Today on Artist Strong we welcome fiber/textile artist Jessica Bucci. As I personally love the use of textiles in the arts, I’m quite excited for this opportunity! Enjoy. 🙂
Carrie: Hi Jessica! Welcome. Can you please describe your art to Artist Strong readers?
JB: Thanks! I do several different kinds of work, all of which is tied together with a focus on textiles. I consider all of it part of my artistic practice; I write a column for the blog StartUpFashion, a resource for emerging designers, and I have done work for various fashion and fabric designers around Boston, most recently at children’s knitwear label Misha & Puff. In my personal work, I use textiles in a sculptural, less functional way. I tend to be vague about my themes for these pieces, but I often think about love (in all senses, not just romantic), and how we relate with others as well as ourselves.
Carrie: How did you become interested in working with textiles?
JB: I went to school at Mass. College of Art and Design, and one of the best things about it is that there are so many new media to try. I came in wanting to be a painter or an illustrator, but ended up doing neither. I had a great experience in a sculpture class with an incredible professor, so I did that for a semester. Then I took a class in the fiber art department, and it felt right, so I switched in and stayed there. It was kind of scary, to commit to doing something I had no experience in, but that’s kind of the point of school isn’t it, to learn things you know nothing about.
Carrie: I particularly like your take on an artist statement on your website. Would you mind talking a bit about how you came to create your statement?
JB: Thanks! Artists’ statements can be anything you want really, and lately I try to keep them short and more of a companion to the work instead of writing a long explanation. At the time I wrote it, I had read the phrase “vulnerable heart” somewhere and it kept running through my head. I thought a lot about that phrase and about what it meant in terms of my work and myself. That’s the end result.
Carrie: What projects are you working on right now?
JB: Well, I’m moving my studio right now, so everything is on hold at this moment. I do have a lot going on come fall. I’ll be working on a weaving project in collaboration with Misha and Puff. Additionally, I just finished hiking the Camino de Santiago, which is a 500-mile pilgrimage trail across Northern Spain. It took me 34 days to complete, and while I was there I did a lot of journaling, thinking and sketching. It was such a beautiful and inspiring experience, and I definitely want to make work about it. It also fueled my wanderlust in a major way. I want to do more traveling and I’ve already started researching options to do some work abroad- it would be cool to get some experience with a weaving cooperative, maybe in South America or India where they have such strong, beautiful textile history.
As for moving my studio, it’s definitely not easy since the nature of my work isn’t as compact as say, painting or photography. You have to be really good at packing and try not to hoard what isn’t absolutely necessary. Getting the loom into my last space involved my landlord and his two sons hoisting it through a window with a rope, which was scary because it’s very old and delicate-but now that I’m more familiar with it, I was able to take it apart to move it in smaller pieces this time around.
Carrie: What is your favorite artist tool? Which one can you not live without?
JB: I work with a lot of different tools, so I don’t know if I can pick a favorite. But I think my most interesting tool is my weaving loom. It’s a real floor loom operated by pedals and everything, just like they used back in the day. Definitely a conversation starter when people come over! But “contemporary” weaving isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. There’s definitely been a renewed appreciation for “slow” and handmade fashion and textiles, which is great because it means we can begin to move away from some of the darker aspects involved in fast fashion (environmental issues, poor labor practices) that give the industry a bad rep.
Carrie: Do you have a particular technique or artist practice you find more difficult than others? Or, is there a skill or something you feel you need to do regularly to “keep up?”
JB: I don’t know about technique or skill, because those are in a constant state of practice and improvement. I think the thing that causes me the most difficulty in my artistic practice is my lack of a singular focus. As I mentioned, I do many different types of work, and sometimes this can be great, but other times I feel all over the place. I think part of it is being young, and trying to experiment. Maybe I’ll grow out of it and start to carve a more specific path. Or maybe I won’t.
Carrie: How do your interests/hobbies in your life intersect with your art?
JB: Well, earlier I mentioned the Camino, that trip was definitely an example. It was a very personal, difficult, and a beautiful experience. Completing the walk felt like a creative act in itself. A friend I met on Camino was completing a gap year and when asked what she did for work replied, “I am a free designer- I design my own free time.” I had never considered the concept so concretely before, “designing” a life. As artists, we often translate our lives into our work. When I was on Camino it was flipped a bit- I was constantly creating, but in a different way. Instead of making objects I was making friendships with the most incredible people, cooking for my walking partners, writing letters to future pilgrims. I am very lucky to have had this experience, and to be able to carry it forward into what I do in the future.
Carrie: When you are feeling stuck, what are your strategies for inspiration?
JB: If my work has come to a standstill, it’s usually because my life has as well. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It usually just means it’s time for a change, or a new experience of some kind.
Carrie: How do you navigate feeling discouraged when it comes to your creativity and artistic production?
JB: It’s good to just keep making stuff, even if you’re not the most inspired. It’s tough, and I’m not always successful at this, but it’s better to push through a weird creative time instead of stopping completely. I just finished a book that talks about the female psyche and creative practice, and the author spins this metaphor about art and ice, that if a woman keeps moving (artistically), she can’t freeze. It’s cliché, but true. (The name of the book is Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.)
Carrie: Can you describe one of your most positive experiences as an artist?
JB: A while ago, I made a piece where I knit a sweater for a plaster cast of an anatomical heart, as a metaphor for ‘keeping a warm heart.” I showed it as much as I could, and even sent it across the country with a friend to be shown to people he met traveling. It was important that it was shown a lot, because the thing that completed this piece was how the viewer related to it. I got a lot of feedback from people saying that being with the heart was a nice or touching experience. That was really good to hear, that my heart-warmer had done its job.
Carrie: Do you have any advice for creatives who might want a life like yours?
JB: That’s a tough one, because really my life and career have just started, and I’m still trying to figure out what I want them to be. I can tell you one thing I have gleaned in my singular year of post-grad life. Obviously “success” isn’t as linear or guaranteed as it used to be 50 years ago. But, artists and creative people actually have the upper hand in this kind of society, in that they are good at figuring out how to make things work and are open to alternatives. Your creativity shouldn’t stop at your art practice; it should be incorporated into every aspect of your life.
Carrie: How do you define creativity?
JB: That’s a heavy question. I probably won’t be able to answer that till I’m 90 years old- if ever!
Thank you to Jessica for taking the time to share her thoughts with Artist Strong! I know I look forward to seeing work influenced by her experience walking El Camino. Want to learn more about her work? Don’t forget to check out Jessica’s website.
Artist Strong Action: How has an outside experience/hobby/interest shaped your artistic practice? How could you allow it to?