20 Questions With Jess Racklyeft!

November 02, 2020

Our latest range, ‘Whatever the Weather’, comes from the creative mind of Jess Racklyeft. Featuring beautiful, bright colours and a positively cheerful new cast of story-book inspired animal friends, we asked Jess 20 questions to get to know her a little better!

1. How do you balance creating art with your everyday life?

I find art is essential for me to be a happy person. I have two young kids, too many pets, and a fairly small house crammed with bits and pieces in inner-city Melbourne - it's been tough during lockdown this year. But I have found art to be a real escape, along with also luckily being my day job so I've been very grateful and ensured, even if it is late at night, I have made time for art every day.

2. How do you combat creativity burnout/artist's block?

Strangely, I don't believe I've suffered this - if I get bored of a project or feeling like I need a new direction, I usually spend too much money at the art shop and try a new medium or process which really sparks my energy again. Or I might escape to nature and go spend some time by the creek or in the mountains to refresh my mind. I can also recommend a wonderful book on the subject, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield which talks about the need to overcome blocks - a form of resistance - and just go for it. Every day. He writes, "Most of us have two lives: the life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance." I recommend it thoroughly for anyone finding themselves feeling blocked, or working out how to make more art.

3. Do you have a dream project that you’d love to accomplish or be a part of?

I just started creating huge abstract paintings during lockdown and I've been loving the process. At some point next year, I think I'd like to have an exhibition of all the artworks, which are mainly themed around all the beautiful spots around Melbourne I miss visiting. Hopefully, we can safely hang out in big groups again to make a real in-person exhibition with a fun opening night!

4. What defines your style?

I am pretty colourful and I think my drawings are fairly simple, but say a bit. I'd like to think my work brings happiness and celebrates life. It was a lovely match for the Weather range I think, to bring lots of rainbows to resin life!

5. If you could tailor a perfect environment for you to create in, what would that look like?

Basically an art shop at my fingertips, along with a barista in one corner, and potted plants everywhere...am I asking too much?! I also think I would need a full-time cleaner, as I tend to leave a trail of mess. As these options sound ridiculously expensive, I think I will just say a big space with room for pets to wander and some fresh air floating in would do the trick. If you could add a river at the doorstep and a forest nearby, I would be in heaven.

6. Who do you look up to?

I look up to people who seem to authentically live their life with purpose and kindness - to other people and the world/environment. People who stand up for what is right. I could put a long list here but I won't bombard you, some include friends, some famous people, and relatives. From my mum to David Attenborough!

7. Do you have a favourite piece of your own work?

Usually it's the thing I've just created, as I feel like each time you chip away at something you get a little bit better. But perhaps I'll mention my newest book as it feels like a good time to celebrate the theme of it - it's called There's Only One Friend Like You and was worked on over lockdown! As I've missed my friends so much, it feels like perfect timing.

8. Where do you find inspiration?

In nature, from my kids, memories, from other artists and makers, and from Netflix (!) (not in that order).

9. How do you explain to strangers what you do? How do they usually react to that?

I say I am an illustrator, and normally people are pretty interested in that as a job - if they ask more questions I explain its mainly in children's books, and I also work for various clients, and run my own online shop, and paint - and by then I'm sure we are onto the next topic!

10. Was being creative a big part of your childhood?

I grew up in the 80s and like many kids then, was fairly self-directed (aka could do whatever we wanted if it didn't involve broken bones) but with a big dose of creativity thrown in. Mum used to set up a long table in the holidays with glitter, clay, paint, and paper and we would spend our days making things.

11. If you could suddenly learn any skill, what do you think you’d learn?

I need to learn to meditate - I've tried a few times, then stopped - but I think it would be good to find a moment each day to be very present as I tend to rush about a fair bit.

12. What do you do to unwind, and de-stress?

Apart from painting, long walks, and super long baths listening to podcasts do the trick.

13. What does a perfect day look like to you?

A jog with a friend, then back to bed with a coffee and the newspaper and not kids demanding pancakes. Then some art-making, perhaps reading time in the sun, walk, bookshop browse, nap, afternoon wines at a friend’s, picnic dinner with my family in the park, kids off to bed early so I can watch a movie and hang out with my partner Matt and then snoozing for 12 hours. What a lazy bones eh?

14. What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on several picture books, painting big canvases, and creating a "how to watercolour" guide for kids.

15. Do you have a favourite Erstwilder brooch?

I love Carmen's flowers in particular, and Pete Cromer's range is still a standout - my favourite piece was The Perky Pink Robin.


16. What has brought you joy in 2020?

Painting and reading books with my kids. Walks with friends for our allocated hour outside. And three-hour baths! Oh and receiving my Weather range samples of course - they are so happy making!

17. What are you most grateful for right now?

I'm grateful for my, and my family's health. And having our safety here of a wonderful house, enough food and access to books, zoom calls and art supplies.

18. In the movie of your life, who would play you? And what would your theme song be?

I've been mistaken for Megan Washington a few times, so I think she could both act and write me a song, surely?!

19. You’ve decided that this will be your last range with Erstwilder, so, what’s your plan after Erstwilder?

I have adored my time with Erstwilder! And I am going to miss working with such a fun and vibrant company so much. I made the big decision this year to find a bit more balance and that I would reduce workload, even if they were some of my favourite jobs - so I am going to spend more time in my garden, hanging with my kids, and when we can, picnicking with my mates (while of course, wearing all my Erstwilder brooches).

20. You live in Melbourne where there are four seasons in one day! What’s your favourite season?

Right now is my favourite season - Spring! I love how the flowers start filling the neighbourhood's gardens and everyone emerges from our winter blues. I love that I can now pick a weather brooch each morning to reflect either my mood (sometimes stormy, sometimes sunny) or the weather.

And can I add a final note from me? A huge thank you to Erstwilder for the honour these past five years to be able to work on brooch, necklace, earring and scarf designs. I've had such a great time, met wonderful people, and I am looking forward to watching Erstwilder continue to grow and bring happiness to us all. The hugest, biggest thank you with rainbows from me! 🌈 🌈🌈

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