Name: Jean E.
Major: Product Design
Hometown: Portland, Oregon
What role does art play in your life? It’s become something I do when I want to relax and get away from my schoolwork while still being productive. I can’t go for very long without using my hands or feeling like I’m accomplishing something.
What is your art background? I took AP Art and two semester-long classes in basic art before that. I just like doing stuff with my hands. I like to build things. When I was little, my sister and I would always build these little houses for our Calico Critters. Since then, I’ve thought, “I’m going to do art for the rest of my life!”
Jean’s artistic interests can be seen across the various media she uses, including shoes!
When did you start knitting and what got you into it? I started knitting over the summer! A couple of my friends had already started knitting cute bralettes. I thought, “I want to do that but I have no idea how!” So I went out and I bought six things of yarn and four crocheting needles, and I looked up videos on YouTube from there. When I get into a project, I really spend a ridiculous amount of time on it. So I’ve spent hours, days, weeks doing this kind of stuff.
Jean proudly reps one of her tops while showing off a tattoo she designed herself.
How do you decide what to make? If I’m in the mood… like sometimes, if I’m up at one in the morning, I just think, “I should do this,” and then I think, “better get started NOW so I don’t forget.” When I find something that looks really cool, I’ll immediately start doing it so I don’t forget. With the halter tops and bras, I just visualize an idea and instead of actually planning it out like I should, I just get started, which sometimes works out and sometimes doesn’t.
Bralettes like this rainbow creation typically take Jean around three to four hours to make.
Do you ever get part way through working on one design and decide to switch to another? Usually if I’m working on a halter top, I’ll stay with it. But for my first one I ever did, I unraveled it a good four times.
Jean varies her designs, color choices and stitches piece to piece.
What do you do while knitting? It depends. If I’m taking a break from homework, I’ll just do a row on whatever I’m working on, and if I’m actually focusing 100% on it, I’ll just sit there with my headphones on and my music on and just zone out a lot.
What kind of music do you listen to? Most of the time I just listen to the Spotify Top 50 songs. I really, really like Billy Idol, so I’ll listen to that a lot to pump me up. I like listening to music from middle school too—just kind of whatever.
How do you manage to not just keep everything you make for yourself? That’s one of my problems. I guess it’s not a huge problem, but if I REALLY like it, I’ll keep it for myself, unless it doesn’t fit, or obviously if I’m making it for someone. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray — such a weird book. Oh my god. The premise of the book is that some guy paints a picture for some other guy, and the guy who painted the picture is like, “I don’t want to give it to you, because I put too much of myself in it.”
Halter tops like Jean’s very own red and white beauty typically range from eight to 10 hours.
What does your general process look like? Normally, I haven’t gone out and specifically picked yarn. When I first started, I went out with my mom, and I had a Fred Meyer’s gift card. I just bought as much yarn as I could with that—just cool colors—and then I came home, sat down, watched some YouTube videos, got started and restarted a lot of things. I whine a lot, so I was whining about “why is this so hard?” Once I get going, I’ll go. And I take breaks, I’ll do it in between homework, and then when I finish it, I’ll try it on. And if someone wants it, I’ll sell it to them.
How do you go about creating custom tops for clients? It’s so much easier than sewing. All you need to do is make sure of the general fit – so that it’s not too small or it’s not going to fall off of them. I usually have a measuring tape, but I lost that. So I use string!
Do you follow patterns? I know three basic stitches, which really can get you far in crocheting. But I want to look up more patterns. I try not to make the same thing. I like being original.
Jean’s rainbow yarn makes another appearance, this time in the form of a halter top.
What do you enjoy about knitting? I really like seeing the progress. With other things, it can take hours to see progress, but when I’m knitting, I can see the actual process of what’s being made.
To you, what is the value in making things you can wear? First of all, because I’m a broke college student and I need things. But really, I feel like it’s good having little talents you can use to entertain yourself with when you have no one to talk to *chuckles*.
Do you view this as a business? It’s super “hobby,” but I guess that’s kind of why I went into product design, because I’m like, “I really enjoy doing this! Why not make a living off of it if I can?” You know, how people always tell you, “Oh, you should do stuff you enjoy so it doesn’t feel like work.” And sometimes that isn’t a reality for people… But we’ll see. I have a long time to figure it out. As long as I make enough money to travel, and I don’t have to go to my parents’ house to eat every other night, it’s good!
What do you hope to do with product design? I got into product design because I really like art. But I have this big cloud in the back of my mind because… I sound like such a hippie, but there are a lot of issues in the world and I personally have a big issue with clothing and labor. You know, a lot of companies that we shop from use offshore production. Workers don’t get paid that much, and their living situations are often poor. And whenever I go shopping, it makes me feel bad, so when I create things, I don’t feel as bad. I want to get more into that—more sustainable stuff, more stuff that can either be reused or recycled.
To commission pieces, contact Jean through her Instagram, @jeansart2214, or email (email@example.com).
Words and photos by Kendra Siebert, @