Upon challenging the notion of what an artist is, Jess informs us that as long as you are engaged and making things it's whatever you want it to be and entirely subjective on how you define it. Jess is at one with water and constantly transforming her mediums into an eclectic mix of transient site specific collages that speak volumes.

Jess, thanks for having us at your beautiful place, it’s a real representation of your kind personality and welcoming presence. 

So, you are a collage artist, tell us how you got into this, as you started your career in fashion?

Because I didn’t go to art school I think I really struggle with identifying with the word artist…it just doesn’t sit well with me…I find it really hard to define, I mean I work in hospitality and it’s a funny little thing, I think everyone struggles with defining what they do or explaining it to others. Yeah, I studied textiles down at RMIT in Melbourne. Originally, I wanted to get into costume design hence why I got into textiles. I took a few years off and was a little lost (laughs) then I enrolled in what used to be Sydney Tech for fashion design. I think I always knew that I didn’t want to work in fashion and was always pretty firm on wanting to do my own thing, whatever that was…and during my time there I majored in textiles and printmaking so I think that’s where this surface thing came into play. All of my artworks are photographed then dismantled and I kind of like the concept that they don’t exist outside of the photo, they’re site specific.

Tell us more about collage, as its quite a niche medium to work with. Is collage about appropriation and layering to you? Is it about textures? how would you define collage?

Collage is definitely about layering and working with different heights adding depth to the work. I paint and use ink to make works that I then cut up, abstract and arrange. Most of the images I use for the collage will be used over and over again, I have a whole box of cut up paintings to work with in varying ways for different pieces. The transient nature of the collage adds to its beauty, I think.  I’m playing with textures, layers and light in my work so where I produce them is really important. I need a space that is going to work with these elements and enhance the final product. Like I said, I paint and marble inks on paper incorporating them into the collage along with found objects and rocks from my travels. This gives a sense of elevation and height to the works that I love. I have these shells from this island Milos in Greece that are just spectacular.  It’s an old mining island and they mined iron ore and it’s left all these amazing cliffs and beaches with all these crazy colours that are just mesmerising. The way the colours translate through in the collage make it really peaceful and bring an ethereal quality to the work.

Who or what has influenced your creative style?

I think my travels are my main form of inspiration for I’m always bringing something literally and mentally back from them. It’s a great way of clearing your head and finding new drive to create when you return home.

Some of your latest work includes work for Harper’s Bazaar, how do you get commissioned to do a collage piece for a leading fashion magazine?

Yeah, it was when I was overseas in Israel, and as like most important things they always land at the most inconvenient times (laughs) So they contacted me when I was over there and I somehow managed to bang something out, and I suppose it was kind of good to be out of your own environment in that I had no comforts to fall back on, a deadline and a new inspiring environment to push me along. It’s so funny how you can be waiting like a year for something to drop and then it happens when you’re overseas completely unprepared…but you get it done y’know.

Throughout your work there is a fluidity and literal presence of water; the ocean and liquid – how important to you is the ocean and why is it so prevalent in your work?

I have always had a love of water. I take photos of water from all over Sydney and collect them to use in my collage. I had family in the northern beaches that we visited frequently and I always wanted to like grow up in summer bay (laughs) but I’m actually so grateful now that I didn’t grow up in Sydney. I take all my shots of water from my iPhone or whatever camera I have on me at the time. It’s weird I’ve never lived near the water but it’s not too far away. I swim regularly and in the warmer months I will go every day. For me, it’s a place of pure serenity, the movement and colour works so well in my work and is a constant inspiration for future pieces. Like I said, I go pretty much every day and it’s always worth the trek when I get there. The ocean is ever-changing and never the same each day which adds to the excitement of it as an entity also.

Do you have a colour palette that you like working with, or do you in part reflect seasonal colours?

At the moment, it’s really just from where I’ve just been last. In regard to the palette it just comes from whatever pieces I pick out or whatever is resonating with me at the time. I definitely feel that I’ve moved away from bright, intense colours to a more pastel scheme.

How does the space you work in, and the way light hits in affect the mood of your work?

It’s a huge thing as so much of my work is to do with light and how this alters the final product. I’m lucky to have such a great environment at home that has loads of natural sunlight, big wide-open spaces and of course super supportive housemates. Sometimes I feel like it’s me playing craft in my room (laughs) and I hope I’m not a fraud but yeah, I work from home mainly and it’s pretty good really.

You seem to have a female posse you work and collaborate with… how important is it to surround yourself with creative women?

I definitely have prominent creative women in my life and around me who have encouraged me to get where I am today. So, I’m really lucky in that regard in that they have seen a transition in my art. Late last year, a ceramicist and my fashion designer friend had a pop up called the summer store. Alana Wilson, Elissa McGowan and I all met through Instagram and we were in NYC at the same time.  We met up, realised we all had a similar aesthetic and wanted to create our dream retail space. It was a gallery with all of our stuff. It went really well, it was the first time I’d put my work out there and I learnt so much.

My sister is a jeweller so we’re working on opening an exhibition together later this year where we’ll work on some conceptual pieces so I’ll be playing with that movement of water but in the form of wearable things. It’s exciting to be able to do something with a family member also as we know each other so well.

A friend of mine, who is a fashion designer recently entered the wool mark design prize and I got to do the print for her which was really fun and it was all screen printed so I think that’s really unlocked a new thing for me. I haven’t done it in such a long time and I have screens so it’s been great. It’s nice to work digitally and with paper but I really like that physicality of making things.



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