By SPECIWOMEN Illustration SENDRA UEBELE
"My sisters and I grew up with the notion that women get stuff done, and I’ve always felt inspired to be a strong, caring, woman who goes after her dreams"
Give us some background information
I grew up in West Long Branch, a small town on the Jersey Shore. I’m one of three sisters and we grew up with a hard working, super creative mother. I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember and when I was in high school I started making my own clothes as a way to feel original. Last year I graduated from the Fashion Institute of technology where I studied fashion design, and since then I’ve been establishing a small embroidery business. I plan on going back to school to get my masters degree in visual arts, there’s so much more I want to learn!
How did you first get into art?
Well when I was a young girl all I ever did was draw every day, all day. Drawing is the foundation of creation and for me that always felt powerful...Like once you can put your ideas on paper you become unlimited. My younger sister and I spent all our free time creating and drawing characters, making weird comics and drawing bizarre costumes. As a teen, I loved the fantasy of fashion and begged my mom to teach me how to sew. I felt compelled to learn all the technical handcrafts I could. My mom was always crafting with us and I think that my sisters and I instinctively have the need to be creative problem solvers.
What is the purpose of your work?
I think Art is important to the world; not everyone agrees with that. So the purpose of my work & being an artist is to encourage people to realize that their ideas are worth putting out into the world. I want to inspire people to be creative. Its taken me a long time to realize that its not self indulgent to be an artist. I really want other artists to know that too, thats why I’ll never stop making stuff. Also I want to encourage people to embrace weirdness.
What materials do you use?
Recently I’ve been making pieces that combine acrylic paint with embroidery, and crochet but I do a lot of everything. There will always be a part of me that feels compelled to make clothing, but pretty much I will decorate/paint/ embroider anything I can get my hands on. Growing up my family struggled with money which made me really aware of repurposing materials & objects. I would spend most of the money I made from my part-time jobs on art supplies but I learned fast to experiment with old stuff around the house- magazines, clothes..string..
Who inspires you?
My younger sister, Carlyn is such an inspiration, She’s studying visual arts right now at Mason Gross. We’re really close and she’s the only person I can hang out with and be really productive at the same time. the cycle of creative energy between us is so natural I value her ideas and perspective so much, she’s incredibly fearless & talented.
Where do you prefer to work?
I’ve always worked best at home, usually on the floor.
Who is your work for?
First and foremost its for myself. But of course I want my art to be enjoyed or thought about by anyone and everyone.
Has your work ever been on display?
While I was studying fashion design we had little exhibits and I’ve been able to show garments I’ve made. Recently I’ve been selling embroidered pieces locally but I’ve never had a formal exhibit or show. hopefully I will soon, but I don’t like the idea of art being exclusive. I started a personal crochet bomb project in my hometown as a way to claim a space for art. I want my art to challenge ‘normalcy’. Social media is a great platform for artists to put their stuff out there and connect with people around the world, so I put a heavy focus on sharing my stuff on my Instagram
What are your favorite places in your city or around the world?
My mom is Dutch so I’ve been lucky to have visited Holland often in my life. Amsterdam is a super cool city, both old fashioned & sweet as well as zany and weird. Anywhere that there are tons of flowers always makes me happy. I loved traveling to San Francisco too and of course NYC. My hometown haunt is the library! ha
How has the female role played into your life?
Well growing up, my mom took care of everything, she raised my sisters and I, worked three jobs, and fixed everything in our house. The ‘female’ example we saw was that of our badass independent, multidimensional mother. The only presence of a man I had in my life was my Dad who’s a really messed up drug addict. My sisters and I grew up with the notion that women get stuff done, and I’ve always felt inspired to be a strong, caring, woman who goes after her dreams.
All documentation of Tessa's work is her courtesy.