Jessica Swift

RECAP—Discovery Workshop with Jessica Swift

It was a packed house at Tillamook Station for our first workshop of the year. Many thanks to the talented and engaging Jessica Swift for sharing how she came to become a surface pattern designer, and answering all our questions about licensing and trade shows.

After Jessica shared her insights, we got to work drawing images for the collaborative digital pattern and carving those images into rubber blocks. The blocks were used to print onto muslin for furoshiki (Japanese cloth gift wrap) and onto paper and envelopes for stationary sets.

We scanned the drawings and Jessica demonstrated how she digitizes drawings and creates patterns from them. She used the group’s drawings to create a collaborative pattern.

Check out the recap video and see more photos from the event here and on our Facebook page.

WeMake Workshop I Jessica Swift from WeMakePDX on Vimeo.

Many thanks to Tillamook Station for hosting, to Ethan Allen Smith for photographing the event, to Robert Woodward for creating the recap video, and to Jessica for so generously sharing her insights and demonstrating her processes.

Surface Pattern Design Workshop with Jessica Swift

We’re excited to feature surface pattern designer and author Jessica Swift in our first workshop of 2014. Jessica’s work is bright and joyful, and her patterns grace a myriad of items, from rain boots to fabric to phone cases. Her work has been featured by Design*Sponge and the New York Times, and she’s been brought in to create designs for TeNeues, Pier 1 and T Mobile, among others.

Please join us for a night of inspiration and fun with Jessica on Thursday, January 23rd at Tillamook Station.

Date of the event: Thursday, January 23, 2014

Time: 6:00 – 9:00pm

Check-in begins at 5:30pm. Doors close at 6:15pm.

Place:Tillamook Station, 665 N Tillamook Street, PDX 97227

Cost: $25 includes supplies

Registration is now Open- Space is limited. Be sure to register early!

RSVP on Eventbrite

A respected business creative entrepreneur, Jessica recently released the second edition of Jump Trust Repeat, a guide for aspiring artists working towards making their craft financially viable.

If you’re an illustrator or designer, this workshop will be an excellent opportunity to learn about placing your work onto products. In this workshop, Jessica will demonstrate how to create a pattern from drawings and then print it onto paper using linoleum blocks. Participants will create their own handmade stamps and prints, and the stamps will be used to make a collaborative print as well! Attendees will take home their linoleum blocks and cutters. Jessica will also share insight on the process of licensing ones’ artwork.

Please join us for a night of inspiration and fun with Jessica on Thursday, January 23rd at Tillamook Station.

Date of the event: Thursday, January 23, 2014

Time: 6:00 – 9:00pm

Check-in begins at 5:30pm. Doors close at 6:15pm.

Place:Tillamook Station, 665 N Tillamook Street, PDX 97227

Cost: $25 includes supplies

Registration is now Open- Space is limited. Be sure to register early!

RSVP on Eventbrite

Put A Bird In It—Featured Maker, Jessica Swift

Vibrant color and playful patterns light up the world of Jessica Swift. She is a master of mixing colors that ignite a sense of joy and she brings the affirmation to live boldly and uniquely to all of her work. As you can imagine, she is infusing this same energy and passion to her birdhouse, one of the amazing pieces that will be part of our Put a Bird In It auction in October!

First of all, welcome to Portland and to the WeMake family! You recently moved here from Atlanta. What do you like about Portland and the west coast so far?

Thank you! Gosh, I love Portland so far. I moved here last summer from Atlanta, though I grew up in Boulder, CO, which is a lot like Portland in many ways, so moving to Portland felt a bit like returning home! I loved Atlanta, but it was definitely a different type of place to live. There are so many things to love about Portland and the west coast… the trees, the cozy weather, the easy access to nature, being able to walk and bike everywhere, gluten-free and vegetarian options practically everywhere… I’m definitely at home here!

Tell us a little bit about your background as an artist and what you’re doing professionally. Is it true you’ve never had a “real job”?

You are correct, I’ve never had a “real job”. I had a number of piddly part-time jobs in my early 20s—waitress, Gymboree teacher, art installation assistant at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, nanny—but never a real career type job.

I started my business when I was 23, after a successful weekend-long juried art festival, where I was surrounded by artists who traveled the country selling their wares, and I realized that that was a possibility for me, too. It was an eye-opening, life-changing weekend for me. Before that I’d never considered that I could actually be a working artist for a living.

At that time I was solely painting (I studied painting in college, not commercial art, illustration, textile design, or pattern design) and barely knew how to use a computer for anything more than checking email and resizing photos in Photoshop. I discovered design blogs in 2006, and I saw people who were called ‘surface designers’, and I remember thinking “Why didn’t anyone tell me this was a career option??” I immediately began teaching myself how to use Adobe Illustrator and to create repeat patterns, and the day I finally figured it out was another turning point—that was the day I became obsessed with commercial art and figuring out how to get my work all over products!

My entire career so far has been about following my intuition, listening to my gut, and jumping in, even when it felt reaaaaally scary.

Can you tell us how your birdhouse is coming along? What are you finding to be your source of inspiration? Is there a theme?

My birdhouse is coming along pretty well! Much like my paintings, it went through an ugly phase, where I wasn’t sure if it was going to come together and I was afraid I was going to have to start over, but now I’m liking it!

I never start with much of a plan when I create my art, so I figured I’d use the same approach with the birdhouse. I planned how to construct it, but not what it would look like beyond that. I just started painting. One of my signature icons in many of my paintings is a bird wearing a crown. So, I put a little crown on the doorway to the birdhouse, in hopes that some cute little birds will poke their heads through and “wear” my painted crown! If I can get a picture of that somehow, I’ll be so happy.

My source of inspiration is honestly just being in the present moment with my paint and paintbrush. I’m so inspired by color and by the simple act of creating something out of nothing—I try to empty myself and let whatever needs to come through, come through. The theme is turning out to be treetops, I think….

How has it been working with a 3D object? Is it intimidating, or do you see the house as just another type of canvas?

I’ve really approached the birdhouse as just another canvas, and it’s been really fun to work on it! I’ve had to be patient as layers dry—I’ve accidentally grabbed the wrong edge so many times already. There are probably 50 thumb prints that are painted over on the birdhouse. :) But yes, it’s been really fun to work on it so far!

What are some of your favorite materials and mediums with which to create art?

I love acrylic paint on canvas, and on the totally opposite spectrum, I love creating digital repeat patterns. They both energize me and excite me in different ways. One is so hands on and messy, the other requires more of a laser-focus, staring at the screen for hours kind of mentality. I love having both mediums in my repertoire to balance each other out.

Put a Bird In It is our way to raise funds to support art and music in Portland’s public schools. Did you have the opportunity to try art and music when you were a child? Why do you think it is important to provide that opportunity to children now and in the future?

Oh my gosh, yes, both! As far as music goes, I took piano lessons from the age of 6, I played the clarinet in 5th and 6th grade, I was in choir all through middle school and high school, I taught myself how to play the guitar in 10th grade, I was a singer/songwriter in college and in an a cappella group…. music has always been a passion of mine in addition to art, and I was fortunate to have really caring, talented, and passionate teachers all through my schooling.

Same goes for art—I had great teachers, and I’ve been making art both in school and out of school as far back as I can remember. My mom still has some of my early art pieces in her house!

I feel so fortunate to have had these opportunities as a child, and it makes me so sad to think that these are the programs that often get cut first in schools. Music and art make us smarter, more versatile, well-rounded people, and to rob children of the opportunity to develop a passion, hobby, or talent that they can carry with them and use to enrich themselves and those around them for the rest of their lives is a sad, sad thing.

Without the exposure to music and art as children, the world could miss out on great composers, world-class dancers, the next Picasso, mind-blowing bands, Broadway shows, impeccable fashion designers, and most importantly, millions of people who are living happy, passionate, fulfilling lives. Children need to be exposed to anything and everything that might excite, enrich, and enliven them!