
I think the fog and all of the micro-climates around the city really connect me to San Francisco. I feel most at home when I leave the house for a day and am prepared for all of the different weather San Francisco throws at me.
What should every visitor to San Francisco do at least once?
They should take the ferry to Sausalito. It’s affordable and it gives you a really cool view of the city. You get to see downtown from a different angle and you’re super close to the Golden Gate Bridge.
What’s one part of San Francisco that you wish visitors knew about?
The trails up and around Sutro Tower. Sheltered by the dense trees, you’re transported to a sort of fairytale landscape with the fog creeping through the trees. Occasionally, you get glimpses of the city and different neighborhoods as you climb up through the trees.
What’s one thing first-time visitors should do in San Francisco and why?
They should go on a hike at Land’s End for some spectacular views of the bay, the ocean, and the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s out near the beach and pretty removed from a lot of tourist attractions, but it is so worth the trek out there.
What one thing a visitor familiar with San Francisco should do and why?
A visitor familiar with San Francisco should go to Arizmendi Bakery (1331 Ninth Ave.). I grew up going to Arizmendi and I can’t recommend them enough. It’s a great place to get a morning pastry or pizza for lunch.