When did you know that printmaking/surface design/textiles were your jam?
I learned to sew in my early 30s, about a year or so before I learned to screen print. I was working a corporate job at the time, and sewing and printing were my creative outlets. It wasn’t until the economy crashed and I lost my job that those two interests converged. I started screenprinting fabric and sewing it into bags that I then sold. Something just clicked – my love of the tactile nature of fabric and of the meditative process of screenprinting, my obsession with color and pattern, and also my desire to have a creative career again.
Why is it important to you to create?
I’m compelled to create. It’s not something I can control. Even when I was a kid, I was either reading or making something with my hands. I t was a tool for me to keep my anxiety at bay when I was younger, but when I got my anxiety under control in my 30s, the compulsion to create remained. I think it’s just part of my nature, and if I weren’t to nurture that creative part of me, I’d be miserable.
Was there anyone along the way who helped shape you?
I’m really lucky to have had a number of friends who are working artists almost since I started selling my work. In those “early” days (aka the 2010s), we met at craft fairs, on Flickr, even on Twitter. They perhaps didn’t shape me, but they (Lisa Congdon, Lisa Solomon, Sonya Philip, Kenya Miles) are my biggest supporters and sounding boards. We go to each other when we need someone to provide feedback or cheerlead or commiserate with us.
What’s your advice to women wanting to pursue the same thing?
I don’t think that women are told this often enough, but being a textile artist – and, especially, a surface designer – is a very hard way to make a living. I’m not saying it’s impossible – clearly, I’ve been able to make it work for me – but that you have to be clearheaded and pragmatic. I had a day job for the first 6-7 years I was a working artist because that was the only way I was going to be able to pay the bills. My income now is very diversified; I make money through licensing, product and art sales, teaching, writing, affiliate programs. (I broke down my income streams here) You have to love the big picture of your creative career, and the decisions you make – keeping your day job so you can pay the bills, taking on a project that pays well but you don’t love, or doing mundane tasks because you can’t yet afford to outsource them – should be in service of that larger goal.
Thank you, Jen, for letting us glimpse into your life a bit more!
How to get started
Find some basic print tools below, along with Jen’s book, and some block print work from small Women-owned shops you can support right now!
Try our beginner block print tutorials
You can find Jen here:
Jen Hewett’s site
You can find her latest book, Print, Pattern, Sew: Block-Printing Basics + Simple Sewing Projects for an Inspired Wardrobe
Check out Jen’s Shop here
Screen Printer Art Print
Or you can find all of the Women Who Work here!
If you are passionate about screen printing be sure to check out Print, Pattern, Sew: Block-Printing Basics + Simple Sewing Projects for an Inspired Wardrobe and, while you’re at it, sure to hang up the Screen Printer Print in your home to remind you of just how incredible you are at your work!