I Had a lovely chat with the lovely Tilly and the Buttons about interiors, sewing and how I organise my studio….
‘For today's sewing space tour, where we peek behind the closed doors at a maker's inspiring sewing space, we're in the South Downs with Jessica Dance, Interior designer and textile artist.’
Jessica's gorgeous work has been commissioned by the likes of ITV, Stylist magazine, Cosmo magazine, John Lewis, The Washington Post and so many more! Her bright and colourful home-studio is the stuff of dreams - prepare to be wowed...
Hello! I’m Jessica and I live and work in the South Downs. I'm a textile artist, using a combination of processes and techniques to create my work. The majority of my commissions are machine knitting and hand embroidery and most projects involve sewing and model making too.
I have always loved working with fabric. Although I did a degree in Fashion Studies I must admit, I did not really learn much (anything) about sewing during it. Instead I opted to go down the fashion marketing route on my course. I have always loved sewing, but I have always made it up as I go along.
My studio is something that has naturally evolved over time. For me, it needs to be super practical and efficient, whilst looking considered and beautiful too. I have had three studio spaces since setting up my business and I think each time I have moved I have refined how the space functions.
This has inspired me to turn my passion for interiors into a new business venture - I am in the process of setting up an interior design studio which will be launching in the coming months. I think when you have a creative space (or any space really) it is so important that it makes you feel good, as this has a huge effect on our productivity and mood.
It wasn't until around a year and a half ago I felt I needed something that wasn't machine knitting or hand embroidery as a creative outlet which I could do in my spare time. I wanted to do something that had a divide between my commission work and my free time, and that’s when I decided to give one of Tilly’s online courses a go.
I had never made a garment before (ever) and I decided to go straight in at the deep end and make the Rosa shirt, and that was it, I got the bug! I find it really satisfying to make something useful, I value the clothes I make myself far more than my purchased clothes.
My studio is in my home, but when I was living in London my studio was separate from my home so I have a comparison, and to be honest I really love both! Working from home has its pros and cons. One of the main cons is when you're making something and it’s not going quite right (we’ve all been there!) and you just can’t leave it alone at the end of the day, it’s very difficult to make the decision to stop and come back to it with fresh eyes.
I try and be strict with myself and have a cut off time in the studio otherwise it’s very easy to work very late and that’s not really very productive or sustainable in the long run. A lovely thing about working from home is the solitude, I really like working on my own (it’s probably not a very cool thing to admit!), I like making my own schedule, not having to travel or commute.
I am a minimalist, however the studio space is a bit different. As much as I would like to have a super streamlined space with no excess it’s not entirely possible as all of my the commissions are so different from one project to the next I end up buying materials and often have lots left over.
It's very easy to accumulate more materials than I would ideally like because I ‘might’ need them for a future commission. There is a fine line between minimalism and being wasteful, its such a shame when you get rid of something then you just have to go and re-buy it two weeks later because a commission has come in that requires seven bags of wadding…which I just gave away! There’s a lovely Rowans craft charity shop near me and I donate quite a lot to them, so it feels good when you know it’s gone to a good cause.
I start the day with a dog walk then a trip to the gym before I start working. I think this keeps cabin fever at bay and keeps me just about in touch with reality. I get some very strange commissions so working on my own all day looking at a knitted cabbage (or whatever it may be) definitely poses a risk of losing your grip on reality!
My home and studio is part of a converted stable yard, so it’s quite an unusual building in general. I try to keep my studio organised, as I often need a variety of tools and materials when I'm working.
I have installed pegboard on all the walls in the studio which is perfect for what I need, all tools available to hand, no rummaging in cupboards and drawers, although that does happen sometimes… And when I’m really busy organisation disappears out of the window!
I bought large sheets of birch ply and cut them down to create table tops, these tables have had numerous surfaces and finishes. The surface at moment is a whitewash, which was then sanded back so you can just see the white in the woodgrain. I have used Ikea cupboards and drawers as legs for the longer of the two tables.
The other table is my knitting table, I purchased scaffolding tube and got it cut to size. Machine knitting can be quite vigorous so I made it with an extra tube running across the length of the table to brace it, I then spray painted the legs.
I bought the chest of vintage ESA school drawers on eBay. They were a bit of a project as I restored them myself which was really rewarding.
I did get advice from a professional furniture restorer as I was concerned that I would do more harm than good as I had no idea what I was doing initially, but it was worth the hard graft! The drawers are the perfect size for storing fabric swatches, samples, patterns and embroidery threads.
Wallace the miniature schnauzer can often be found in the studio at any given opportunity, he likes to sneak in to try and eat any little scrap of fabric or thread that gets dropped. He’s not interested if it's a large piece of fabric, he’s just wants chewing gum size scraps.