We were already completely obsessed with the work of Berkely-based textile artist Jess Feury. After this interview we also hope to be invited to dinner ASAP for some veg bowls and deep conversation on 'women's' work, color and light, our artistic heritage, and the good life. We are pretty sure you'll feel the same!
*Photos by Jess Feury, Rachel Cubra, and Nora Lowinsky
Your work evokes such warm feelings of memory and past. Does your ancestry or specific ancestors play a role in your creative work?
I love this question. Well the obvious answer is that for as long as I can remember being old enough to choose the places I wanted to shop they were always antique stores and vintage clothing shops. Flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales....the magic was in the hunt for a treasure from a bygone era that somehow held not only beauty but the passage of time. I wish I could say that my grandmother taught me to sew or weave, but sadly she died too young to for this. My Mom is both a painter and an obsessive-compulsive interior re-designer of her home. As a child I remember waking up some mornings and wondering, 'where did the living room go? Oh! In the dining room!' She was - and still is - always making magic with spaces as well as on the canvas. She literally paints carpets in the floors of her porch! I was around an incredible creative parent growing up. My Dad is a mechanic so the influence of both of my folks definitely encouraged me to use my own hands in my work.
You live in one of our favorite America cities - Berkeley, California. How do your surroundings inspire your work?
Ah...the hills! And of course, the way the Bay catches the light to become liquid silver. I often use antique metals in my weavings and love the worn patina and hope it mimics my urban surroundings of cement while simultaneously paying homage to the San Francisco Bay. I take hikes with my dog, Moonshine, into the beautiful forests in the Berkeley hills and am in awe of the sunsets over the water and the earthiness of the place I am so so fortunate to call home. The wildflowers in February along the highways as well as beautiful spots in Marin County tend to influence my work with natural dyes.
You and your beautiful craftwork are being featured in our October Posy, Eldritch. Eldritch means strange, sinister and ghostly which really seems to embody the season of Fall, and especially the month of October. How do the seasons affect the kind of pieces that you are inspired to make and, specifically, how does autumn inspire your craft?
The changing of the seasons informs which yarns I choose...more textures and woolens for the cooler months versus light and airy thin metallics for warmer months. I grew up in the Northeast, so even after 15 years in Northern CA I am still growing accustomed to the (lack of) distinct seasons we have here. Its like rain or sun but always fairly mild in the Bay Area so this has encouraged me to look at the subtleties in nature. Amazing plants and flowers bloom all year long here so the variations of color I come in contact with daily are immense! For example, I am drawn to neutral palettes with pops of color. There is a wide range of tonality to nature here, whether it be the when the hills go from green to brighter green in the winter months, or how the dry coastal grasses become slightly less brown in the winter. And there also exist shocks of color almost everywhere you look. One of my favorite places to notice this is hiking the Berkeley hidden staircases, which are a labyrinth of stairs connecting beautiful old homes, ancient Redwoods, and masses of flora and fauna in the Berkeley hills. Up there you might turn a corner and spot an iridescent bellied hummingbird spazzing out next to a neon -hued cactus bloom. So much color and texture can be really informative for me back in the studio and searching for one ball of yarn to get a new piece going.
We love your logo and passionately agree with the importance of honoring your hands. One of the ways we incorporate the past and the present with our hands is through cooking. Do you like to cook, and if so, what are your favorite things to make?
OMG I LOVE to cook! First of all, it is the best time to also indulge in a glass of wine and secondly, to me, it feels like another way to be creative. But more importantly, it offers a chance to nurture those I love. I love sauces of ALL KINDS. So a fave meal for me always involves the following: coconut milk, turmeric, Braggs liquid aminos, nutritional yeast, garlic, tahini and well...ANYTHING YOU WANT TO PUT THIS ON!!! I am a terrible baker (being a GF vegan the deck is stacked against me) but I love to make warm bowls usually involving sweet potatoes, toasted seeds, and lots and lots of sauces! Also..color is so important to me when I am cooking. I want to see yellows, golds, reds, and greens on my plate.
Your work so beautifully expresses time and places in time. If you could spend one day in any TIME, what period or year would you transport yourself to? Why?
Oh man, this is so hard to answer as there are SO many! Mostly in the past I would have said the 1920's since I love the ornamental quality of the clothing and textiles from that period, but now I would have to say the early 70's during the women's craft movement. I would have loved to have hung with our mothers, their friends, and generally all the housewives paving the way making macrame, running the household yet at the same time holding out the hope that the next generation of women could do and be all of the parts of themselves that they would be wanted to fully embody had the social constructs of female roles not been so limiting. I would like to go back to most generations of women and thank them for doing their crafts and passing these beautiful techniques down the line, from hand to hand, while also holding space in their hearts that life one day could allow a woman who keeps house, raises children, loves her husband, and also follows her creative dreams — a woman like me.