We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Melrose and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jessica, what principle do you value most?
I don’t think an artist can really be an artist if values and principles don’t guide what they do. Personally, I place a lot of value on relationships and rewarding work. Aside from being an artist, I’m also a teacher, so guiding people who are passionate about their creativity and the creative process is so fulfilling, especially when they create work they’re proud of. As an artist, it’s important to build relationships with clients; be approachable and a good listener. Doing creative work for someone else requires getting to know the other person’s aesthetic while staying true to your personal style and expertise. The opportunity to use my brain in that way ensures that what I’m making comes from a place of care and personal connection, and creating with a particular person in mind definitely keeps it fresh. The minute it gets old, I’ll stop doing it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have been doing macramé since I was in summer camp during middle school (the best part of everyone’s life, right?), but it was never really something I thought about doing as anything more than a hobby. For the last 15 years, my full time job has been teaching visual art to high schoolers and I sold my drawings and paintings on the side. I rediscovered macramé at a wedding 2 and a half years ago during the summer. There was a beautiful backdrop made by Mayra Duron of My Solace Design. I reached out to her that summer to see if she’d come talk to my students about her artistic journey when school started back up, and we agreed to do a mini macrame lesson for them. I spent the summer preparing some projects to make sure I could actually teach the process I felt so comfortable with, and fell in love with tying knots all over again. I began getting commissions, and my macramé work slowly started to replace my drawings in my online store. I still love to draw, and it’s still the main focus of my teaching, but macramé has totally taken over my life. The thing I appreciate about macramé is that it’s almost totally non-representational, whereas my drawings are always of something specific. While craftsmanship on a drawing might be impressive, it doesn’t always fit a person’s space or aesthetic. Macramé can fill a space without sending any sort of message other than providing a resting place for your eyes and adding texture to a room.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There’s so much to love about Tucson, it’s hard to know where to begin. Assuming the pandemic situation isn’t a thing, we would definitely spend a lot of time with my friend Maria Mazon at her restaurant, Boca Tacos y Tequila. Exploring 4th Avenue and Downtown, visiting local establishments that support local artists like PopCycle and Antigone Books is a must. We might grab some food at Bison Witches, stop by Che’s Lounge and the Box Yard. Dinner at the Cup Cafe and spending Friday night dancing at El Tambó at Hotel Congress is a must. La Cocina in the Presidio neighborhood of downtown has an amazing atmosphere, and you can’t visit Tucson without walking around in Barrio Viejo. To wrap up the gluttony tour, we’d have to visit some local brewers like Ben and Julie Vernon at Crooked Tooth Brewing and finally work off all that food and drink dancing with Tucson Casineros. A hike up Tumamoc Hill during sunrise, Gates Pass during sunset, and a trip to Mt. Lemmon if the weather is nice are all on the list of outdoor things I’d try to cram into the week, all the while keeping our eyes peeled for some of the incredible murals we have all over town by artists like Jessica Gonzales, Danny Martin, Joe Pagac, and so much more. Finally, I wouldn’t let my friend leave town without getting a customized cactus hat from Mike Srsen at Gabacho Media.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I definitely attribute my personal and professional growth to the school where I have been teaching for the past 8 years; City High School in downtown Tucson. City High has been a safe haven for people who believe education is more than just passing the test. The focus on community and relationships helps me feel comfortable to explore my own artistic inquiries as well as support those of my students.