Jessie Hemmons - Hixson-Lied Visiting Artist
Jessie Hemmons - Interdisciplinary
Hixson-Lied Visiting Artist
Jessie Hemmons completed her Master's degree in Clinical and Counseling
Psychology in 2011 from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA. She worked
as a psychotherapist for a short time and has spent most of her professional
career as a behavioral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. Jessie
started yarnbombing in 2011, covering urban objects with knitting in downtown
Philadelphia. She began making these knitted installations to show the
feasibility of using more diverse mediums in street art, thrust passersby out
of their everyday urban experience, and improve accessibility to art in the
community. Soon taking on the moniker ishknits, she gradually expanded her
installations and began taking on a more overtly political tone. She used
yarnbombing as a way to shine a light on issues related to feminism,
misogyny, and interpersonal violence. Her work has been featured in The New
York Times, Time Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Encyclopedia
Britannica. She has produced commercial piecesfor companies like Target,
Lyft, and Free People. Her work has been displayed in galleries and museums
including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Philadelphia International
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[00:00:02.120]Jessie: This I found out on the Internet that or on social media that somebody
had ripped off one of these and said you can't see the seat, with a blanket and...
[00:00:11.280]Jessie: So I just felt like that was just very typical Philadelphia for somebody
do something like that and also just like a really interesting part of how the city
reacted to it.
[00:00:22.160]Jessie: folks that wouldn't even really necessarily be engaging with are being a
part of the exhibition without even knowing it.
[00:00:30.600]Jessie: And so, then um this was in 2012, and this was a piece that I decided to
do so, this, this is a statue.
[00:00:43.640]Jessie: In our city Center so it's across from City Hall in front of a municipal
building and across from love Park, which is also pretty famous in philly the
[00:00:55.640]Jessie: is pretty iconic and there's the statue across the street of this our
mayor frank Rizzo from the 70s and he's really controversial and he's quite a
stain on our history as a city.
[00:01:08.080]Jessie: He is well known for being very racist and homophobic and massaging
the stick and had a lot to do with some really dark periods in Philadelphia.
[00:01:19.080]Jessie: strip searching individuals and public to embarrass them running raids on.
[00:01:24.400]Jessie: gay and lesbian clubs and i'm having a shoot out with some of the more
militant black power groups in Philadelphia, and so have a statue.
[00:01:34.640]Jessie: of him in the middle of our city was just like it very hard for a lot of folks,
so this is this is 2012 well before black lives matter and a lot of different things
happened and so to me like...
[00:01:48.080]Jessie: In my own way, I just thought it would be important to emasculate him
and I know that he was super homophobic, and so I thought, let me just put
him in what I would.
[00:01:58.320]Jessie: think he would find us at a really embarrassing outfit and climb, on top
of him and let him have no choice in the matter, and let me just install this.
[00:02:07.440]Jessie: Hot pink Bikini on him and choosing the pieces important or choosing
when to install a piece is important because yarn bombing is not permanent.
[00:02:18.840]Jessie: So it allows a lot of flexibility in terms of its legality, but it also really
matters when you install the piece, because they don't necessarily last very long.
[00:02:28.760]Jessie: So if you want people to see the work it really matters when you install
it and how you install it, so the rear of this is actually I needed a string Bikini
so that the security inside would not.
[00:02:42.240]Jessie: See as quickly that I hadn't started a hot pink Bikini also decided not to
do it in the middle of the night because I felt like if I did.
[00:02:50.520]Jessie: You know, even though beyond the cloak of of night and and you know,
no one would see what I was doing, I felt like it would be gone by the time that
anybody woke up and was on their way to work.
[00:03:00.160]Jessie: So I felt it was important for me to choose to go during a rush hour time
period so that people would at least be able to experience it was glad I made that
decision, because the piece only lasted about three minutes before it was
[00:03:16.080]Jessie: So some feedback on yarn bombing.
[00:03:19.400]Jessie: Most a lot of it was really positive and you can you'll be able to see in the
way that my work.
[00:03:27.720]Jessie: What I was given commercial opportunities and i've been given like
professional like exhibition opportunities, and so a lot of people are really.
[00:03:37.040]Jessie: found found the word refreshing and thought it was really interesting to
see this women focused medium in the public sphere and.
[00:03:48.680]Jessie: You know, so there were a lot of opportunities that came with that.
[00:03:53.000]Jessie: there's also some less positive feedback as well, so I think is really
important to address so um there's a street art blog that was famous at the time.
[00:04:02.760]Jessie: i'm not sure if it's still is, but they did a lot of critiquing of of street art,
which I thought inherently had its own issues because, like, I feel as
though street art.
[00:04:14.920]Jessie: Is a level playing field for everyone to feel welcome and not feel excluded
and this particular blog really made it a point to critique in terms of in using the same.
[00:04:30.000]Jessie: Like commentary that they would use at in a gallery, and so I I felt like it was
it just didn't make any sense and but then you know to see it talking about yarn
bombing, I was really interested for that and it just said, you know you can't sit
with us, like you, are not sridhar.
[00:04:47.640]Jessie: They they just basically said that we are a bunch of silly women and trying
to do these crafty projects and public.
[00:04:56.560]Jessie: And you know that you're not real sridhar and you, you really like aren't
welcome in our club, and I think what they fail to understand.
[00:05:06.920]Jessie: Is that it was really sexist in the way is this is the the pictures that they
showed on the article about like Oh, this is just ridiculous it's not sridhar.
[00:05:17.040]Jessie: And I can understand that when you look at these pieces they don't resonate
the same way that like graffiti and some of historical sridhar has.
[00:05:26.040]Jessie: been display in really politically active ways, however, this was like
something completely new for women, and it was you know something
that women have been doing.
[00:05:37.080]Jessie: inside their own homes for others and, like this was the first time that
they're really like taking ownership of it and putting it outside and laying claim
to their own place in public.
[00:05:47.520]Jessie: And so I thought that that blog piece like really missed the mark and
that's just an example several blog pieces that were written and said the same
thing about yarn bombing.
[00:05:59.480]Jessie: But then some feedback that actually was really important for yarn bombers
take into consideration was this idea of yarn bombing as gentrification and I think
that was really valid feedback.
[00:06:13.760]Jessie: So let's see this was a really controversial piece, and that happened in
bushwick in brooklyn New York by a yarn bomber who.
[00:06:25.480]Jessie: put this piece up on the wall of somebody building and it was
private property and they had a brooklyn flea market and the empty
[00:06:35.360]Jessie: or adjacent to the wall, and so the person who ran the flea market
ask this yarn mom or if she would put up this piece I think these are
characters from like wes Anderson films, or something.
[00:06:47.920]Jessie: But unfortunately what they she didn't realize was that the person
who own the actual building did not give permission for the peace and
was really upset that the work was there, and she like hot glued
onto the wall and so.
[00:07:04.200]Jessie: I think, honestly, I think it represented, something that if you were
graffiti or something else, like I don't know if the owner would have
been that upset but I actually the owner is posted here.
[00:07:18.200]Jessie: Of the building like he had grown up in this building, he has
since moved to Queens at the point.
[00:07:23.520]Jessie: But he said that gentrification has gotten, to the point where
every time I see a group of young white millennials in the hood my
heart starts racing and a sense of anxiety starts falling over me.
[00:07:33.800]Jessie: And, and then Mr abner's the one who runs the flea market he
decides that he's going to allow some hipster transplant.
[00:07:42.320]Jessie: to paint on our wall, without asking permission, because she
wanted to clean the wall for herself in order to express yourself.
[00:07:49.320]Jessie: And that's exactly what i've said about some of the work that i've
done, and so I think it was really, really important what happened, what
the controversy over this is that she didn't take the piece down even
after hearing this feedback, and so I think it was she got really defensive.
[00:08:09.120]Jessie: And she didn't take the feedback as constructive instead she she
kind of externalised it and I thought it was a really important point for
us because, like a lot of yarn bombers are.
[00:08:23.680]Jessie: White treat women and it's really important for us to take this this
feedback about if we are coming into an urban environment, like I didn't
grow up in Philadelphia I moved here when I was.
[00:08:35.560]Jessie: 19 and i've been here, ever since but I mean, I did not grow up in
certain neighborhoods, and so what i've taken from the feedback about.
[00:08:44.440]Jessie: This idea of yarn bombing is gentrification because the way that it's
seen as that it's young white millennial transplants.
[00:08:53.240]Jessie: Is that I don't put my work and residential neighborhoods are like I
don't I take that feedback into consideration and i'm really careful about
where I choose to install my work.
[00:09:03.440]Jessie: Because a lot of folks they really see a yarn bomb and they think
there goes the neighborhood and it can be true, and so I think it's important.
[00:09:13.800]Jessie: to really be considerate of the perception of your work and then where
you put it, and and I, this is really early on in the world of yarn bombing
so you'll see.
[00:09:24.480]Jessie: Later, that my work gets more political overtly political and it's
less about covering threes and and making that you know feminine footprint.
[00:09:35.440]Jessie: But I just thought it was important to talk about some of the
feedback like I said, most of it was generally positive, and so I have
been given opportunities.
[00:09:44.520]Jessie: to exhibit my work in a more formal setting so, for one, this was at
City Hall art gallery and in Philadelphia City Hall.
[00:09:54.440]Jessie: And this was a waiting area, and I just decided to yarn bama it would
this was the first exhibition opportunity that I was given, and it was
really, really uncomfortable for me.
[00:10:05.320]Jessie: Because they just came in, they had me come in and there were
four walls and they said, do something nice like I don't work inside
by literally had no idea what to do.
[00:10:15.760]Jessie: But I wanted yarn bombing to be kind of a welcoming like I.
[00:10:20.800]Jessie: Like knitting is functional and to I didn't want to deny its functionality
and it's utilitarianism, but I also wanted to show it in a different and
interesting way, so I don't know I just decided to make a waiting room for it,
the City Hall, but that was really early on.
[00:10:40.200]Jessie: And then later on, I was given like one of the greatest honors of my life
and was an installation outside of the Philadelphia museum of art.
[00:10:48.880]Jessie: And the program building, which is cross the street from the main building,
but this is where a lot of the the craft exhibits are and.
[00:10:56.560]Jessie: This was a exhibit a craft spoken here, and the idea was to show how
you know craft is utilitarian how and it transitions into art and.
[00:11:14.280]Jessie: You know, I was supposed to represent the in between phase so like
inside the museum they had folks like knitting hats and doing knitting lessons
to show the real functional use of the craft and then in the gallery, they had.
[00:11:31.280]Jessie: You know, really like fine art pieces made from craft materials, you know
ceramics wire different sculpture things like that and and fiber so I was posed
to represent the kind of the transition between the two.
[00:11:47.720]Jessie: And so I got I got to exhibit my work here, it was.
[00:11:53.720]Jessie: It was a really fascinating I mean I had started as somebody who was
just like john bombing a tree and then I got this opportunity to put my work
on a museum and not only that I was asked to then.
[00:12:10.400]Jessie: speak on one of the npr local stations like radio show with the
curator of the exhibit about the work and, like about craft and and.
[00:12:22.520]Jessie: about how I feel about street art and using yarn bombing and street art.
[00:12:27.080]Jessie: With the curator of the Philadelphia museum of art, so it was like
of the show, so it was really interesting juxtaposition between the two
of us and also, there is one of the artists in the show, but it was interesting
to be able to me, as someone I feel like.
[00:12:45.320]Jessie: Very working class and not in that fine art round to be able to
participate in that conversation and and be.
[00:12:53.640]Jessie: A part of that so that was a really cool experience.
[00:12:58.360]Jessie: And then, this is when I started to this was for an event, and so
I started people started to see my work as something that could be used.
[00:13:08.040]Jessie: temporarily for purposes, I mean this was an art show this was 50th
anniversary of this art and embassies so putting art and different embassies
around in DC and.
[00:13:23.680]Jessie: So this was a one night event but it took me like 48 hours to install the
piece, this is just a Globe that I did and, interestingly it's it's to play it.
[00:13:35.520]Jessie: it's a playground a piece of playground equipment like kids crawl on it
and can climb on it and it's to have them put together to make a ball and.
[00:13:45.240]Jessie: And that's what was used, and then I came down to DC and installed
the piece all through the night or, at least at least day and a half, not two days.
[00:13:57.280]Jessie: And then, this is back in Pennsylvania Steve Tobin is pretty famous local
artists here, he has pieces in Center city some permanent sculptures and they
and he usually works in like metal or white, and so I was asked to come cover
it and some really brightly colored knitting.
[00:14:17.920]Jessie: And then, this is what I realized that I was maybe part of a historical
[00:14:22.960]Jessie: When I was asked to be in the encyclopedia Britannica book of the year
in 2012 they were actually doing a piece on yarn bombing.
[00:14:31.040]Jessie: And wanted me to be a part of it, and so that's what I really realized
they're like Oh, you know, even though that had seen that that there was a
whole book already so.
[00:14:39.920]Jessie: Obviously, there are people doing this for a while, for them to be able
to print it, but I guess what had happened since then was that we really
[00:14:50.320]Jessie: We really started to put a more public stamp on on the media.
[00:14:55.120]Jessie: And so I was also this transition into me being offered work to
use my street art or use my.
[00:15:05.920]Jessie: craft, I guess, I could say for advertising purposes, so the first
one was this advertisement for tampax funny enough um.
[00:15:17.000]Jessie: But it was interesting because I actually wanted to feature me
as the artist in their advertisement so I was one of three artists that
were selected came out to La and they did a photo shoot so i'm actually
in it, and they have my name on there, and everything and then this
[00:15:34.200]Jessie: On in magazines and print magazines and it was a campaign about
you know, strong and interesting women I guess that they were
highlighting and so you can be the radiant you.
[00:15:47.640]Jessie: But this was the first time that I really like sign a contract.
[00:15:52.040]Jessie: And I really started to realize that like oh I this is this can be
commodified and I was very young, at this point, but.
[00:16:00.240]Jessie: As time went on, I really learned a lot from business perspective
on the fact that I was like the sole proprietor of my own business,
essentially, so you know I started to get other opportunities, so I did a
[00:16:14.960]Jessie: target, this was a Facebook ad.
[00:16:18.920]Jessie: But essentially I just knit a backdrop pretty small ended up blowing
it up for the photo but, as you can see, the target logo and.
[00:16:29.440]Jessie: This outfit for this dog and net the backdrop and everything,
but this was interesting because it was the first time that I had I had.
[00:16:39.040]Jessie: I had done the tampon side you know they pretty much offered
me money, and I said okay sure.
[00:16:44.560]Jessie: Because I didn't want to ruffle any feathers um and then with this
one, I and then I had worked with the art museum and they had offered
me money as well, they wanted to compensate me for covering the facade.
[00:16:57.200]Jessie: And I threw out the same amount of money that tampax offered me
and they they laughed in my face like where i'm using we don't have any money.
[00:17:06.040]Jessie: So, but I was like it was my experiment in negotiating and then
came this opportunity, where I was able to negotiate and some I you
[00:17:17.600]Jessie: Over like estimating like really fancy yarns and how I was going to do
this, and so you realize that when you estimate your your own budgets for your
work, you always...
[00:17:27.920]Jessie: underestimate how long a project is going to take, and also like the
materials and the fact that there's going to be trial and error and a lot of times,
sometimes you think Oh, you know I just I just need to...
[00:17:41.320]Jessie: I just need to put this I just need to make it so i'm going to put my man
hours or person hours, I should say, for how long this piece is going to take.
[00:17:49.400]Jessie: But then, you know, like you have to think about the fact that you have
to travel down to where you're installing it and then also have to take the
time to install it.
[00:17:57.240]Jessie: You also may have to D install it and you also may have to be on call
to make sure, everything is right, with it, and those are ours that you know.
[00:18:04.840]Jessie: You may I mean me personally, I didn't include in my first few
budgets, but I started to learn, over time, and so they initially wanted this just
for this photo shoot, and then they had asked me they said they liked it
and they wanted to keep it.
[00:18:20.560]Jessie: In their corporate headquarters, and so they we bargain for like
them purchase instead of just use it so i'm something that I, I ended up.
[00:18:32.040]Jessie: Really developing an interest in I really enjoyed like the business
aspect of it and being able to learn how to.
[00:18:40.640]Jessie: not be taken advantage of in these situations, because you do work
as an independent contractor with a lot of these large corporations that
want to take advantage of you.
[00:18:49.480]Jessie: arm, so this is another opportunity I was given and I just want to show
when I when I say opportunity given I literally mean that they.
[00:18:59.320]Jessie: googled yarn bombing because somebody heard of it and they were
like Oh, we should do that for our ad campaign.
[00:19:05.360]Jessie: So they Google yarn bombing and then my name shows up, and so
they would contact me, so I ended up unintentionally doing a lot of guerilla
marketing for myself and for my own business.
[00:19:16.200]Jessie: So this was free people in urban outfitters and anthropology are all
the same company and they're headquartered in Philadelphia, so I really had
a prior relationship with this company.
[00:19:28.840]Jessie: knew a lot of folks down there, and so they when this opportunity
came up that they wanted to advertise their opening in Tokyo Japan they
reached out to me and.
[00:19:41.680]Jessie: I didn't get to go, unfortunately, I think it would have been the coolest
[00:19:46.960]Jessie: But they did not have the budget for that, so what they did is they sent
me the measurements of this VW bus and we covered it they covered it, I mean
they installed it I need it and.
[00:19:59.480]Jessie: And then they drove it around downtown Tokyo to advertise and there
was also this pop up shop that they had done so, this was another time where.
[00:20:10.880]Jessie: I had to ship something and it had to be there at a certain time and they
the company went to make me responsible for that.
[00:20:17.640]Jessie: And I said, you know what's your fedex account like i'm not shipping
something to Japan on my own dollar and i'm not taking it out of the budget
and so there's there's certain ways, where you start to be able to negotiate.
[00:20:30.520]Jessie: For your advantage, and especially what happens when what I have
learned when companies are doing marketing campaigns, is that the artists
actually comes at the very end of the.
[00:20:42.920]Jessie: idea phase so they're like oh here's the concept, then it gets run through
like all the approval phases, and then they finally reach out to the artist.
[00:20:51.600]Jessie: And they don't realize that are actually takes a while to make, and you
can actually use this to your advantage because, by the time that they reach
out to you they're in a position where they needed done very quickly.
[00:21:02.480]Jessie: And so, put you in a power position, whether you you, you may not realize
it and you might think oh this big company is coming off for me.
[00:21:10.720]Jessie: This opportunity I really don't want them to say no to me.
[00:21:14.320]Jessie: But you know if you really start to understand that they haven't
actually thought about artists as needing time to make it and they have
[00:21:23.240]Jessie: Then you actually then have some leverage to ask for more for yourself,
and I think that's important for artists and if you are going to go this direction.
[00:21:34.000]Jessie: Now, finally, this was like the largest Commission that i've had to date,
and this was lyft they for over Christmas like holiday weekend, they were going
to drive these Mary mode cars around.
[00:21:46.960]Jessie: DC, and so I was hired at this point, so this is kind of interesting side
note i'll try and go as quickly as possible, but.
[00:21:56.360]Jessie: The yarn bombers there's not a lot of us and there's not a lot of us
that do corporate work and we actually are really supportive of one another
and we're very friendly, and so we had connected.
[00:22:08.440]Jessie: And we started her real and we started to help each other with our
budgets like well how much, would you charge per square foot, or what How
would you charge for this project.
[00:22:16.320]Jessie: And we started to do in like a really unofficial ways like unionize
and contact each other.
[00:22:23.480]Jessie: Whenever we were offered a Commission project and see if they
were beating us against each other and if they were then we would decide
what like our rates were going to be in everything was going to be equal
and we would even.
[00:22:37.680]Jessie: At other times, decide to partner up and go into it and say hey I
realized you contacted my colleague, you know, we are ready to talk to
you and so.
[00:22:47.200]Jessie: We made it to the point where that they couldn't pit us against each
other in a competitive way and so that was really fun to flip the script and
[00:22:56.400]Jessie: So we all decided to work together on this because they literally
gave me 10 days.
[00:23:02.600]Jessie: And these were rental cars and I had to figure out how to get the
knitting to stay on the vehicles and without falling off so they had to drive
and I wasn't allowed to damage the vehicles and anyway, so I ended up
purchasing like 150 feet of.
[00:23:22.160]Jessie: very strong mag magnet and industrial magnets that go on the side
of vehicles for like independent contractors, or like pizza delivery folks or
whatever that have those little removable magnet signs on their cars.
[00:23:36.560]Jessie: I just covered the cars and that and then I glue the knitting to the
magnets and so that was some of the Commission work.
[00:23:45.040]Jessie: I know i'm i'm trying to i'll try and go quickly, so I worked i'm on the
east coast i'm from Philadelphia.
[00:23:52.880]Jessie: And I decided after some of these commission's I had enough money
to travel, so I decided to move to oakland California and I did a few pieces
out there and I just really just wanted to briefly touch on the difference between.
[00:24:08.400]Jessie: installing street are in the east coast in Philadelphia, in particular, and
then on the west coast and San Francisco, in particular, things are very
different vibe was very different in Philadelphia I kind of felt like.
[00:24:23.080]Jessie: It kind of felt like it was you know we have bigger fish to fry and like just
do whatever you're doing like I didn't really get harassed I didn't really
[00:24:32.960]Jessie: But in in the West Coast I got bothered a lot, when I was installing
the work but it wasn't by like police or anything, it was by like neighbors doing
the policing themselves and just kind of asking me whether I had permission
to put this work up, and you know, like.
[00:24:51.720]Jessie: Just you know where my permits and things like that, and sometimes
I was like yarn bombing some abandoned building so.
[00:24:59.040]Jessie: It just didn't make sense that they were really overly concerned with
what I was doing but still, they just like felt entitled to, to make sure that
they were just like you know the neighborhood watch, I guess, for their neighbor.
[00:25:11.360]Jessie: So I just wanted to briefly touch on like I did not experience that at
all and i've never experienced one Philadelphia.
[00:25:18.680]Jessie: And this is a heart, one of the hearts in San francisco's Union
square I just kind of wanted to do this.
[00:25:24.400]Jessie: Because I thought it'd be fun because it's such a public space, so
I just wanted to see if I could do it, I got ran off quite a few times by security
and eventually I did finally get it on there and it lasted only a few minutes,
it was still an accomplishment for me.
[00:25:42.120]Jessie: And so, then back to philly and my works are taken more overturn
so once I came back to philly I realized that you know I had done a bunch
of trees and I had.
[00:25:51.800]Jessie: done a bunch of statues and stuff and really was running out of
material, and so I think I need to come up with some of my own ideas and so.
[00:26:01.120]Jessie: Then I started getting a little bit more over in my political statements,
so in 2016 That was a big shift in my work where a lot of pieces started
being 2d and they started just being placed up on a wall and a lot of
text based work, and so this was.
[00:26:18.160]Jessie: During the primaries in 2016 this pieces by about six feet tall by
like 15 feet wide or something like that I spent a few weeks, making it
and then soda onto the fence, with a few volunteers female to help me.
[00:26:32.840]Jessie: And something interesting that I didn't really think about when
I installed, it was that I couldn't put it behind the fence, because you
wouldn't really see it.
[00:26:40.800]Jessie: I put it in front of the fence, but then I had to make sure that
it once it started sagging or falling off a little bit like I immediately had
to remove the entire banner, because I was terrified that it would fall
on somebody's car and cover their windshield so.
[00:26:58.200]Jessie: And then, this is when I started really like coming into my own
in terms of being ready to make work about my own.
[00:27:08.080]Jessie: about my own trauma and my own recovery and also being an
advocate and starting to really put my voice out there.
[00:27:14.480]Jessie: As a political activist for survivors of interpersonal violence and
childhood abuse, and so this is, I was really I loved generis tar
garryowen from game of thrones I just love that character.
[00:27:28.400]Jessie: very upset and what happened to her, in the end, but um you know
her quotes really, really stuck with me, and so I did a series on in this is
just one of them that.
[00:27:38.400]Jessie: ended up really resonating with the Community the feedback that
I got from it.
[00:27:43.080]Jessie: Was that that a lot of people hadn't seen anything like this before,
and you know the reason I put it out there, the next time you raise a hand
to me will be the last time you have hands.
[00:27:54.800]Jessie: And you know it looks like this, like cute little blanket you know,
and then you read it and you're like wait why so that was the idea
was to have it.
[00:28:04.600]Jessie: Show as this this comforting piece, but as soon as you read it,
you realize that there's a much darker political statement.
[00:28:12.280]Jessie: And, and that a lot of people that are survivors had had said that
it resonated with them in a really important way and so then i'm for
this democratic National Convention that occurred in Philadelphia and.
[00:28:27.560]Jessie: rock the vote came through and did an art show, and so the pieces
were really overtly political and they were in your face shockey political,
and so this was a statistic I put on a mattress that one in five women will
be raped in their lifetime.
[00:28:44.960]Jessie: And really wanted to put it on a mattress to make it obvious that, like
you know, this is something that a lot of women are carrying on their own and.
[00:28:54.880]Jessie: It was a it was it was a beginning for me to really start externalising
that and putting that weight on to other people, instead of having.
[00:29:05.760]Jessie: me as a victim have to carry this and there is an artist who carried
a mattress that inspired this piece she actually carried a mattress all over
campus because university wasn't.
[00:29:17.640]Jessie: Responding to her accusation of sexual assault on campus carried a
mattress around and so that's what really inspired this piece.
[00:29:26.880]Jessie: was to just take a little bit further, and like make it more like very
obvious in the situation where, if you walk by you would definitely have to
take it in and.
[00:29:38.800]Jessie: And there I had some pieces, where you know, I was like yes, this this.
[00:29:44.720]Jessie: These things that happened to me like our other people's it's other
people's responsibility to hold on to these feelings like i've been holding
on to these feelings, for a very long time.
[00:29:53.120]Jessie: And I feel like victims of assault or discrimination or anything like
really feel like it's out, we really feel like it's our responsibility to make
sure that we don't tell anyone about it so that other people aren't
uncomfortable or that we make sure that.
[00:30:11.160]Jessie: You know, no one else has to feel the way that we felt when really
like we are the victims of that situation and so it's really important to not
continue that victimization and also for people.
[00:30:22.120]Jessie: Who start to take on that weight, because we as a society have a
role and responsibility to make sure that these things don't happen to
other people and.
[00:30:31.920]Jessie: And on the on the right, you know it says no i'm not Okay, now that
really spoke to like a lot of times, and especially in my practice as a therapist
and things like that.
[00:30:43.120]Jessie: I heard people always ask them like well this happened so long ago,
so why is it still bothering me or people always asked me like Why am I still
depressed about it and it's like you know why.
[00:30:54.640]Jessie: Of course, of course, of course, we are, I mean like recovery is not linear
and we also don't have the social supports to really help survivors trauma
and so, of course.
[00:31:07.040]Jessie: we're going to be struggling from time to time um and then this was in
2017, and this was inauguration day a bunch of banners went up across philly.
[00:31:21.760]Jessie: and mine was a quote by audrey Lord That said, I am deliberate and
afraid of nothing so this was just knowing what the next four years was going to
bring for the United States.
[00:31:33.840]Jessie: And I really felt like these words were something that all of us really
needed to hear that we needed to be deliberate in our protest and we needed
to be strong, because it was going to be a lot of resistance.
[00:31:48.920]Jessie: And then, this one, this was the piece that I, you know in 2016 and
then the 2015 or something I put up that kalisa piece.
[00:31:59.160]Jessie: In this location and then so much had changed the me to movement
and time's up and like happened and I felt like I had been screaming into a
void for a while and so when those movements happen, I.
[00:32:13.520]Jessie: felt like, finally, we were getting some like institutional awareness of these
things, and so I made this piece and put it in the same location, that the police,
the piece initially was.
[00:32:27.280]Jessie: And then, now I just do more overtly.
[00:32:30.680]Jessie: Like more political posters, and so you know they look like they're like
fun little holiday posters, and then, when you read them.
[00:32:38.840]Jessie: You know, you see, that obviously they're very political and we have
prison camps, I I just felt like it was really important for us.
[00:32:48.240]Jessie: As a society to take a look at ourselves, I feel like we think that
we're so much different than other countries and other societies, when in
fact we do a lot of the same.
[00:32:59.960]Jessie: nefarious deeds, and so you know, like I the way these aren't just like
ice, you know hotel facilities like we are imprisoning people in Camp and so
that's kind of the work even more trying to focus on some ally ship over
the last year or so.
[00:33:17.680]Jessie: And then just lastly full circle really something that to me was really
important so that book that I bought in 2010 that got me to yarn bomb.
[00:33:27.880]Jessie: 10 years later, they did an anniversary edition, and I got in it, so it
was really, really exciting, for me, so this was the 10 year edition, and I didn't
interview for the book so that was very.
[00:33:41.480]Jessie: Very I don't know career is very full circle for me so and that's all I have.
[00:33:54.200]Sandra Williams: Thank you so much for.
[00:33:57.840]Sandra Williams: joining us and sharing your work with us, you know
craftivism is one of those things where you know you need a tough mind
and a kind heart, I think, is that combination.
[00:34:11.600]Sandra Williams: We do have some questions over on the side here, starting
with I think there.
[00:34:21.040]Sandra Williams: Especially as young artists out people always have this
idea of materials in mind and the cost of materials so.
[00:34:30.880]Sandra Williams: The one is like, how do you acquire enough because you
know we all know, yarn is expensive, like even red heart in the quantities
that you're using it in.
[00:34:42.400]Sandra Williams: Do use the materials and these pieces use other materials
other than yarn and thread, and along with that.
[00:34:49.880]Sandra Williams: it's there was another one that's like well when you're not
working on a Commission, how do you afford to do these pieces, you know
because we're we're looking at dozens of scans of yarn.
[00:35:01.920]Jessie: yeah that's really, really important every time that I do have a
Commission I over estimate the amount of yarn that I need so I always have
some leftover that helped me work on some projects that I want to do on
my own, but yes, I do purchase the red heart and.
[00:35:20.880]Jessie: Surprisingly enough like it would really only cost me like 25 bucks to do
some of the first projects like wouldn't it be the too much out of the way.
[00:35:29.360]Jessie: But I, you have to understand that this was really important and.
[00:35:34.240]Jessie: allows me to leverage that I don't necessarily think a lot of artists
get that I do have my master's degree in clinical psych and I do have entirely
separate career that.
[00:35:45.920]Jessie: has allowed me to start a family has allowed me to pay off some of
my debts and allowed me to make the work that I want to make I don't work
for a private company.
[00:35:56.800]Jessie: So, as you can see, like my work on more political I worked for a
university, which also provides me some leverage so i'm not as at risk of losing
[00:36:08.280]Jessie: You know there's definitely steps that need to be in place for
somebody at a university to lose their position, and so I feel bit more
comfortable expressing myself, I do not promote my work as an artist at my
employment I keep it very separate.
[00:36:23.880]Jessie: But my it has it has allowed me to take some risks when I was working
fully as an artist it affected the work a great deal.
[00:36:33.760]Jessie: Because I was nervous at if my work were to political, then I would start
to lose those corporate sponsorships and I also realized that you know I had
gotten those corporate gigs by.
[00:36:46.720]Jessie: Doing yarn bombs so sometimes I found myself yarn bombing just to
get like out there on Google, or like an instagram post that like maybe some
marketing person would see, and so I did start to see myself.
[00:37:01.800]Jessie: Making work for money, instead of being able to make the the work
that I wanted to make and so that's a double edged sword I don't have an answer
for it, I feel very.
[00:37:15.680]Jessie: blessed to have this job that is like secure and that way so that I
can take these risks, I would not.
[00:37:23.240]Jessie: I would not feel comfortable saying that someone that their
livelihood is doing this.
[00:37:28.720]Jessie: should go ahead and make sure they do it because there's a lot of risk
involved like your livelihood is very important.
[00:37:35.160]Jessie: And so, when it comes to materials like you know i've had other
positions when when I was, I would say the biggest thing that I did to support
my work was anytime I was given an opportunity.
[00:37:47.560]Jessie: To get some funding, I asked for the absolute maximum out of funding
and use as little materials as possible so that I could continue to use any
leftover new project.
[00:38:00.160]Sandra Williams: Okay, and you're but you're you mentioned earlier, your director
really likes your work and kind of promotes it himself doesn't mean.
[00:38:10.360]Jessie: yeah so I mean I do work in the behavioral science field, and you know
they're all pretty liberal and so they're Okay, knowing about it.
[00:38:18.920]Jessie: And there is like word of mouth like that I do do this and now it's on our
lab website that I go by a finance and I have this whole thing going.
[00:38:28.720]Jessie: So that's just that's just luck, I mean I I never told him about it and I
wouldn't put it on my CV if, like I were it depends like if...
[00:38:39.200]Jessie: Like I put it on my law school CV when I was applying to law school
because I felt like it was extremely important to show that I wasn't afraid to
advocate in these areas I wasn't afraid to.
[00:38:51.720]Jessie: take these types of risks and and also these business opportunities and
so it depends on what you're trying to achieve you know.
[00:39:01.920]Jessie: How you'll advertise that part of yourself.
[00:39:05.600]Sandra Williams: and
[00:39:06.160]Sandra Williams: I think that.
[00:39:06.880]Sandra Williams: plays into one of these next questions do you think it's
easier better to have a base, before getting more political and you took
kind of address that list there's there's more that you wanted to talk about.
[00:39:20.720]Jessie: It I don't know I don't I don't think so because you know if you
have a base.
[00:39:27.800]Jessie: And by being non political and then all sudden you turn political
people are going to be like just it's the same thing when they say like just
stick to sports like you know just stick to to music they don't want to you
know hear about it, so you might as well just start out being political.
[00:39:44.800]Sandra Williams: If you if you want to be um oh to ever lie about having
permits to get nosy folks to leave you alone long it's talk your work.
[00:39:55.320]Sandra Williams: yeah charges leveled against you.
[00:39:59.080]Jessie: Luckily, I thought very hard about the legality of yarn bombing
and how it's not like permanently adhered and so now I do these two
pieces that I put up with hot glue make sure I don't put them on any
buildings, everything would and is like a removable exterior.
[00:40:18.840]Jessie: So that's really important like I think about that, like Okay, can I be
arrested because it sometimes takes me an hour to put up a piece, and a
lot of people do come by.
[00:40:28.360]Jessie: Why people want to come by and it's interesting like they want to talk
about their experience with knitting and so they'll tell me.
[00:40:35.480]Jessie: stories about Oh, how they need or how their grandma knit and like
how was really important to them and their family.
[00:40:41.840]Jessie: But then there's always up for some reason, every time i'm installing
a piece there's always some guy has his own art.
[00:40:50.080]Jessie: That wants to come up and show me like some kind of reminds me
of my dad my dad would do the same thing, but like.
[00:40:55.160]Jessie: there's always some guy wants to show me his instagram and like
show me what he's doing like while i'm literally sewing a piece and i'm like
Okay, Sir i'm going to go ahead and go back to what i'm doing like so it's
funny to see how men always want to insert themselves on this work.
[00:41:15.520]Sandra Williams: also wondering where to get materials like do you have a
source, other than like the michaels that sort of thing and knowing when and
where to yarn bomb, how do you get people to make the connection between
the piece, and you as an artist.
[00:41:34.440]Jessie: Okay, so that's a there's a couple things so materials like really I did I
did start you know.
[00:41:42.520]Jessie: i'll say like once I once there's a lot of people that wanted to learn
how to knit and then gave up so or there's a lot of people who knit and
have so much yarn like.
[00:41:53.160]Jessie: When you meet people who knit or crochet you'll realize that they
have an entire room like for yarn and yarn alone, and so a lot of times what
happens is people would reach out and say like hey.
[00:42:05.200]Jessie: I obsessively collect yarn for 15 years and I think I need to offload s
[00:42:14.840]Jessie: community groups just asking that if anybody has extra materials
there's always folks about like like me, I felt like a jack of all trades like
before I started knitting and realizing that knitting was medium for me.
[00:42:27.640]Jessie: And I tried all sorts of things mosaics I was doing sculpture, so I
you know I bought all sorts of materials that I wouldn't need.
[00:42:35.400]Jessie: And so, and Philadelphia actually has a few places where you can
donate art materials and go purchase them at a much lower price like
a thrift store price.
[00:42:45.600]Jessie: And so there's a couple places like that, and they also have places
where you can rent tools and things like that so So those are resources
that i've been able to take advantage of in philly and then I think the next
question was was how and when.
[00:43:03.560]Jessie: It really so my work doesn't last very long, when I first started
it would last a few weeks, but now that the work is has words on it
sometimes or even they know it's my piece or whatever they take it,
so they feel it at most last about an hour and.
[00:43:23.080]Jessie: And so I just side you know I want people see it, so I have to kind
of go out in the middle of the day.
[00:43:29.920]Jessie: And with that you have to have a certain level of confidence
about you, because, like people are like if you're going to be out there
in the middle of day you need to look like this is your job that you're
supposed to be doing it.
[00:43:44.200]Jessie: like, if I were in the middle of the night and like there's not as
many people going by.
[00:43:48.120]Jessie: So I I just had this like assertiveness like oh no, this is exactly what
i'm supposed to be doing and I have had people ask me that and I I just
said Oh yes, this is, you know.
[00:43:57.880]Jessie: This is what i'm supposed to be doing right here, right now, and
i've had the COPs call on me and i've had people kind of like run me
out of their area and.
[00:44:09.520]Jessie: Through those experiences you just get more comfortable and
how to deal with those situations and luckily from knitting I can just
take it in and remove it if somebody's calling COPs and.
[00:44:21.440]Jessie: And then, how wasn't there something about how people figure
out it's me.
[00:44:26.280]Sandra Williams: Like how do they connect it with you specifically.
[00:44:30.920]Jessie: yeah I have no idea I mean at first at first, I was the only one
i'm in philly like doing the work and then.
[00:44:39.280]Jessie: So that was pretty easy and now there's quite a few yarn
bombers here and.
[00:44:45.440]Jessie: They really can't necessarily tell tell the difference for me
it's not super important I don't.
[00:44:51.080]Jessie: I don't care if somebody confuses my work for someone else
because, like i'm just making street art and i'm just making it for this
public access and.
[00:45:00.480]Jessie: and not to like build myself as a brand necessarily anymore at
in the beginning, at a certain point in my life that was important.
[00:45:08.320]Jessie: But generally if it's like overtly political like has a statement.
[00:45:13.840]Jessie: They people can kind of figure out that it's one of my pieces,
but the other young bombers are much more positive like we all love
each other and things like that, and so they can kind of tell that that's
not really an issue.
[00:45:27.520]Sandra Williams: yeah i'm just from the other side of that is as an
academic who's been researching this for a while.
[00:45:37.440]Sandra Williams: You can find out a tremendous amount about people.
[00:45:41.800]Sandra Williams: on social media, you know there's been a number of
people who I kind of stopped on Facebook.
[00:45:48.480]Sandra Williams: And then, like the rocky pieces part of the cultural
Zeitgeist so before I knew who you were I knew about the rocky piece
and kind of track down information based on that.
[00:46:02.360]Sandra Williams: So, but if there's someone out there, that you want to
find brain you, you can find the youth just kind of root it out, the Internet
is just so comprehensive it's scary actually.
[00:46:14.960]Sandra Williams: How can we follow you on social media or he'll pick
social media person.
[00:46:20.200]Jessie: As well not really after like not really after you know old Zuckerberg
and like took ownership of everything and fake news, so I mostly just
like lurk on Twitter I don't really post.
[00:46:34.760]Jessie: On my instagram anymore, I used to, but now it's over the summer,
it was mostly like if there was a protest going on, I would post about it and,
but so I still will post.
[00:46:47.520]Jessie: it's just at ish minutes on instagram, so I will post if I install work
but, as I mentioned that I was applying to law school, I really took the last
two years of my life like pretty heavily so I haven't put a whole
lot of work out.
[00:47:02.600]Jessie: But yeah I would also say that i'm figuring out artists and
[00:47:09.840]Jessie: me as a street artist and i've come across like if you ever wanted to
figure out what your mom was like you can certainly ask me, and I would
show you and I would reference you to the other artists.
[00:47:21.960]Jessie: My experience has been like that some artists really have a difficulty
[00:47:30.160]Jessie: i've had a yarn bomber in Philadelphia, at the same time as me and
refer to me as for mortal enemy, and so I just felt like that.
[00:47:39.400]Jessie: that's not the vibe that I wanted to put out, I really care about the
success of the younger artists that are in Philadelphia right now the killer.
[00:47:47.800]Jessie: Doing this type of work, if I have a Commission offer I send it over
their way if I can't do it, or I just think it'd be a better project for them.
[00:47:57.680]Jessie: As the financial aspect is is important for me at this point because
of my career, and so I will pass it along to the younger artists and and make
sure that I can elevate them as best as possible, because I just feel like
it's more important that.
[00:48:13.000]Jessie: The work for itself, like if we have to compete with each other and
then our work isn't isn't as good as it should be yeah.
[00:48:21.560]Sandra Williams: I think that to like doors have been open for me and so
now it's kind of like my time to hold the door open for the younger
people as well.
[00:48:29.920]Sandra Williams: um massive applause massive applause I don't know
if you're looking at the chat wonderful lecture.
[00:48:36.160]Sandra Williams: You have a favorite piece that you've ever done.
[00:48:39.840]Jessie: yeah I would say it's that code that piece on the wall that elysee
piece, and I did a few so there's another one that was like you know i'm
not going to add it was something about breaking the wheel and.
[00:48:52.800]Jessie: You know, no one tells me to do anything I was just I just loved
her like I loved her one liners in that show I just thought she was such
a powerful powerful character and that really helped me.
[00:49:06.560]Jessie: see myself as powerful also instead of tea, I had up until that
point, though I was an advocate and I wanted.
[00:49:15.080]Jessie: To help others and also make my stamp as an activist in a certain
way there's still parts of me that I was very scared to externalize and
put out there, and you know, seeing that powerful powerful character
actually really helped me.
[00:49:31.800]Jessie: Get I guess the guts to be more vulnerable in that public space
like that and i'm really grateful for that so.
[00:49:41.160]Sandra Williams: How much time do you devote to knitting does it take
you a significant amount of my time to figure out the logistics of the
pattern and the measurements and color usage, or does it come fairly
intuitively to you now since you've been doing it for a while.
[00:49:57.680]Jessie: It takes forever.
[00:49:59.520]Jessie: It actually it actually makes your bombing a lot harder, because
now, since I the the hardest part for me, is making the text.
[00:50:08.880]Jessie: And, and I will say that street artists in particular we're not the
most conceptually deep artists.
[00:50:15.680]Jessie: Like we get an idea and we literally want to put it out there,
like that second and so we're not in the studio working for a very
[00:50:23.320]Jessie: And so, sometimes it can take a few weeks for me to make a
piece, and by the time those weeks pass i'm like this is the dumbest thing
i've ever seen, and I won't even put it, but quit halfway through
a lot very often.
[00:50:37.200]Jessie: Generally, I work on a knitting machine and so it's very manual is
built in the 16th so I just push it's a machine I pushed back and forth.
[00:50:49.560]Jessie: But it does make the knitting it's makes me at least like 100 to
150% faster than if I were to knit by hand.
[00:50:57.360]Jessie: However, our self to make all the letters by by hand and that
takes the longest and and so that can take some of the pieces can
take me a couple weeks to make.
[00:51:07.080]Jessie: And then, like gluing it and laying all the letters on making sure
more that they get taken down extremely quickly.
[00:51:23.200]Sandra Williams: So, and then someone's asking is it harder to knit
letters those letters look terrible, there is a yarn craft store that I
didn't know, we had called make it take it so i'll be sure to stop by
there um Thank you you're inspiring.
[00:51:39.080]Sandra Williams: Thank you so much for your time you're
[00:51:45.280]Sandra Williams: disagree about not being conceptually deep that's
one of the aspects that you know your work, definitely has um.
[00:51:53.760]Jessie: I think more so it's like I had this colleague who does we
pasting and I listened to this podcast and he said as soon as.
[00:52:02.080]Jessie: As soon as he had finished the piece, it was literally burning
a hole in his pocket like it just had to be out and it's almost like this,
like verbal diarrhea like it's like.
[00:52:10.600]Jessie: We just have to do it, and so it can be come it's impulsive in
a way, whereas i've met, and you know a lot of my friends have their MFA
and they have their studio space, and I see how it can literally take a year
and a half for them to like.
[00:52:26.560]Jessie: Not only conceptualize but then make the work and i'm just like
so to me that feels and something that makes me insecure in my own work
as a street artist and even though it's just different, and it can definitely.
[00:52:41.640]Jessie: make me feel like oh it's not my works 19 because you know,
I have to just bet right now.
[00:52:48.000]Jessie: But then when it comes to artists in their studio space Sometimes
I feel like they should just buck up and finish the work, so it goes both ways.
[00:52:58.400]Sandra Williams: Also added meetings, because of the work being in the public
sphere operating as a woman in the public sphere that act of the tournament
that hijacking of public space that Persia that fearless speech you know speaking
truth to power, like all of that is inherently part of the concept.
[00:53:21.480]Sandra Williams: So i'm sure we could sit here and talk your ear off all night.
[00:53:26.360]Sandra Williams: But.
[00:53:27.920]Sandra Williams: You know we're getting so much feedback in the comments
about how much people love the lecture i'm looking forward to seeing you
in class tomorrow.
[00:53:39.480]Sandra Williams: Thank you.
[00:53:40.240]Jessie: For more than a real pleasure, I really enjoyed speaking with your group
and I love these questions, and I really appreciate the feedback, thank you all.
[00:53:49.440]Francisco Souto: Thank you so much Jesse for such an inspirational lecture he
was really meaningful and and you know, for your openings to kind of really
go the extra mile for us so really appreciate it, and you know.
[00:54:02.280]Jessie: Thank you.
[00:54:02.920]Francisco Souto: very special.
[00:54:04.240]Jessie: Thank you.
[00:54:05.080]Francisco Souto: To everybody yeah.
[00:54:08.200]Francisco Souto: night.
[00:54:10.040]Jessie: Great night everyone Thank you thanks.
[00:54:12.720]Sandra Williams: You tomorrow.
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