by Jessica Blue
By day, Jessica Blue is a fabulously attired teacher of French and English in St Paul, MN. By night (and late afternoon) she is My Friend Jess creating gorgeous, retro-inspired clothing and accessories for women and children. I’ve loved her work ever since she started the brand 10 years ago when we were neighbors in Brooklyn, three children later, she’s still at it and making more adorable clothes than ever.
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1. Your Perfect Creative Outlet
My passion/ compulsion to create comes from needing something I can do that feels concrete. Teaching and parenting are so abstract in so many ways, and I’m never “done”.
The brand just sort of happened (“look what my friend Jess made!”) — I was doing a little indie craft fair in NYC and needed a name. The stuff I make is so close to my personal style and interests that I don’t think the branding really has an effect.
2. Find Flexibility With Time
The balance of it all relates to the mania to create. When I was at home, I sewed while they napped, and now that I’m teaching full-time, I do it after bedtime and during vacations. I’m on Spring Break right now and they’re not, and it’s glorious to be home alone!
3. Monetizing the Hobby
I would say that there are times when I take the business-side more seriously than others. When I do a show or a big order, I can get pretty stressed out, and then it’s no fun. Right now I’m mostly selling in little local gift-type shops (check out I Like You and Heartfelt in Minneapolis). I also post on Facebook, and if someone wants it, great!
I have a pretty sweet situation in that I don’t HAVE to do this for a living, so it feels mostly like a hobby that brings in a little extra cash. I can make just enough money to keep buying fabric (Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul is a mecca)… and the occasional pair of shoes (Sven Clogs are my current obsession).
4. Adding to Your Skill Set
When I feel like my creative juices are stagnant, I take a break from making stuff to sell and make something for myself or my own kids to wear. For us, I’m more willing to take a risk with a new pattern, fabric, or technique.
If something turns out well, I’ll bring it back to the business and make more. If not, no biggie. The amount of fabric currently residing in my attic allows for a great deal of experimentation with minimal economic impact.
5. Opening Future Opportunities
I still entertain the occasional fantasy of worldwide fame and inconceivable fortune, but mostly I like things the way they are. Last year I undertook to make one thing a day, and it was hard! I’m glad I did it, but as I said above, I don’t like pressure because it saps the joy out of the whole enterprise.
If I could be home all day and sew whatever I wanted AND manage to bathe and feed my children AND earn a living, well… that would be nice for about 3 months, I think I’d miss my “real” job, which feeds my brain and soul in other ways. It looks like I’m already living the dream!