“People ask me what my five-year-plan is. I laugh, I mean, do people honestly plan that far ahead? All I know is that I like to bring colour to things.”
Against the splash of local craft and artistry adorning the walls of the Coastguard Cultural Station in Tramore, 35-year-old Emma Martin is wearing a navy dress, with rainbow nail polish, and a co-ordinating rainbow pendant. Her smile is infectious, and her attitude is so optimistic it is impossible not to mirror it.
“I am a bigger girl. I wear bright things because perhaps on some level I am shattering the societal concept which tells us we need to wear black to be slim. I arrive bringing colour, and people should never have to hide themselves.”
In third year, Emma Martin was one of the first students to walk through the doors of the newly opened Abbey Community College in Ferrybank, following the amalgamation of Ferrybank and Slieveue schools.
A city girl at heart, when her parents moved to Kilmacthomas when she was sixteen, unexpected and unwanted ripples of change moved through her life.
“We moved from a really busy Council estate in Ferrybank to what was essentially the middle of nowhere, and when you are sixteen, that’s just not easy.”
So eager was Emma to return to the city, that just four years later, the 20-year-old returned to Waterford city with her partner to live.
Moving to the city returned the social network, the hive of activity and the hum of the city which was missing in Kilmacthomas. Yet, despite working fulltime in a factory in Waterford and having pursued a social care degree, something inside of Emma was not content. She needed more, and in many ways, she needed less, because she moved to Tramore and she found her ‘place’.
The monthly Copper Coast market takes place in Riverstown Business Park in Tramore, as well as various pop-up locations throughout the year. The market is Emma’s brainchild, her passion and the physical culmination of years of pipeline aspirations.
“I’ve always seen things through the artist’s eyes, I see their vision for it. Our market is almost entirely led by women, which is extraordinary and represents a really important change in business. Supporting local for me is incredibly important perhaps, because of that.”
Yet, there is more, because Emma built the Copper Coast market from the ground up, not for her, but for the traders, those artists through whom she views the coloured spectrum of their vision. It is for the traders that she arrives early on market day, and leaves late, and it is for others that she offers a slice of self-accepting happiness on her blog, Emma’s Cottage Kitchen.
Coming from a family of farming chefs, Emma takes pleasure in good food and she enjoys the experience of cooking, from start to finish, believing firmly in the practice of ‘intuitive eating’. Intuitive eating encourages us to listen to our bodies, and what they need. It asks us to separate hunger from emotions and to recognise the difference, and to accept that both are valid and healthy, once we understand them .
“This took me a long time, to accept myself, and to reject the diet culture. This diet culture tells us that we are not enough as we are, and we are always looking to the next diet, the next magic number, when really we are all we need to be happy, just as we are.”
In an aromatic corner of Instagram, Emma is changing things – perceptions and outlooks.
“I did want children once, but not anymore. I am happy being me, I am happy spending time on my relationship and enjoying my relationship, and while I love children, I don’t need to have children, just because I am a woman. I am truly happy and I think we need to have these conversations, that women do not need to have children, they do not need to explain why they don’t have children, and they do not need to be the version of themselves that society deems appropriate.”
Emma’s parents became foster parents when Emma and her siblings left home, and coming from a loving home, which continues to shape her life, and the lives of her siblings has given her strength to listen to herself and who she is.
“If you are trying to shrink yourself, and you are using food as a tool while doing that, you are damaging your relationship with food, and your relationship with yourself. You are alienating yourself during meals, you are building a barrier between you and others, and society is allowing this to happen. This needs to change.”
The societal slow-down which has occurred since March has seen many take to social media to share images of bigger men and women to mourn their weight gain, or to joke about ‘the Covid stone’.
Red rushes to Emma’s cheeks in anger about this usage of social media, and what she sees as a negative and detrimental attack on body image.
“When you share a photo like that, you are sharing someone’s reality, and you are telling that person that to look like them is your worst nightmare. This is dangerous, hurtful and confidence destroying.”
Having tried every diet, both restrictive and binge dieting, Emma made the decision a couple of years ago to listen to her body. She began sharing her take on popular meals online, and from there, a hushed but powerful message of positivity and acceptance began reverberating from Emma’s Cottage Kitchen onto screens across the area.
Here was a rainbow clad, smiling, 35-year-old woman telling us that she is living from one day to the next, enjoying the adventure. In a polite, yet wholly unapologetic way, Emma was rejecting society’s vision of who she should be, and in finally shedding that pressure, she found happiness.
Later in the year, she will be working with Taste Tramore on a phenomenal new food festival in Tramore, and the Copper Coast Market will return – but until then, she will be in her corner of Tramore, with its vistas of green, taking time for her.