Interview with Jessica Findley

ajessicafin.jpgAugust is ending and everyone is coming back from the beach. Including the interviews!

Jessica Findley lives in Brooklyn where she works as a “freelance designer, illustrator and animator.” That brief description hardly encompasses all Jessica’s many activities and talents: she makes animated movies, crafts reversable dolls, she draws, she is also a web designer but what brought my attention to her work are the performances and interactive installations she developed and shows around the world., crafts reversable dolls, she draws, she is also a web designer but what brought my attention to her work are the performances and interactive installations she developed and shows around the world.

Oh! And just for the info, Jessica received her BA at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA with her studies focusing on Film, Video and Animation. She then completed her MA in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU.

On your website there is a section called “Work” and another is “art”. what’s your art for if it is not work? is it just a question of what pays the rent? Are you happy with that equilibrium or would you rather focus only on the art?

This is always a difficult challenge. In a dream world it would be great to focus on the art all the time, but a girl needs to eat. It is also nice not to have to think of the monetary value of my art when I make it. I would love to have less work and do more art. Or at least more interesting work and do more art. I have been very happy doing illustrations and work for museums and educational programs. It would be great to take a break to just focus on the art for a while, then go work, then do art. For now both art and work seem to need to be constantly in process.

Can you explain us the project “millefiore effect”? And in particular the Front inflatable garments? How do they work?


The Millefiore Effect was the name that Margot Jacobs, Ralph Borland and myself gave our team when we made “Front”. Millefiori means 1000 flowers in italian, it is also a technique used in crafting many colors of glass or clay together to create patterns. We liked this symbolism for the collective efforts of our group. Margot came from an industrial design education, Ralph from sculpture, and I from film video and animation and had experience sewing my own clothes.

The project “Front” consists of 2 symbiotic, voice-activated, inflatable conflict suits. Front is a sort of an endless game of vocal battle between two people who wear suits equipped with fans which inflate when they yell. Each suit has two types of inflation sacks – aggressive and defensive – which inflate depending on who is making sound. The suits are to be worn by the public.

0afron1.jpg0afront5.jpgHow do people behave when they wear it? Does it trigger any particular/unexpected behaviour?

It’s interesting, some people are quite shy and then others get really into it and get really silly or serious about it. It can have a explosive emotional release or instill stage fright. We have had people sing opera, burst into contagious laughter, bark like dogs, talk like knights in armor, and make up comedy routines. Some places we go people are too shy to even put them on, and usually Margot and I will just get in and go for it, after that we end up with at least a couple people who sign up to get ridiculous.

0aealoimanr.jpgAeolian Ride in Melbourne, photo by Clayton Harper

What was the impetus for your project Aeolian Ride?

I wanted to do something that would transform the everyday public landscape and make people giddy or baffled.

One day I was riding my bike in Brooklyn with white nylon jacket on that was unzipped. I felt it fluttering behind me and thought that it would be great to make costumes for a big bike ride. I forgot about it until one day my friend Ryan O’connor was trying to think of ideas for an art project at burning man. I told him my idea and he thought it was great but he ended up making a giant octopus instead. A year later he called me. He said he had been thinking about my project and I needed to do it. This was not too long after 9/11 and my life seemed to lack any luster. A switch flipped in my brain and I suddenly was up to my elbows in rip-stop nylon designing inflatable costumes. 0aaeloinaridessss.jpgYou brought the project to different cities, was the experience extremely different from one place to the other? Any plan of organizing another Aeolian Ride any time soon? I’d love it if you could bring that to Europe.

I find that riding a bike in a city is such a wonderful way to get to know its landscape. The people are what make the place for me. Its interesting who comes to the ride. It often depends on the connection who brought me to the city. It’s usually a combination of different cycling cultures, every day cyclists, commuters, advocates, artists, messengers… anyone with a bike is welcome! I am always looking for people willing to organize and find funding to bring the ride to their city. I call these people champions. Each ride has had great champions who made it happen.

The responses vary from city to city. New York was the first ride, it was rainy so I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen and I didn’t have a permit so I was nervous when the cops showed up. Funny my dad was there and he is such a charmer he gave the cops a couple of Aeolian buttons and told them about how excited he was for his daughters art project and they left.

San Francisco happened in conjunction with the Bicycle Film Festival and was sponsored by a grant from the Black Rock Arts Organization. The people there had seen it all and loved it. They shouted out Angels! Sperm!

Capetown was gorgeous. My good friend Ralph Borland was the Champion of this ride. The Discovery Chanel was doing a program on local artists and tried to show a collaboration between myself and artist Matthew Hindley. They purchased a couple suits for Matthew to work with. Unfortunately the Discovery Channel dropped the ball and gave me no images or video for that event.

0acapetownn.jpgAeolian Ride in Cape Town, photo by Sean Wilson

I worked with Bike Summer’s Dave Benoff to bring the Aeolian Ride to LA. The riders out there were used to lots of fun. Before the ride I joined the Midnight Ridaz for a fun ride in Heavy Metal Costume to a bowling alley where they had Metal Karaoke and giant paper mache musical instruments.

LA was our first night ride with lights in the suits and we had a magical moment where mostly just the riders got to see the effect of the lights. During our ride through the bright city most of us didn’t notice or remember we were wearing lights inside the suits. When we arrived at the dark park all the riders softly gasped and oohed at the forgotten surprise that they were glowing.

My connection in Melbourne, Chris Star, is very deep into the politics of cycling and its community. We had a bit of competition in that the naked ride was happening at a similar time. The city and its people are super charming and laid back.

Halifax was wonderful, my connection, a great photographer Francesca Tallone is embedded into the arts there. It was great fun and there was tons of enthusiasm for the ride. The Aeolian Poster was on the cover of their local weekly happenings paper all around town! The waterfront there is magical.

The next Aeolian Ride will be Saturday September 8th 2007 from Brooklyn New York to the Dietch Art Parade in SOHO. Sign up already available!

I would love to bring the ride to Europe. Who wants to be the champion?

Grow is a serenade for plants. Are you sure that the plants appreciate all that musical effort? How did you compose the music? Does it depend on the plant?

Haha. I am not sure if the plants really react to the sounds or not. It seems at least one vintner believes it.I did read that it is a common grade school experiment to play music for plants.

I found it difficult to write love songs for the plants. Half of them are for the plants and half are actually love songs for my friends. I wrote and recorded each song myself in an abandoned studio in a building I used to live in.

0muazacplant.jpgDesign, animation, illustration, interactive installation, etc. You seem to jump effortlessly and with talent from one medium to the other, is there anything you are bad at?

My strength is definitely my weakness. I love learning new skills and working in different mediums, but sometimes this can be fragmenting. I really envy people who know exactly what they want and have a path to get there. I chose this path, to explore, and it can be really challenging not to lose sight of what I really want. I try to follow my heart, eat my dessert first.

0aajesillustra.jpgAnd more seriously, what do you find rewarding about each of these mediums?

I am most interested in the idea first, then the materials and medium second but they definitely inform each other. Every medium provides me with a way to explore my ideas in different ways.

Are there any designer and/or artist whom you think should get more attention from the public?

Two of my favorite artists are Gelatin and Theo Jensen. I love the possible positive and the ingenious imaginative.

Any upcoming project you could share with us?

I am working on a graphic novel about the adventures of a girl who gets transported to the twin planet of earth.

Thanks Jessica!

More on her websites: Work + Art, Illustrations and Inspirational Blogging.