Keeping with the theme of fellow SCAD Fibers Alumni I’m bringing you IN the Studio with JennyThreads-Part I. I visited Jen Swearington’s studio and shop space in early February when I went to Asheville. I had met Jenny in Atlanta quite a few years ago and had long admired and followed her work as it’s developed over the past 10 years or so. She was on my scheduled “list” of artist to interview when I took this trip to Asheville. We had a lovely time chatting and as I often do, a super fun piece (a mini skirt-with a kitty on it!) of her work came home with me! Her fashion is fun, funky, sassy and flirty…just all around creative fashion!
Jenny Threads Interview and Studio Sneak Peek Part I.
HKPS::What age did you suspect or know you were an artist?
JS::I was accepted into a year-round art class in my middle school at age 12 by showing the teacher a portfolio of my drawings, and then I was strongly encouraged by my Aunt Kelly, who is also an artist to this day. I loved being creative so much, of course I still do.
HKPS::What mediums do you work with and are there specific tools or materials you find challenging to keep organized or locate when you need to use them?
JS::I work in fibers, surface design, and production sewing to create Jennythreads apparel and accessories. Since I have a nice big studio where I’ve worked for over four years, my materials and supplies have their places where they “live,” so I know where to find them when I need them. My systems are the old reliable “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
HKPS:: Where do you make your art, how big is your studio and how long have you been in this space?
JS::I own a dream studio- 740 square feet in a commercial condo all to myself, with 15-foot ceilings, big windows on three sides, and frontage on a busy road, with a dress form in the window, in a hip part of town. I bought it in fall 2010. It is basically one big room with a partitioned-off showroom front, one closet, and a rest room.
HKPS::How many projects are you usually working on at once? Is this due to space constraints, creative process, organizing systems or other influences?
JS::Currently today I am working on writing these responses, I have printable items soaking in the dyebath to wash this afternoon for printing tomorrow, and while they are soaking/washing, I am piecing and sewing Collage Mini Scarves to complete a wholesale order I will drop off tomorrow. I make a list in the morning and get started on multiple things that must be completed soon. Since I have a lot of space and different stations for different tasks, I can let things soak/ cook/ wait to be sewn, and have a place for them so they don’t get in my way until I am ready for them.
HKPS::When you began working in this space did you plan any systems for the overall set up or did you let things evolve organically? How did past studio spaces or systems influence this space?
JS::For six years I worked in less than 200 square feet doing the same kind of work, without a nearby sink or washer/dryer (I would take everything home at night to wash/dry and bring back the next morning). My current studio space was a “warm shell” when I bought it, just an unfinished space with only stud walls and a heat pump. I was able to design and upfit the space, contracting out the electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and drywall, so I got to wire for sewing machines, track lights above, and my favorite, a utility silk and a stacking washer/dryer right here.
My industrial sewing machines have stayed stationary, but since being in this space, I extended my padded print table from 8 to 12 feet long, built a table specifically for my 24 inch by 60 inch cutting mat, brought in my computer and created a small corner office, and built 4-foot high partitions from old windows to separate the front boutique area from the workspace, and to separate the cutting table from the dye counter. I stationed the dye-cooking hot plates in the rest room so the hot fumes would be confined to the restroom and sucked out by the exhaust fan, instead of having it in the larger workspace. The dye counter and storage cabinet are just outside the restroom for mixing and adding colors in bright natural light, then adding them to the hot baths.
I have created different stations for different tasks: six sewing machines and sergers that each do their own thing and are threaded accordingly, computer office in the corner, dye counter behind the glass windows, and two white leather chairs up front by the water cooler with an ottoman and magazine basket for taking a break, or for kids/husbands to hang out while women shop.
Learn more about Jenny Threads in Part II of the interview and, please see more of her work here.
* Inside the Studio was my brainchild in 2011. There are a lot of popular studio features on the web and in magazines but I’m specifically interested in showing how organizational process influences the artists studio work. These photo’s are not styled and are typical of how the artists working studio looks. I request that each artist leave their space as it would be on a daily basis (just like I ask my clients). This series is meant to highlight how artist REALLY work rather than showing STYLED shots (popular in home and organizing magazines and blogs). I’m sure just like me, you are fascinated by the “behind the scenes” sneak peek into these artists working lives!