As a small child, Emile Norman was interested in constructing his own toys and making carvings. In high school he was allowed by his teacher to work alone and develop his talents. After putting himself through college, he moved to New York, where he pursued a successful interlude freelancing, doing art work.
He lived and maintained studios at the house he designed and built in Big Sur, California and became a member of the Carmel Art Association in 1958. Norman often used an innovative technique bringing together unique mixtures of epoxy resin, crushed glass, plastic, and wood.
His work has been shown at the De Young Museum of Art, San Francisco; the Chicago Art Institute; and Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston. During his lengthy career as a full-time artist, he completed numerous commissions, the most monumental of these being the endomosaic window in the California Masonic Temple; it measures almost three stories high and 48 feet wide.
A portrait of the artist and his life as a gay man is captured in a documentary film, “Emile Norman: By His Own Design.” The film premiered on KQED public television in 2007.