Julie Jackson is the mastermind behind the popular "subversive cross stitch movement." You may have seen her book Subversive Cross Stitch (2006), thumbed through it and thought "yup" to make of the designs (check out her website here for kits and other goodies). Julie has a new book coming out TODAY and it's even better than her first! She was kind enough to sit down with me on her book release day and answer a few of my questions and share a few previews of her new book for you, dear readers...
Tanis Gray (TG): I’ve been a big fan of your work for years now and love the modern (and sarcastic) way you’ve taken a hobby that some people see as “fuddy-duddy” and made it hilarious and truthful. What are the usual reactions to people seeing your work for the first time?
Julie Jackson (JJ): If I'm lucky, they glance and dismiss the genre, but once they realize what the words are saying -- classic double-take and laughter. I'm the youngest of seven kids, so I've been working my whole life to get a laugh! It gets pretty competitive with so many funny siblings, so it's good practice. Also, my 90-year-old mom once said, "I love your book, I keep it under my mattress!"
TG: I want to make so many things from your new book. Are all your projects inspired by real-life situations or do people give you suggestions?
JJ: Both. I get so many suggestions I can't use, there are so many things I won't touch. It's hard to get it just right, you never know. Sometimes I create a design from a phrase I really love and it's just a dud. I have a book of phrases scribbled down, so I just try again. I'm hoping to get a lot more PDF patterns up this year. They're less of a time investment for me than the kits, and I can experiment with those more to see what people like.
TG: Tell us about your new book and the process of making it.
JJ: Well, a fabulous woman named Sharyn Rosart was the book packager with my first book which they sold to Chronicle. I've had chances to do a second book, but I really didn't want to work with a craft title publisher since my stuff appeals to a base beyond the craft world. Sharyn started working for powerHouse and had the idea for a second book, but they mostly do art and photography books. We waited a few years for the time to be right, for them take a chance on something they hadn't done before. I kept hanging on because I really felt I'd found the right publisher. They've been great to work with and kind of let me do my own thing, which I love because so many publishers would put limitations on what I do or put their own spin on it. I hired a few stitchers and upgraded our initial agreement so that there would be a total of 50 patterns. Then I rewrote most of it, upgraded the way the patterns are printed, added stitch counts and a couple more alphabet charts, and a great photo of my mom in the back. It's bigger than the last book and I think it's a helluva deal for the price, I tried to make it a valuable reference tool since so many people have told me they picked up cross stitch because of my first book and still keep it on their shelves.
TG: Do you have a favorite project in it? I like the "Cheer up, loser."
JJ: I'm in love with so many of the vintage frames I found -- especially the frame for "Because F*** You, That's Why" . It works so well with the piece, it's almost distractingly glamorous. I think the combination of glam and shock makes that one my favorite.
TG: How did you get started? Were you always labeled as "subversive" in your crafting?
JJ: I started working at home as a freelance copywriter in 1996, I had just HAD IT with working for other people. I took one last job after that, and it drove me to start stitching the "F word." It was definitely art therapy and a way to stay enthused as I was kind of forging a new meme.
TG: What’s your advice for someone looking to get into subversive cross stitching?
JJ: Buy the book and try it--it's so easy and surprisingly therapeutic. Plus, once you do a few of mine you might want to branch out and create your own pieces. I really encourage people to make it their own, no two stitchers are alike in their ideas and execution.
TG: What was the first thing you cross stitched? Were you instantly hooked?
JJ: I took a wedding sampler from a craft store and stitched the word "f***" very small right in the center of an ornate floral border. Traditional wedding samplers usually come with font charts so you can stitch in the couples' names. This was just a bunch of detailed flowers and a tiny f-bomb. It delighted me to no end.
TG: This is not your first book! Tell us about you other work and your kits. Where can people find them?
JJ: I did one other book of Subversive Cross Stitch about 10 years ago. Then I did a book based on my other company, Kitty Wigs, called Glamourpuss: The Enchanting World of Kitty Wigs. That went viral, so it got a lot of coverage. I basically sold wigs to take photos of your cats in, then found a great photographer (Jill Johnson) to make a book with. My first cross stitch book is now out of print, but Glamourpuss is still going strong. It was reprinted in Japanese and Korean! It'll be out there on Amazon and bookstores everywhere in late February, or you can also pre-order online. On my website, I sell two types of kits, instantly delivered PDF patterns and the best cross stitch supplies I can find. Kind of a one-stop shop so you can avoid a trip to the craft store.
TG: What are you working on right now?
JJ: I just did a series of embroidered tins with blueQ. I had the idea of printing stitching on these metal tins and we ended up doing a series of four with different stitchers. Mine are on the way to me in the mail, I can't wait to see them in person! They're for sale at blueQ.com
TG: What are you doing when you’re not creating? What hobbies do you have?
JJ: It's gotten so busy that my husband has been able to join me and help the business grow. I'm actually working on setting up another work area because we were crammed in this little office together throughout the craziest holiday season ever. It's ideal, we have so much fun and he has always has brilliant ideas. I wish I had more time for hobbies, I have a few projects lined up but they're just not happening yet.
TG: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
JJ: I used to intern for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood when I went to grad school in Pittsburgh. It was a dreary year, so I basically just weaseled my way in and talked them into letting me work for them--they didn't have an intern program or anything. It was the last season of filming, too, so I got to know all my childhood favorites: Mr. McFeely was my boss, Bob Dog was my favorite pal and Fred would make microwave popcorn for everyone. Getting a glimpse into what work could be when it was at its best impressed me even more to create work I love. That place was the real deal, truly magical.
TG: My "Bite Me" cross stitch sits on my desk and I often look at it and just nod. I love it!
JJ: Thank you so much!! Yeay!!
Thanks, Julie! If you're into cross stitch or always wanted to try it, get yourself a copy of Julie's new book, out today!