With the beautiful bouncing baby Arlo in tow, Jessica Starkweather is a force to be reckoned with! She is working on many projects under the store name 'Mardy Stark' including; a contemporary knitwear collection, a repurposed vintage clothing collection, and hand selected vintage pieces. She is one of the 8 vintage vendors at the Vault Collective (our favorite new vintage pop-up shop in downtown Providence!). We fell in love with her knits on our first visit to the Vault and ever since she has been one of our most wonderful and accessible designers to work with! We got a chance to sit down with her in her beautiful apartment which she shares with her husband Phil and 8 month old son.
We met Jess in her 'Not-looking- after-the-baby-boots.' She grinningly informed us, "I can only wear them when I’m not on duty.” After a few laughs, our conversation unfolded...
LORE COLLECTION: How did you get started, and come about doing what you do?
JESSICA STARKWEATHER: Well I think it started very, very young, my Dad used to sell fabric, so there was always fabric and notions all over the house to play and create with. At school, I loved art and design lessons and following that path. I was lead straight on to University to do a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion and Textile Design. That’s basically where it all began. I went on to get a Graduate Certificate in Teaching Design and became a Design and Technology professor in London, but when I moved to the States that opportunity just wasn’t here for me. So it was ok, what do I do? I just started working for myself, collecting and selling vintage and then a little later picked up the knitting needles again. Now, here I am 5 years later, kind of making a living out of it.
LC: Where did the name Mardy Stark come from?
JS: This is interesting, and kind of irritating at the same time because people think its my actual name. I played with lots of names when I first started on Etsy. Having to promote myself in that way doesn’t come naturally for me and my name Jessica Starkweather is kind of long. So I wanted to shorten it but keep something sentimental or something personal about it. Mardy is actually a word from Nottingham where I’m from in the UK, and it means to be grumpy, to be a little bit angry about something but in a childish way, I was often called this as child. Then Stark is a smaller version and most likely the original version of my second name. That’s how it came together but I do battle every day people calling me Mardy which means grumpy.
( Which is the exact opposite of the wonderful woman sitting across from us!)
LC: We would like to know, what kind of things inspire you to make, and create?
JS: So you may have noticed, my house is very eclectic, we like to call it a 'tastefully chosen treasure trove.' Collecting things is what inspires me, and I think that is why the vintage and handmade items combine within my store so well. Objects inspire my work more than other designers. Old handmade objects for the most part are what really excite me. When I’m in a thrift store or at a yard sale and I find a sweater that a grandma made over 15 years ago and no one ever wore it, that excites me! Here is this garment that someone poured love into, I want to wear that and take inspiration from that. They are the kind of things that inspire me and my work.”
LC: What is your creative process?
JS: It's changed a lot over the years. I would say that when I was starting out and learning about being creative it was very much like, flip through the magazines, find this, find that piece of inspiration. And now I feel like as I’ve grown into my own as a designer and collector it is just about being surrounded by these things all the time, at home, in my wardrobe or store. Having a feeling or idea spark out of that, maybe do a few sketches and then just start making it. Its not actually until the collection or piece is finished that I can actually see the process. That’s how it works for me. Making little bits, playing with fabrics, merging different materials and textures, things that aren't necessarily intended for sweaters, like cutting up a tee shirt and knitting with it.
LC: As we all know, artists have hurdles that we have to jump through. How do you overcome the challenging things that can stand in the way of your motivation?
JS: My approach is that nothing can happen in a day. Everything has to be done a little bit at a time, I might have in my mind that I just want to go out tomorrow and make this collection but I’m just very realistic and aware of my constraints. Whether they’re money or time, I know I have to take it slow. I’m a new mother, I don’t have time for barely anything, and so its more of just learning to produce things in small steps, reflecting on that, going back adding to it or changing it until its right. That’s basically my approach to the challenges. Having a supportive husband also helps and then to just keep going at it. Meeting other creative people helps, that keeps the momentum going and the excitement about making going. Its very hard to just work by yourself sometimes and not be connected with what else is happening on out there. So having connections to a creative community, where we are all going through similar struggles and creative breakthroughs really helps. That’s about it.
You can find Jessica Starkweather's designs in our shop starting mid-November
Cheers! Lore Collection
Margaret Hinge & Jayna Aronovitch