April 11, 2015

Interview with Jessie Chorley - and brooch giveaway!

Once again, I am so pleased to bring you an interview by Karen Thiesen from www.womanwithaneedle.com - today, Karen interviews London-based artist Jessie Chorley. Jessie will be teaching a workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico from September 15-19, 2015. Jessie also handcrafted a gorgeous brooch to giveaway today! 

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?

Hi, I'm floresita, editor of Feeling Stitchy. I'm an avid stitcher, knitter, and crafter. You can see more of my stitching on Instagram and my blog. My vintage transfer collection is on Vintage Transfer Finds.

Feel free to email me with any ideas for the blog!


  1. There would be one wall of solid shelves (or bookcases). I would put all of my fabric in plastic bins (that I can see into) by color. I LOVE dressers that have castors for feet so I can move things out of my way to make room for my projects. Oh and of course an ironing board that folds up against the wall. I would also stencil skulls on one wall....either silver or gold :)

    labedaelaine@gmail.com thanks for the chance....Elaine

  2. My dream studio would look like a dollhouse overlooking the garden. My doll and muse, Sophie Alice, would have her suite along one wall complete with her own studio. The opposite wall would be french doors overlooking the terrace filled with flowers. Antique cupboards will hold all of our supplies. Vintage fabrics, threads, doilies and bits of lace. There will be a huge old armchair for embroidering and crochet. My dogs, Lola Mae and Lulu Belle, will curl up on the round rug with blue and yellow cabbage roses in the center. Every afternoon we will have tea and cake.

  3. Terrific interview! I've been a fan of her work for a while, so it is lovely to see how well she is doing. My dream workspace would have plenty of open plan shelving, good lighting, good music, a good espresso maker and a large mood board for inspiration. I would decorate the walls with my collection of vintage fabrics and embroideries.

  4. My dream studio would look out on a beach, with comfy chair in the sunlight, and a cat to keep me company. I never seem to have enough tables to pile my projects on, so I think it would need long counter, as well as tons of storage. And everything would be bright and colorful!

  5. Walls of shelves all spilling over with colour - fabric, threads, lace, beads............


  6. My dream studio would have lots of cabinets and shelves covered with soft colored curtains. There would be no tables with stools since I'm in a wheelchair, but that leaves me wonderful options. I'd have a station for fabric and sewing, a jeweler's station, and a station for working with paper. There'd be a large table in the middle of this large room to spread things out. All of my art and craft books would be in glass front cabinets by a cozy armchair and foot stool. I still have one leg and it deserves a lovely, plush stool at just the right height for the chair. A small table for reading lamp, mug and old clock. Of course there'd be my laptop or mini iPad that move around, a tv and radio. As I've aged the room colors that feel most comfortable are soft to mid tone pastels. Colors that I live with are often very different from those I work with or wear.

  7. Let's see... My studio would have tall ceiling, arched windows viewing a city scape way below, cement floor, industrial tables & shelves loaded with baskets full of materials, and a very cushy sofa placed in front of the window in which I sit creating art.

  8. My dream studio would be a white room with lots of windows to let in the light. I would like a vintage cupboard with glass doors to store my fabric and other notions. My ironing board would be on top of a storage unit and lockable wheels, so I could move it around the room. My cutting table would be large with the biggest cutting mat possible. I would love a cozy area to sit and quilt, or read, or nap.

  9. It would have large windows and beautiful curtains. There would be a standing desk, ornamental plants, and a rocking chair.
    Thanks for the opportunity

  10. I would have lots of light light light. I'd need a large room for my loom and spinning wheel and a comfy chair for hanging out. Also I'd need a large work table. And lots of shelves for storage.

  11. Dreaming of a studio,
    A little one would do
    With a kettle in the corner,
    Just to make a brew.

  12. My dream studio would be large enough to participate and try all types of fiber arts. It would have to kept clean and small amount of visual distraction. (I am easily distracted) Of course there must always be green plants and good lighting. At home I have the comfy room to relax, to work I need a structured environment.

  13. My studio would be pale grey with lace curtains, kitties watching me work and many many bins with bits and pieces for me to dream about and play with.

  14. My dream studio would have very good natural light and possibly a view on a garden. Inside at least two big tables and dressers with space to show beautiful things and space to hide mess. A super comfy armchair and a cat!

  15. Jessie's work is very original & creative.

  16. I think I really like what I have: I stitch at home next to my hubby while he makes watches :)

  17. In a little treehouse with a glass roof and a little pulley outside one of the windows to make the carrying up of my materials easy! :-) Thank you so much for this giveaway - I am so smitten by Jessie Chorley's work!

  18. The studio would have windows top to bottom, and of course storage top to bottom as well—everything in order.

  19. My studio would have lots of windows, but those windows would have some sort of invisible coating to prevent the sunlight from bleaching my work. A comfy chair, a little tv and ipod dock, and a lock on the door to keep my damn wiener kids would make it perfect.

  20. Walls of shelving up too the ceiling filled with bits and pieces of a lifetime of collecting.All ready to be rummaged through and pulled out the minute inspiration hits.A bit of a crows nest.