Artist Emily Wallace was born and raised in the small eastern North Carolina town of Smithfield. Growing up in rural North Carolina, Wallace spent a lot of time with her grandmother, Charlotte Wallace, who inspired her to take an interest in art. Wallace began doodling, drawing, and painting as a child, and she never stopped. Of course, living in eastern North Carolina meant her refrigerator was always well stocked with Mt. Olive relish and pickles.
“Mt. Olive is a staple in our tuna salad and egg salad. Growing up in Eastern North Carolina, it was what we always kept around,” Wallace recounted.
After spending several years in Chicago and the Midwest, Wallace moved back to North Carolina to pursue a masters degree in Folklore at UNC-Chapel Hill. She developed an interest in food writing, and decided to focus her masters thesis on pimento cheese, concentrating on small, local NC companies like Star Food Products and Ruth’s Salads. This project sparked a deeper passion for southern food specifically, and it’s influence on our lives and culture.
Wallace’s artwork can be described as vintage, quirky, and fun. Her use of bright, cheerful colors in her illustrations gives them a “pop art” vibe, and her cartoon illustrations are witty, whimsical, and a little bit silly, in the best way.
In 2019, Wallace published a book titled Road Sides, which is an A to Z guide about eating on the road in the South. She explores many beloved staple southern restaurants’ histories and provides fun and cheerful illustrations along the way.
Currently, Wallace is balancing several projects including commissions and running an online shop where she sells prints, stickers, cards, and more. She is also working on creating wooden cutouts for Durham restaurant Parker & Otis (think: GIANT bottle of mustard to adorn the walls, next to a JUMBO Duke’s Mayo jar and some HUGE deviled eggs!).
We connected with Wallace when we stumbled upon her artwork on Instagram. We saw our classic Kosher Dill Spears featured as a sticker that Wallace had created. These unique “snack packs” of illustrations were originally created as digital drawings, which Wallace then turned into stickers. They are available for purchase online for $8.00.
Wallace currently resides in Durham, and keeps always keeps her fridge stocked with Duke’s mayo, pimento cheese, and her favorite Mt. Olive product: Sweet Relish. To learn more, please visit her website at http://eewallace.com/.
Follow Emily on Instagram: @emilyewallace