CETG Online Talk on Monday 12th April 2021
Jessica Grady – Journey to the Unconventional
Jessica Grady https://www.jessicagrady.co.uk/ is an inspirational young stitch artist whose mixed media works created from dyed, shaped and recycled waste materials are bright and unconventional.
She led us through her development as an artist from a textiles degree at Norwich University – chosen because it would enable her to explore all areas of knit, weaving, stitch and print - via work placements with Hand & Lock and Zandra Rhodes among others, an unhappy experience as a commercial designer for the fashion trade, to setting up her own successful business based back home in Yorkshire.
Vivid contrasting colour has always been a feature of her style, inspired by the world around her and travels to South America and Japan. She dyes all her own materials using disperse dyes, mixing her own colours to create three-dimensional works which are bristling with fun. Designs are not planned in advance, the pieces grow layer by layer, and everything is stitched. She is almost offended if you suggest there might be a dab of glue in there.
She specialises in what she describes as “weird” materials. Her work is created from things others throw away: melted plastic straws cut into sequins, expired medical tubing dyed bright colours and cut into beads of all lengths; metal washers painted through lace and mesh. Much is sourced from industrial scrap stores where clean waste and excess materials which would otherwise be thrown away are sold to anyone who can find a use for it. A treasure trove, but take it while you see it, because you won’t see the same thing again.
She even recycles waste from her own work: leftovers from large pieces are saved to make smaller ones or collected together to make kits for sale online, her leftover thread ends are encased in waste plastic to be cut into washers and sequins.
While her work has always been tactile and three dimensional with sequins, tubes and other shapes folded and stacked on top of each other, or sandwiched between layers of brightly dyed cloth, more recently her work has developed into free standing sculptural forms rather than hanging or framed objects.
When Covid caused the cancellation of all her work planned for 2020, Jessica embraced the virtual world with Zoom workshops, an online catalogue, kits for people to make their own mini Jessica Grady style work, and “doodle cloths” for NHS staff to help them unwind. As well as her commercial work, she is also involved in projects for mental health and dementia charities, and teaches children at local libraries to make their own works from scraps.
By the end of the talk, the audience were filled with ideas of how to make use of scraps of plastic packaging, rubber bands, washers and other waste to create quirky, happy and colourful stitched pieces. We will never look at the contents of our rubbish bins in the same way again!
Text © Liz Wilmott CETG
Photos © Jessica Grady