MEET THE MAKER | Jess Russell of The Roving Artisan
Jess’s creative talents are undoubtedly out of this world, but her ability to foster creativity in others, to bring the joy of crafting to those around her, and to be generally just an absolutely ace human being is nothing short of a miracle. Her creations are personal, raw, tactile and speak a completely different creative language to most other artists I have encountered. She draws her strength from raw, honest expression, and her boldness and passion for her craft is infectious.
Tell me a bit about your business.
The Roving Artisan is like my fourth child after three adorable, beloved, but insatiable mini-humans. It offers private, mobile workshops to learn the art and craft of weaving on a loom. I rove all over Greater Sydney ‘spreading the weave’ as I like to say. Whether it be for groups of friends, key celebrations like hens parties and baby showers, or team building events, I love being able to create a unique experience that brings together creativity, craft and connection.
What a wonderful way to spread joy and share your skills with new people! How did you get started?
Earlier this year, I was admitted to St John of God’s Mother and Baby Unit. I stayed there for five weeks. I had been diagnosed with Postnatal Depression and OCD after the birth of my son in 2012. But it was since Audrey was born in 2016 that it came back with a vengeance. My admission to the MBU was precipitated by an acute episode, in which — and this is what I’m so scared to say — I attempted to take my own life. Right now, I put this fear aside, and embrace honesty and vulnerability. It’s this raw, open exposure that has also allowed me to find the courage to start the business that I’ve dreamed of for years.
I’m so sorry to hear that. Sometimes the best things come from the worst things, but I am over the moon to hear that you are in a better place and sharing your talents and light with others around you. Why weaving in particular?
Since my diagnosis, weaving has given me a happy and safe place to be. It keeps my hands and mind busy when it so wants to be consumed by other things. It’s a creative outlet where I can make beautiful items for my home and gifts for family and friends. What’s more, weaving with others is an opportunity and place to connect in this busy fast-paced world. I am so proud to provide an opportunity for women to slow down, come together and create something memorable and beautiful in the comfort of their own setting.
What does a usual day look like to you?
An early start before my family wakes up to try and get on top of work admin, life admin and also a chance to enjoy the quiet.
Once my kids wake up I am pretty much in mum mode screaming and nagging everyone out the door. While the two big kids are at school, I spend the mornings with my youngest, Audrey, either running errands or pottering around the house. When Audrey goes down for her day sleep, I generally get about 2 hours of creative time where I am either creating new pieces, prepping for an upcoming workshop or researching new material.
I then turn back into a nagging mum in the afternoons running around to different activities, doing homework and cooking dinner. Once the mini humans are in bed I generally get another couple of hours of creative time, sitting in our family room drinking tea with my husband while he watches sport.
Wow! What a busy day, I am impressed you find the time for everything! What do you enjoy most about making?
I enjoy throwing myself into creating something and getting hooked on the project so much that I can't put it down. I enjoy sourcing new and interesting materials to work with and I love the look on my kids faces when I show them a finished piece and they fight over whose room it is going to live in.
What projects are you working on right now?
I am in the process of developing some prototypes to introduce to my communal weaving packages, where a large number of people can come together to create one special piece to mark an occasion.
That sounds incredible, what a wonderful communal activity to be a part of! Why handmade?
I think in today's world where everything is so fast paced and disposable, It is really special to make or receive something that was produced by hand. It has a story, a personality and is such a wonderful way to share your love with someone in a truly unique way.
What are your goals for the future?
My hope is that in my own small way I can contribute to a better understanding of PND, as well as create a safe, welcoming space for us all, and breed a few new weavers to boot. The Gidget Foundation — to which a percentage of the revenue from each of my workshops is donated, supports the emotional wellbeing of expectant and new parents by helping them get timely and supportive care. It does a remarkable job at raising awareness and encouraging us to have a conversation about this disease and break the stigma that is still there.
And finally, what is something that you couldn't live without?
My sister - I draw so much inspiration from her inedible personal style and generous spirit.
If you are keen to learn more about Jess’ phenomenal weaving talents or attend a workshop with her, check out her website and socials: