Jessica Skultety is a quilter, teacher, lecturer and editor of The Wonky Press modern quilting newsletter. The common thread to all of these roles is that while she loves what she is doing, she loves sharing it with others even more. Whether she is speaking at guild meetings, teaching workshops, providing information on her blog or through her newsletter, Jess loves to share her knowledge and experience. And people respond to her genuine openness with great receptivity. Jess’s quilts have been featured at several shows, including International Quilt Festival, QuiltCon, and a solo exhibition at the 2017 Quilt and Sewing Festival of NJ. A self-taught quilter, she focuses on empowering others to take risks with their sewing. She recently discovered a new interest in making and sharing politically motivated art, and I can only assume that she will be using this newly discovered voice to empower others, as well.
Jessica: Modern traditional, bright, heavily quilted, maximalist (sometimes), saturated, wonky, whimsical.
How would you describe the creative environment in your home as a child?
Jessica: My mom always embraced creative challenges and projects. From as far back as I can remember, she decorated sweatshirts and jean jackets – including my own – with puffy paint (so ’90s, amiright?). When I was 5 or 6, she let me pick out fabric to sew up a sundress. I loved wearing it; I’d twirl around in it constantly! When I was a preteen, we started going to scrapbooking parties in our neighborhood, and we would spend hours designing pages together. It was a blast. I think her constant creative drive inspired me to try all kinds of crafts. I was the girl, for example, sitting in my room, making construction paper decorations for every single season and holiday (I was also an aspiring teacher, ready to decorate my own classroom! But that’s another story).
What artists and makers do you most admire or have an influence on your work?
Jessica: Ellsworth Kelly, Anna Maria Horner’s fabric design (especially florals), Tara Faughnan’s color use, Angela Walters’ and Christina Cameli’s quilting, Lisa Congdon’s artwork, Jacquie Gering’s fearlessness.
Do you consider yourself a “quilter”, an artist, or some combination of both?
Jessica: Quilter artist. I’m certainly a quilter, and I tend to consider my work art instead of craft (though I have no formal training), so I guess a combination of the two will suffice!
How would you define “making with intention”?
Jessica: For me, making with intention involves setting a goal and working towards it. Creating every day is my number one drive. If for some reason I haven’t worked on something in a couple days, I’m noticeably twitchy and irritable. So, creating becomes a necessity for at least a half hour every day. That’s my intention, and I can almost always make that happen.
People ask me how I make so many quilts. This is the way I operate: you have to make time for the things you love. And I make that time consistently. It can be difficult, but it’s more worthwhile than pretty much everything else to me!
Do you think that having a craft makes us more compassionate? If so, then how
Jessica: Absolutely. Take when you’re making a quilt or craft for someone specific. Likely, you think about them constantly through the process. Seeing how people react to receiving a quilt (whether family, friend, or charity drive) just makes me want to give more. Why not share more quilts with the world, if you can?
How does creating feed your soul/spiritual purpose?
Jessica: During one of the most stressful and exciting times of my life (my first teaching job, a maternity leave position), I constantly looked forward to my one half hour or hour of quilting – even if I was having a fabulous day. That’s the most direct way I can convey how it feeds my soul.
Are there any rituals that you perform to prepare/ground yourself in your work?
Jessica: Not all the time, usually because I jump into the process throughout the day when I have a few minutes to spare in between jobs or errands. When I’m free motion quilting a large piece, I always stretch in between and drink a lot of water. I also force myself to take breaks every 20-30 minutes. There’s nothing else more blissful than sitting down to quilt a quilt with an audiobook at the ready (I just received my first pair of Bluetooth headphones for my birthday – game changer!).
What is the support system you have in place for creating your work?
Jessica: When I started quilting more than 7 years ago, my younger sister was my main cheerleader. I quilted on college breaks and on weekends when I was home, and she would often sit with me or in the kitchen nearby. We would both sing along to songs, and in between I’d ask for her opinion on color, fabric choice, etc. My sister was also a huge part of my “quilty photo shoots;” I’ve been blogging as long as I’ve been sewing, and it’s my goal to document everything I make. There are a lot of memories and pictures of us generally goofing off and having a blast.
I joined the Central Jersey Modern Quilt Guild after attending its organizational meeting in Dec. 2011. After 6 years of being a part of a guild, it’s amazing how close knit and valuable the relationships I’ve made there have become. I also had the pleasure of serving as VP and President of the guild, so I became intimately acquainted with many of the women in our 60+ member guild. The thing I love the most is watching the evolution of styles and how we inspire each other, all of us with hugely varying ages and skill levels and likes/dislikes.
My husband is also a huge part of my support system. We’ve been together for 11 years (5 married and living together), and we’ve just started to find our joint living style (which colors do we like in quilts together? Which ones are worthy of the living room wall?). We’re also both extremely geeky together, so I make him little themed mini mini quilts to signify holidays and important points in our marriage (for example, Final Fantasy, Sword Art Online, Baymax from Big Hero 6, and Hamilton the musical). We’re both introverts (okay, I’m more of an ambivert) but every night, we both need significant time to decompress from the day – alone. That’s usually when I get sewing done, and he’s very supportive and helpful when I ask for assistance or advice. He also has an excellent eye for color and a blunt way of conveying his thoughts, so he’s instrumental in decision-making. Sometimes we even play a game about what I should work on: he’ll toss a stuffed animal over his head and I have to work on whatever it lands on. 🙂
How do you deal with comparison to / envy of others? Can you describe a time when you used comparison/envy/admiration to push yourself in your own work and self-discovery?
Jessica: The comparison trap is easy to get into, especially with social media (mostly Instagram). I try my best to just do my own thing as much as possible. I have so many ideas and designs that I want to make. After seeing all the amazing work related to activism and American politics this year, I was definitely motivated to keep making more politically motivated quilts!
What was the most challenging thing you ever made?
Jessica: My most challenging quilt project was my “Fall Spectrum” quilt. It involved a lot of guess work, cutting into fabric to add more, and overlapping quilting. Since it was all pieced, it was especially difficult to put the whole top together. I’m really glad I persevered though, because it’s become one of my favorite makes. I don’t know if I’ll ever make anything quite like that again.
What does it mean to you to work in a traditionally domestic medium that historically has been regarded as predominately female (aka “women’s work”)?
Jessica: It’s rewarding to continue the work of quilters from the past. Particularly, I love taking traditional blocks and spinning them on their heads. But it’s also frustrating that quilting is often depicted by society to be “granny work” (not that there’s anything wrong with grandmas – I love grandmas! – but as a prolific quilter under 30, it’s something that pops up often). I think politically motivated quilts, particularly, make a powerful statement; they’ve been used for many years past to represent women when they didn’t have voices, and they’re still being made today.
How do you see your current work in the context of quilting history?
Jessica: Honestly, I haven’t thought much about it. This year, when I shared my “Hear Our Voice” quilt for the Women’s March on Washington, I received a similar question. Right now, with the rise of modern quilting (especially through the internet), we’re experiencing an exciting time in quilting. Some people consider modern quilting minimalistic, but that’s not really my game. I’d love to just make as many of my designs as I can in my lifetime.
It’s humbling to even consider being a part of any quilt history, but I think the best would be the history that’s remembered by my family and friends in the quilts I’ve given them.
Thank you, Jess! Your love for quilting really shines through in your words! To learn more about Jessica, visit her blog Quilty Habit or find her on Facebook and Instagram. And don’t forget to sign up for the Wonky Press Newsletter for interviews, fun links and other modern quilting-related news.
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