Like so many others, Jessica Long loved art as a child, but was steered in a more “practical” direction for a career. When she found herself in an area with few jobs in her field, she re-examined her creative side with embroidery and has never looked back!
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving? Why textiles? Why embroidery? How did you get started?
Art was my favorite school subject as a child but somewhere along the way I got scared away by the belief that being an artist is not a viable career path. I studied biology in college and my first career was in biotech. But I never stopped creating, and I enjoyed painting and drawing during my free time. After the birth of my son we relocated, and I was faced with a major identity crisis! I was no longer living near a biotech hub and I was suddenly “only” a mother with little time to myself.
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Slowly I was able to find some balance and I turned to hand embroidery as a creative outlet that doubled as a wonderfully tactile way to relax and meditate. I had done a little cross stitch as a kid but was thrilled to discover embroidery art as it is so portable and easy to pick up during nap time.
I started sharing my work on social media and I was thrilled to learn that people wanted to buy my embroidery art! From there I started creating designs and kits, and now the focus of my business is education. I’m so happy to be able to share this relaxing hobby with other people!
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new book, Animal Embroidery Workbook?
I hope that people who read my book have fun and take the leap into creating something new! I offer beginner and intermediate designs in the book, and I try to guide readers out of their comfort zone while still offering easier alternatives.
Most of the designs include additional florals, wreaths or decorations, and I am very excited to see what people do with these motifs. I hope stitchers use my book to gain confidence in the described patterns, but then use them as a jumping off point to add their own creativity to their embroidery art. Maybe they just change the colors of the florals, or maybe they add to or combine elements in a design, or maybe they create their own unique pattern!
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
I want my website to inspire! So I hope that when people visit my website they will discover a new love for hand embroidery.
I want people who are brand new to hand embroidery to feel empowered to pick up this new hobby. Most importantly, I want to help those people who don’t think that they are creative! I offer many beginner-friendly tutorials with diagrams, photos and videos to make this creative outlet as accessible as possible.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I keep trying to listen to podcasts or audio books while working, but I just can’t seem to focus. So I gave up on trying to get educated while stitching and now I stick to old movies or shows I’ve already watched. Something mindless to keep me company!
How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?
I usually have more than one project in progress at a time. Although perhaps I should I rephrase that. I have a large basket of unfinished projects but I fear it would be unfair to call them “in progress”!
But I do like to have one “couch project” and a more serious project to work on. Sometimes I want to do really detailed work that takes my full energy and that I need to work on at my desk. And other times I just want to relax with a stitching project on the couch while watching TV with my family.
Do you plan your work out ahead of time, or do you just dive in with your materials and start playing?
A little of both! Some days I’m feeling especially reckless and I’ll draw a design directly on my fabric. But usually I do a very rough sketch with pencil and paper before cleaning up the design with Adobe Illustrator.
A couple of years ago I invested in an iPad and that has been a great planning tool. I use it to pick colors and also to test changes without having to actually take the time to stitch elements. I’ll take a photo of my work and use Adobe Draw to draw on top of it, testing colors and design elements. It has saved me a lot of time!
How do you balance your personal life, work and creative endeavors?
That’s a great question! It’s not easy and I’m still learning how to have balance. My office is in my home which can be a blessing and a curse. It makes it easier for me to knock out a few things on my to-do list after dinner with my family…but that is not always a good thing!
I really have to mindfully carve out time to be creative as I share a studio and workspace. It’s hard to “play” with art while surrounded by piles of work. I recently purchased a digital timer that I keep on my desk. It keeps me on track with specific projects and also keeps me from working too long. I can’t forget why I started this business. My ego sometimes wants to push for more and more sales. But ultimately that doesn’t feed my soul or result in lasting happiness.
Does your creative work come easily or do you struggle with your ideas?
I’m lucky to always feel creative! However the execution of those ideas doesn’t always go as planned. I’ve learned to be gentle with myself. It’s better to walk away and let a project rest rather than pushing through and getting frustrated with something that just isn’t working.
How can people overcome the challenges they feel to their creative ability?
I always recommend Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Recently I worked through the book again and I discovered so many gems. I am my biggest critic and I create my biggest challenges by self-sabotage. Julia reminded me that I manufacture my own misery; she has helped me to get out of my own way!
Find more about Jessica Long on her website.
Interview posted September 2020
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