Read on to learn more about Jessie Chorley, her art, her studio, and her inspiration.
You work with both paper and fabric. Do you prefer one over the other?
I would honestly say I find both incredibly inspiring to work with, I could not choose. I constantly work combining both together as I love the strength of the more robust fabric against fragile papers. I am an obsessive collector of both found paper and fabric but I do like to use my collections. I have a small selection that I refer back to for inspiration but a lot of what I collect I really do use up at quite a pace.
This is why I love having my shop as it gives me the opportunity to collect and pass these things on with a new life and a new beginning. To see some one walk away with one of my Altered Journals, for example, is like a completion to the story. My home is not crammed full of my collections but quite ordered. I love to display some things in my home for a certain amount of time and then they may head down to the shop or to the studio if needed for a particular commission.
What was the inspiration for your hand stitched souvenir hankies?
My current Souvenir Hankies were inspired by a workshop I was invited to run as part of the wedding dress exhibition here in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I was asked to base the workshop on one piece from the exhibition and I chose a hand printed paper souvenir napkin from the 1920’s.
I was so inspired by this particular piece from the exhibition, so have carried on making my own version of the souvenir hankie. I always use found and old hankies to re work into, adding simple scenes and words and sometimes incorporating simple block print. I have just created two for a couple for their wedding day.
How have you become the artist you are today?
Determination and a love for making! A lot of hard work and a passion for making. I love to make things so much and now that I teach others my skills as well I find this very rewarding. You need to be quite rounded as an individual to be a maker and shop owner, as running a shop and a business as a maker is very full time. You are constantly surrounded by your own world and the things you make. So having time out and being inspired constantly is also very important, otherwise the love for what you do will float away. I also have many friends who are makers, painters and artists who also have the same life style as me and will go to the end of the line for their own work. And these people are a great inspiration to me.
Being the maker I am today is a lifestyle that I have embraced. I have seen so many people that started in a similar way to me destroy their passion and love for making or being creative as they soon have tried to make things quicker and mass produce things. Then you just end up being behind a computer and your hands never get dirty or touch the "materials" again. I knew this was not a way that I wanted to go and always stayed well away from large wholesale orders and commissions and concentrated on smaller and more rewarding commissions and projects and also teaching my skills to like-minded others.
My workshops are now a large part of my business and always run just by me, which I think is important as a maker, as teaching others actually feeds back and inspires me as a maker. I feel so lucky for all the wonderful and inspiring people and friends that I have met from running my shop and from running my workshops and are now a large part of my world. My main passion still today after 10 years is "making" and I know deep down this will never change. But still one person can only make a certain amount, so over the last 3 years I have slowly developed a range of items that I get made locally either in London or in the UK. These items like my rubber stamps, screen printed tea towels and some greeting cards then come back to my studio and I finish them by packing them in my particular style.
I have never had any business training but I have always had a huge passion for that side of the business. Running the books and paperwork I really love doing as do I like the daily jobs at the shop and I guess it gives me a sense of control overall. When I give my years paper work to my accountant at the end of a year and she confirms all is well this is a great feeling. I am very practical as a person so I love the daily running of a shop and this also inspires my work. The two go hand in hand, and on Sundays, when my shop is full of customers appreciating my work, again, this is so rewarding and inspiring.
Since a very young age I was obsessed by having my own shop, but at the same time, I knew especially in London that would be a big jump. So since graduating from Goldsmiths College in 2005, I have worked alongside friend and fellow designer Buddug, and because there was the two of us we started the shop together. And now in July this year, after 10 years of our collaboration, I am taking over the shop on my own. For Buddug, her family and Wales has called her back but for me, London, especially Columbia Road and the shop is only just starting.
So this summer I am having a 10 years anniversary party on August the 15th and also on this date I will be launching my new book that I am currently working on "Jessie Chorley: Story of a maker". It will also be available online from August the 15th on my web site www.jessiechorley.com and will record mainly visually the last 10 years of my world as a maker.
My upcoming and newly laid out shop will also be the main hub for my London based workshops as I now do lots of one on one workshop sessions and also small groups here in London, so to have everything in one place, my shop and studio and workshops, will be great. Embracing social media and selling online has also really helped me become the maker I am today. Most of my online sales I send to the States and to Australia. My blog, www.jessiechorleyinspirations.com and my Instagram feed, not to mention my shop on Columbia Road, are my main source of advertising and I meet and work with so many other creative individuals because of these sources.
What is your favorite thing that you've ever made?
A salmon pink poem dress. I originally bought the dress from Spitafields antiques market here in East London and I hand embroidered a poem inspired by an Angela Carter novel around the neck. I kept the piece for about 6 years and exhibited it widely until it was bought by a store in Tokyo. I still have many photos of it and have since made a new version on a bright 1930s yellow dress.
What is your studio like? What's the most important tool you have there?
My studio is currently within a large old factory building out in Hackney Wick. So it is very tucked away and very organised but can also be quite messy, this is what I love about my studio. I often go. There is my work apron and I enjoy getting completely involved, painting, frames, paper mache are all things I enjoy doing here. The studio is quite isolating so I tend to make creative decisions here but then I prefer to do my Embroidery work when at my shop or at home. I get to my studio early in the morning and work fast and then often head to open the shop later on and finish work there. I only have 3 months left in my current studio as in July I am moving my studio to the back of my shop so my current studio is about to be packed up and lots of sorting to be completed before the move happens.
Do you have any special rituals while you're working?
Lots of tea and I love always to listen to music later in the day and Radio 4 first thing is a must. I never do any computer based work in my studio as this breaks my creativity and mood.
You have said you are very inspired by The Museum of Childhood in London. What is your favorite exhibit in there?
That is a hard one as there are many. But I am always drawn by a 1930 piece that is a collection of small dolls slightly squeezed into a glass fronted box. It was a personal piece from someone’s home. The box is covered in old green torn paper with a gold tint. What most inspires me about this piece is the way that the box is actually made from an old cupboard drawer with a glass frame attached to the front.
You were homeschooled in Wales by your mother, artist Primmy Chorley. What is the best thing you learned from her?
"Small is beautiful". This is how I run my business today, keeping things small but keeping the passion. Her love of collecting and making is deeply embedded in me as a maker not only in my work but also in the way I run my home.
To follow Jessie's story, shop online, and view her upcoming workshop dates, visit www.jessiechorley.com. Jessie will be teaching her first workshop ever in the US in Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 15-19, 2015 - details can be found at www.womanwithaneedle.com.
Thank you so much to Karen Thiesen, for providing this wonderful interview, and thank you to Jessie Chorley for a wonderful glimpse into your life as an artist, and your process!
Now, for an exciting giveaway - Jessie has created one of her signature brooches as a giveaway for one very lucky Feeling Stitchy reader! This giveaway is open to all of our readers.
To win Jessie's beautiful handmade brooch - simply leave a comment on this post by 9 PM US CST on Monday, April 13 - and answer this question: If you could have a studio to embroider, make art, and craft in - what would your dream studio look like?