jessica dance and wallace the Schnauzer
Being creative is one thing. Making a career out of it is another. From Stylist magazine to Selfridges, Jessica has worked on some amazing projects. Meet this textile artist turned interior designer with a serious sense of style. And Wallace, her trusty sidekick, who keeps her company in her gorgeous home studio!
On life with Wallace: Life with Wallace is never dull. I think the best way to describe him is as ‘a bit of a card’. He’s quite the complex character. It’s great having Wallace, especially as I work from home, it’s nice to have a bit of company, he mostly just sleeps somewhere in the house whilst I work, but its nice knowing he's around for a second opinion should I need him!
On work: I have worked as a textile artist since 2010 having set up my studio straight out of university after completing a degree in fashion studies. I receive commissions for window displays, installations and editorial projects for the likes of Christian Louboutin, Google, Mulberry, LVMH, Liberty, Selfridges, Tatler and Stylist, ITV and John Lewis. I am currently in the process of setting up an Interior Design business, whilst I loved designing and making beautiful models and installations for these brands, there was a distinct lack of permanence, which left me with a desire to create something more sustainable, which can live on and be enjoyed every day…. this lead me to setting up my new venture, Jessica Dance Interiors.
I think there are many highs and lows to working in the creative industry, within the world of textile art I would say the feast or famine nature is something that can be really hard to get to grips with, I have a love hate relationship with this. I sometimes thrive on not knowing what is coming next and I love having commissions lined up… but sometimes the balance goes and you just have too much work on and when craft is at the heart of what you do you need rest to be able to be creative and to really produce your best work (which is where learning to say no comes in). And then when work is quiet there is there is the overwhelming anxiety that I will never work again…. and then a week later you are really busy and don’t know how everything will ever get done. One of the best things is I get paid to make really fun stuff!
On career advice: A line that I live by is ‘Don’t ask, Don’t get’. I definitely would not have been able to make a career out of knitting for 10 years if I hadn't been a total chancer. The first few years of setting up my business I would spend hours on Linkedin trying to find art directors and commissioners email addresses and I would just ask them if I can come in and see them. This makes me sound like I am really confident, I’m actually an introvert and can be painfully shy sometimes, but when I am talking about something that I am passionate about, I think you just find your confidence? I also think it helps if you have an alter ego.
Something I heard on a podcast a little while ago is: ’It doesn’t have to be hard to be worthwhile.’ Oh yeh?! I think its really easy to slip in to the ‘work has to be hard’ mode and to over complicate things, because I for the majority of us, that is what is drummed into us from a young age. Maybe you’re just really good at something and you get paid for making something awesome, there doesn’t always have to be a struggle because it is ‘work’. That was a bit of a revelation to me.
On work inspiration: I’m often inspired by very ‘normal’ everyday items, items that portray the luxury of choice and comfort in the western world, whilst at the same time hinting at the excess that is often taken for granted in a fast paced, immediate society, the irony being each knitted or embroidered piece that i make has taken hours/days/weeks to create.
I always aim for my work to be graphical, with a playful edge. Knitting and embroidery is typically perceived as a ‘feminine craft’ however I try to take gender out of the equation when coming up with ideas. I always strive to produce a carefully considered design, with a strong concept, using quality materials.
“Wallace grew up in London so he is very happy in to a town environment, he would rather go into a town over the countryside any day.”
On knitted dog toys: I have made a few toys for Wallace and a bed or two. It would be fun to do a dog toy line, although I think they would be the worlds most expensive dog toys! I am a little bit particular when it comes to fabric selection, I like fabrics to be natural, sustainable materials - which usually means they are expensive to buy, also my construction techniques are quite labour intensive, and I would probably spend best part of a day making one toy… maybe not the most profitable venture!
On her daily routine: I wake up at 5.30am, My partner and I take Wallace for a walk, then when we get back Wallace has a bit of time to chill out before we head off to the gym, he's an anxious pup so I always factor in time for him to settle down about after his walk, rather than dropping him in and going straight back out again.
After the gym, I start work. Most days I am working from my studio, it’s quite solitary, but its nice knowing Wallace is about somewhere.
I’m usually sculpting, knitting or stitching, which is always good time to put a podcast or music on…. or if I'm trying to work something out or write, I need total silence. I usually work until around 6 depending on what I’m working on, then its time for Wallace’s evening walk.
On the best piece of advice: Sometimes you need to say ‘No’. This is the most valuable advice I have ever received. I used to say ‘yes’ to everything, I was always afraid if I didn’t say yes to every opportunity I would fail and no one would ever consider me again for future projects. Taking control is really empowering, and actually, 9 times out of 10 after saying ‘no’, clients come back to you and say they have found the extra budget you need to enable you to work on the project or that extra week you needed to be able to take on the project.
This isn't just within the context of running a business, It took me a while to realise this also applies to everyday life, I try not to say yes to things that don't energise me or make me feel good, if you are doing things that drain you because of feeling obliged, or a sense of guilt you end up running on empty (and maybe a touch of resentfulness too!), I often remind myself of the Brene Brown quote "Choose discomfort over resentment.” I think that’s a good one to remember
On the best Wallace ‘tail’: Wallace is the official One show spider dog. He was on The One Show for a Halloween special, he was filmed going around the Olympic park scaring members of the public in a spider suit (no one was scared- they just laughed at him). Wallace also then appeared on the show live, I was asked to be on the One show sofa to be interviewed with Wallace but I couldn't think of anything I would like to do less, so I got our dog trainer friend to do it instead. Wallace even got to sit next to Jessica Chastain and got a little pat on the head from her.
On her favourite dog-friendly things to do: I do love to go to a ‘proper pub’ with Wallace, it’s also nice to take him into town, lots of independent shops are dog friendly these days. Wallace grew up in London so he is very happy in to a town environment, he would rather go into a town over the countryside any day.
One thing people should know about her: I can lift really heavy things… but my nickname is ‘Worm’, because I am small in stature.