12 June 2020
Meet silk shading specialist, Jessica Long and admire her beautiful hand embroidery work inspired by nature.
Jessica Long specialises in silk shading. She first picked up hand embroidery as a hobby during her maternity leave to try and translate her paintings and drawings without the mess!
Hi Jessica! Please tell us about yourself?
I live near Seattle in Washington with my husband, our son and a herd of three cats. When I’m not busy with family or work you can find me practicing yoga.
How and why did you get into embroidery?
After having my son, I discovered that my usual artistic outlets (drawing and oil painting) were difficult to continue. I was looking for a cheaper alternative, something more portable and easier to put down mid-project. I started by grabbing a kit on Etsy and haven’t been able to stop stitching since!
How did you go about turning embroidery into a career?
By selling my designs as patterns and kits. At first, I really didn’t like the idea – I had a hard time parting with my designs and it felt really bizarre to see other people stitching them. But now I love it and am so thrilled to see what other people do with my patterns. I love being able to share the gift of hand embroidery!
What inspires your work, and indeed inspires you generally?
I love nature. Back when I was in school I was originally studying to be a natural scientific illustrator. I can spend hours in natural history museums! I actually used to volunteer at a few so I even have some taxidermy skills under my belt. I also love the female form and spend way too much time watching ballet, yoga and contortion videos on the internet.
If you love all things embroidery, Stitch magazine is for you, with exquisite and intricate projects in every issue, not to mention a wealth of inspiration, advice and expert interviews!
Why have you ended up going down the silk shading route with your embroidery? Why work so hard to make it so realistic?
I love this question because sometimes I don’t want to work so hard and spend all of that time to create a thread painting. I really have to enjoy the subject matter and be excited about the project and design.
There’s no instant gratification with silk shading. Often times a piece looks awful until it’s completed so it can be difficult to maintain momentum. But if you have a lovely design, the perfect colours and time, there’s nothing more beautiful to create with needle and thread.
All hand embroidery work is slow art and I have always enjoyed such processes. Slow art helps us to meditate and relax. The act of creating, the process itself, inspires personal growth regardless of the final work we actually produce.
Are there any embroiderers or artists you admire?
There are so many! Other fibre artists I currently admire include Danielle Clough, Michelle Kingdom and Georgina Bellamy.
What hints and tips do you think could help our readers develop their silk shading skills?
Practice and patience! Plus, great lighting and glasses or magnification if needed. It’s important to really be able to see your work well to make sure that your stitches are placed correctly and that you’re getting good coverage and blending. And when in doubt, blend more!
Is there a crafty tool you can’t live without?
Does coffee count? Also, scissors.
And finally, can you give us a snapshot of your day-to-day life?
Morning usually comes too early (toddler life!) but once I get my kiddo off to day-care I start prepping orders to be shipped. Then I handle emails and any ordering. If we’re blessed with sun I work on photography or videos that day. Pattern design and stitching comes next, once the “chores” are done. And of course, kit prep, studio organization, design planning, website maintenance, tutorial planning and writing, tracking expenses, etc!
Usually I feel like I haven’t put a dent in my to do list so I run to yoga class and all of that worry melts away. Then I put my mom hat back on and start again the next day. I wish I had more time for my art but really, it’s my own fault for not scheduling it in for myself. I’m still learning moderation and time management skills!