What do you consider yourself?
I consider myself an artist, photographer and maker. I am a trained photographer–I earned a BFA in Photography at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena California.
What did you dream of becoming when you were younger?
I always dreamed of being an artist. I wanted to be a painter or illustrator. I loved to draw and it was always my favorite subject in school.
Where did you grow up? Were there aspects of your childhood that have influenced what you do now?
I grew up in Provo, Utah. I had a weird childhood, it wasn’t the norm in the area. I grew in a home with a working mother and three older brothers, I always joke that I was raised by wolves. My mother had a big influence on the way I see nature and life, she is a sweet woman who loves to grow things and immerses herself in nature–a farm girl at heart.
Besides being ultra kind she always taught me that it was okay to be a little different and that it’s okay to embrace your imperfections. All three of my brothers are creatives, I have a film maker brother, a painter and tattooer brother and a small business owner brother. My oldest brother was always giving me art lessons at home, teaching me about composition, perspective and color theory. I was surrounded by art lovers growing up and that definitely played a part in what I do now.
Have you ever made a big career switch? If so, what prompted that? Are there aspects of a prior career that you incorporate into what you do now?
Not necessarily, but I would say that after having my first child almost 5 years ago there has been a big shift in life. I have always waned to be a mom and now that I have three children 4 and under life is busy and my priorities have shifted. I know this time in my life is so short where I will have my kids home and small, I want to take advantage of that so the time I have to create is limited and sacred. I find myself making and doing personal art projects in the evening after the kids go to bed as well as when I have a job lined up I get childcare. But the days of long hours away for work don’t happen too often.
What sparked your interest in felting? What attracted you to this field?
I loved the endless potential felting offers. I am able to make just about any kind of prop I want for my photography and it opens up a lot of creative avenues to explore. I can also use felting as an art form in itself. My main medium of art is photography though I am dependent on others to model for me as well as going on location and setting up lighting for the creation process. With felting I can do it anytime and anywhere.
What are three words to describe your style?
Playful, exotic, weird
What are some stereotypes of your job that you wish to break?
As a photographer I hate the stereotype that my job is simply a mindless hobby and I take “pictures”. I actually don’t like telling people what I do because of the stereotypes of being a female photographer. I would love to explain to people that there can be a lot of depth, meaning, humor, healing, educating is done with photography.
What is a typical day like for you?
Most days I wake up and take care of my kids, because they are 1, 3 and 4 they are my daily priority. After taking care of their needs I usually get about a 2 hour gap of time for myself while naps are happening, this is when I get some time to do research, felt, draw or work on images. We usually put the kids down around 7 and on the evenings that I have energy I will get back to work.
When I am doing a project I am super excited about it can keep me up quite late. When I am feeling stretched or on a time crunch for a project I will hire someone to watch the kids during the day. I know I only have another year or two that my kids are this small and it will go by quickly so I try to make sure to balance life and enjoy them.
I waited a long time for my kids and I always planned to put some of my passions on the back burner while they were young. (Back burner to me means that my passions are still stewing, they are kept warm, they are tended to and tasted and consumed and at times they get my full attention).
What is your workspace like? Has it changed at all since the beginning of the pandemic last year?
I work at home, I used to have an entire room as my office, but after my second child was born we needed the space for him so I moved my work area into our oversized laundry room but now that my husband works from home I have a work space in the corner of our living room.
It actually is really nice because it has great light and sometimes the kids can just do their thing and play while I get things done. My goal for the next year is to either build a studio shed in our yard to work from or find a home with plenty of space for our family and my passions.
Pop culture appears to influence your work. Can you tell us about that? What books, movies, shows, or music are making you excited these days?
I do love pop culture! I love anything that makes my imagination start to run. In college I bought a DVD of Michel Gondry music videos and I watched them all the time. I was in love with his work, it made me want to go out and create worlds. I loved that he uses practical effects to make real life feel like magic. His work is weird, quirky and fun yet emotional.
I have gobs of art books on my shelves, some of my favorite photo books are from artists that plucked phenomenal portraits of strange people and scenes and gifted them to others (Alec Soth, Diane Arbus, William Eggleston, Martin Parr are some of my favorites).
I have books and books of illustrators and painters and when feel dry I can flip through them and they give lend me their ideas for mine to sprout from.
I also love tv shows that embrace humor–one of my favorites is 30 Rock. I think I enjoy seeing that there are other adults with weird ideas that are successful. I don’t like to take myself too seriously. Life is too short to not live it authentically.
What is the most challenging part of your work? How have you, or how do you, overcome those challenges?
I can think of three things.
1. The first one is time. Time is something I really took for granted before I Had my children, I wish I made things from sunrise to sundown before they came. I have such thin slots of time to make things.
2. Money–a lot of my ideas take some money. I want props and costumes, make-up artists or piles of yarn and I know my passion projects won’t really have any monetary rewards so I have to pick and choose which ideas to explore.
3. And my biggest challenge is one I have battled with from day one and that is FEAR. I hate it. I absolutely despise that fact that I have these inner voices (some have previously existed from actual voices and most are ones I have manifested on my own). There is the fear of failure. Creating something that is stupid.
I will tell you what, I have been wanting to create this specific photo for over 12 years now, I have the costumes/masks in my storage unit I have the idea on loop in my head but I am so afraid that I will execute the thing and it will look juvenile and cheesy (but not in a good way). Maybe I will dust off the boxes this weekend and find some poor soul to squeeze into the morph suits and rubber masks and I will make the image a reality.
Where is one place that you’ve never been to that you’d like to explore?
I would love to go to Tokyo. It seems like such a colorful and eclectic city. I want to go photograph and eat all the things.
How has social media influenced your work?
I love that I can make something fun and see that it has inspired someone or made someone laugh. I also love being able to peek into other creatives lives and see their work spaces and journeys.
What is your long-term goal? or What do you hope to accomplish within the next 10 years?
My goals for the next 5-10 years is to self publish a photobook. I have a few projects I would die to do when the time is right. I dream of the day I can work on one idea from beginning to end and have an entire book dedicated to it that I can put on my coffee table.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-teach a new hobby or skill?
Just do it. Don’t be afraid. Don’t compare yourself and just go to work. Also, be inspired and run with that, put “you” into what you make. Also, I love YouTube! There are so many people putting great content out there.
You can see some of Jessica’s work for Lars here:
The original Lars balloon arch
Mommy and Me Halloween costumes
3 Holiday Looks
You can find Jessica here