Artist Spotlight: Jessica Jamison-Wells

One of the best things about social media is reconnecting with old friends, particularly friends from middle and high school. Jessica and I both attended a small private school in Albuquerque and she is one of those people that I was so happy to engage with again. It has been fun to see her beautiful Pacific Northwest surroundings and her family. What I found really exciting was seeing the incredibly exquisite knitting and weaving she was doing!

I asked her if she would answer a few questions for my blog and she said yes! I loved learning about her knitting and weaving journey. Nothing makes me happier than to showcase the phenomenal talents of my friends! Allow me to introduce you to Jessica Jamison-Wells.

Despite living in Oregon my roots are in New Mexico. As many New Mexican children do, I started playing with fiber from a young age while making God’s eyes. Eventually my aunt taught me to knit. It was basic knit and purl but I could make a scarf. By the time I hit 8th grade my knitting times were over. I didn’t even think about it. There were too many other interests in sports, boys, camping, and traveling. As time progressed I also developed a deep connection with nature especially the mountains. I would go hiking and camping as often as I could. In fact, I had hopes of being a forest ranger and came to the Pacific Northwest to study forestry. However, that didn’t last and becoming a teacher was a more powerful draw.

Zip forward to present day and you will find me knitting, weaving and felting with fibers of all sorts and creating varied items. It all started about six years ago when I was walking through Bi Mart and spotted a really pretty yarn and I thought to myself, I want to knit that. So I purchased the yarn, and needles and walked out. I had forgotten that I knew how to knit until that second. My husband and kids had no idea that I knew how to knit. I must admit I had to look up on YouTube how to cast on as I had forgotten. I watched several videos before finding the one way I remembered doing it as a young girl. Now I am not sure why this suddenly hit me but I think it has to do with my creative energy. I was teaching 6th grade language arts when this all started and had been at this particular teaching position for about 20 years, 1 year away from retirement. Much of my creative energy went into teaching and by the time I would get home, I was too tired to do anything let alone something creative like knitting. I had papers to grade, phone calls to make, lessons to develop. Every ounce of energy went into the kids and the lessons. By my last year, I did not have to be so creative as lessons were pretty much set and I wasn’t going to start something new when I would be leaving at the end of the year.

I was focused on cleaning up and there it was, no creative energy release, thus knitting plus emerged. I watched videos to learn all I that interested me and experimented with a variety of patterns using a variety of skills. I even taught myself to read charts for cabling, and a other patterns. I eventually got good. Not only did I knit but I also attended clay-throwing classes (not really my thing.), which reminded me of my college days, and then I decided that I had always liked the idea of weaving. So after some research, I made the leap. I purchased a rigid heddle loom watched a few videos and taught myself to weave. This was after learning and gaining a ton of knowledge about knitting: Portuguese knitting, stranded knitting, brioche knitting, double knitting etc. I even started teaching at the local yarn store. Once a teacher always a teacher I guess. However, with Covid the lessons stopped and so I focused on weaving. I seem to drift toward fiber activities including felting that involves making landscapes and creatures from wool but knitting and weaving are the bomb in my book.

Now days I find my self with multiple projects like so many craftsmen and women. I occasionally sell something on display at the local yarn store or get commissioned to create something when people see my work. I make backpacks, scarves, kitchen towels, socks, gloves, hats, ponchos, and jackets, whatever I want. Sometimes I’ll start with a pattern and then tweak it to sit my interest and needs. Sometimes It will work and sometimes it doesn’t but it doesn’t matter
because I learned something one way or the other.

Nature and the beauty of the southwest and northwest always influence my choices in color. Often the southwest colors win out but I really try to bring the colors of the northwest into my work as well. The yarn has to “speak to me” and then I will make a decision as to what to use it for. I rarely make things all in one color because when I do, I get bored and feel like I need to add interest by doing special stitches or special weaving techniques. Again, I think it is
that creative energy surging through me. My mother was an artist and I didn’t realize for many years that I had inherited that creative energy or artistic trait.

I would encourage everyone to find something they are passionate about or at least helps them find a happy place by following through on things that spark their interest or curiosity. I have discovered that I am a terrible drawer and painter but I make a mean stick figure with clothes. I have discovered things in my life both in teaching and in craft by not being afraid to jump in and try it. If it doesn’t interest me, I move along. At one point I tried the sport of fencing. I even spent time teaching myself to sew. I got to a point that I could make shirts, shorts, dresses and skirts. Ha ha. Those were fun times. I also find it interesting that something that interested me as a young girl turned in to something I love to do as an adult even after forgetting about it for a period of time. At this moment, knitting and weaving are my focus with a bit more attention on weaving since there is still so much to learn, and I can freely play with color and texture which really seems to be what I enjoy and in the end produce something fairly quickly.

With technology today and the access to videos of all types, a person can totally learn how to do something artistic and/ or crafty fairly easily. I would encourage folks to do that. I found the Craftsy site to be super helpful especially when exploring and just beginning to learn something one is interested in. They have all sorts of crafts and skills to explore. However, it does cost a bit. If a person is specifically interested in knitting and weaving check the local yarn store for classes or knowledge of a weaving guild. Those classes are very affordable and and a fun way to learn. And that is what it’s all about, having fun and learning.

Jessica Jamison-Wells

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