Jess is a super talented print designer and illustrator with a love for fashion, pattern and colour. She has worked with some big names in the retail/fashion industry and is now branching out into stationery and homeware as well. I'm really happy to introduce you to her and hope you enjoy her interview...
• Who are you? What is the essence of your business? What do you do?
I have to admit I have my fingers in a lot of pies at the moment! I am a Print Designer and Illustrator and work across Fashion, Interiors and Stationery. I also lecture part time at Birmingham City Uni on the BA Textiles course.
• What is your background? Have you always been creative? How & why did you start doing what you do?
I've always loved to paint and draw ever since I can remember. I think I knew I wanted to be a designer before I even knew the job I wanted to do was called a 'Designer'!
My Art Foundation course in Nottingham completely opened my eyes to a new world, we were taught a new way of looking at things, observing our surroundings and finding inspiration in everyday things.
I went on to study Embroidery at University and after graduating worked as a print designer for a fashion supplier. I loved fashion but knew I wanted to expand and work in other areas too, in 2009 I handed my notice in, went freelance and haven't looked back (yet!). This year has been exciting for me as I've just launched some of my own products! It feels like a new chapter is just beginning.....
• Where do you work? Describe your studio.
I work from a bright pink studio in Birmingham which I share with the ever-inspiring Tamsin from Studio Seed. It's in the middle of the countryside so we enjoy beautiful views, it's very idyllic, squirrels and pheasants stroll past our windows!
• What is a typical day for you?
At the moment there is no 'typical' day for me. My clients will book me by the day, sometimes months in advance, sometimes the week before. I also book days out as 'studio days' where I will catch up with all my emails, catch up on any admin, email new potential clients, write blog posts, plan my weeks ahead and do my accounts. Recently I've started releasing work under my own name so I'll book studio days out for this too.
I visit clients once or twice a week and work from their offices, days like these usually start with a LONG commute; London, Leicester, Bradford, Bristol, all over the country! If I'm not driving I'll use my travel time to catch up with all the latest fashion magazines to see if any of my designs have been featured. I enjoy working 'in house', meeting the design teams, talking through new ideas, looking at any samples that have come in and sampling the various on-site catering facilities!
If I'm working for a client from my studio I will email a few days in advance so I'm ready to go with lots of new ideas as soon as I get to work. My working day starts at 9 a.m but I get to my studio around 8.30 so I can have a cup of tea and deal with any urgent emails before my client work begins. I'll email my clients with progress throughout the day and respond to feedback.
If I've finished all my tasks I leave work between 5.30 and 6, I keep to whatever hours my clients keep to though, so if they're working 'til late in to the evening then so am I.
A teaching day for me is non-stop! I teach Print students on a BA Textiles course so a typical day would be working with the students in the screen room, supervising workshops, holding group tutorials and presenting lectures.
•What do you find most satisfying about the work you do? What are your biggest challenges as a creative?
The most satisfying aspect of my job is that I get paid to be creative everyday! I love the freedom of running my own business and the feeling that I am carving my own path. I feel proud that I've created a 'job' that is perfect for me, the variation keeps me excited and inspired and I think that really shows in my work. I'm an Aries so I really thrive on adventure and my career has definitely been an adventure so far!
• How do you get out of a creative rut?
I take time away. When I worked in commercial fashion we were paid to travel the world on 'inspiration trips' and this is something I have continued since setting up on my own. I find that travel helps clear my head and inspires new work, I love Paris for the flea markets and independent boutiques. New York for amazing thrift shops and department stores, Berlin for....well, everything and Stockholm for inspiring street fashion. Obviously budget doesn't always allow a glamorous location so I will often set off to explore somewhere closer to home. The next mini-trip I'm planning is an afternoon in Ledbury, I want to check out my friend Abigail Borg's work in Hus&Hem, explore the local area and sit in a teashop with my sketchbook.
• Which 3 things couldn't you live without?
My external hard dive (I like to be portable!), Muji fine liners and Google. I really would be lost without Google; my email account is my connection to my clients, my Google calendar allows me to instantly see my work schedule from my phone or computer and I've recently started using Google Drive to upload client work. It's completely free and I can send huge files easily. *I should probably add that I promise I'm not sponsored by Google here!
• What is next on the agenda?
I'm really happy with the current clients I am working with so I will definitely do everything I can to make sure they are getting what they need from me. I have only just started working on my 'Jess Williams' range so hopefully I will expand next year and add some more home products. I would love to see my prints on home furnishings and wallpaper. I'm also planning a vintagey, up-cycling kind of adventure with my best friend so hopefully we'll be working on that next year too.
• Where do you find your inspiration? Do you have any favourite books, magazines etc?
I live and die for Pinterest! I also love magazines and will literally devour anything from Frankie magazine to Hello! I read a lot and have recently fallen in love with 'my heart wanders' by Pia Jane Bijkerk. Pia is a wonderful stylist and her book is so beautifully written and presented. I love Selina Lake too, her books are in every room of my flat...mostly just to show my boyfriend it's not just us who have a flat full of vintage treasures and a million patterned cushions on our settee!
• Which designers/artists do you admire?
Selina Lake for styling, I love her aesthetic! I stumbled across Aprile Elcich recently and find her work so different and fresh. I am a huge Celia Birtwell fan too, I love her fantastic prints and the thought of her as the darling of the 60's and 70's jet-setting with Ozzie Clark and David Hockney, dressing Pattie Boyd and Jane Berkin and hanging out with the Beetles and the Rolling Stones. Oh the glamour!
• Blogs are taking over the world, which are your favourites?
I'm also quite nosey so blogs like Bleubird and RockstarDiaries are a guilty pleasure, I love learning about other peoples' daily lives!
•What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own creative business?
I would say the first thing would be to look at it from a practical point of view, it is near impossible to be creative when you have serious money pressures so perhaps it's sensible to start part-time to keep a steady flow of income in those early stages. Ask for help and really make the most of all the resources that are available to you. Know your field inside out, do eCourses or extra training. Websites like Creative Boom are amazing for business info too.
It's important to be brave and bold and to push yourself out of your comfort zone. For me positivity is key, it's so important to be able to take the rough with the smooth. I try not to dwell too much on any setbacks I have and when good things happen I celebrate big-time! Champagne all round!
Jess, you are a great inspiration and proof that working for yourself can be really exciting and diverse. Sounds to me like you have the perfect job and I'm rather envious of your's and Tamsin's pink studio! You are one busy and successful lady, thanks so much for finding the time to fit us in.