Today I present to you a California artist, Jescalyn Vazquez. Jess is a wonderful painter and collage artist, who is expanding into the creation of clothing for preemies. Her day job as a NICU nurse, combined with her artistic talent, make me sure that her preemie line will be a success. After a busy year (or more) of planning a wedding and starting her new life with her husband, she has jumped in full-force to her art business. I am pleased to introduce you to Jess.
Where do you live and how long have you lived there? Is there another place which you consider your hometown?
I live in Sacramento, California, and have lived here my whole life.
Tell me about your family.
My mother was a single mother, and worked her butt off raising me. The majority of her family weren’t supportive of me being half African-American, so they weren’t a part of our lives. My dad’s family were extremely toxic, so didn’t play a big role in my childhood. It was my mom and me against the world. My mom married my step-dad when I was 13 and they have been married ever since. He and his family are so supportive and loving, and they are such an amazing part of my life.
Do you work at a job other than making and promoting your art?
I’ve been a NICU nurse for 5 years. I used to work 50 hours a week, saving up for last year’s wedding, and a new home. I was burnt out and unhappy. When I decided to get really serious about my art, and business aspirations, I cut back to 28 hours a week. My schedule allows me 6 days off in a row, every other week, so I feel like I have a mini vacation to work on my art and business. I couldn’t be happier. I feel like my life is finally my own.
What hobbies do you have, or how do you spend your spare time?
Oh my, where to begin? I have been told, by many people, I am a grandma, stuck in a twenty-something year old body. I crochet, knit, quilt, garden, draw, paint... basically anything creative. I’m a bit of a squirrel, fortunately and unfortunately, and when a technique, or project, catches my eye I have to try it. I may be a little scattered at times, but that’s just me, and I love every crafty moment.
Where does the name Peach Honey come from?
Funny story... I had lunch with a friend of mine, and my drink for the day was a Peach Honeybush tea. My husband, Joseph, always called me his Peach, so after that day I started calling him Honeybush. Joseph was so supportive when I decided to focus on my art, and our love was its driving force, so I decided to name the business after that love.
How would you describe yourself as an artist and the art that you do? Do you give yourself a title?
I work with any medium that crosses my path, and because my interests change from month to month, mixed media gives me the freedom to explore. I find pleasure in collecting supplies, and try to use them in unique ways. Sometimes I use 20 different supplies in one painting, and I love that! Every layer adds more depth, and every supply has a special place.
What type of art do you spend the most time doing?
I love making dolls, but I’m in the process of changing the faces. I recently drew a quick sketch, for a NuPastel Cravings on my YouTube channel, and I didn’t draw any eyes. I loved it!! It was mysterious and sexy, and gave me a lot of freedom when it came time to working with the background. Next week my focus may change, but I think it’s important to bend to our changing interests, allowing our art to grow as we grow.
Can you give me a timeline of how your art has developed over the years?
I was always a crafty person, but never knew I could paint. I was always focused on school, and my main focus, out of high school, was getting my nursing degree. My best friend introduced me to scrapbooking after I graduated from nursing school in 2006. We used to spend hours at the local scrapbook store creating elaborate books for family and friends. I got such a high from creating, so I started to look for my next fix. Scrapbooking led me to Ali E, Tim Holtz, and then to Suzi Blu, my mentor.
I was on YouTube one night (at 2am), watching painting technique videos, when I came across Suzi Blu’s channel. I became so obsessed with mixed media, so I took a couple of her classes, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since. Over the last few years I have bought every book, taken every class, e-course, and read every eBook imaginable. I’ve learned a lot over the years, but it’s only the beginning... I can only imagine where this passion will take me over the next few years.
Has your art always been similar to your current style?
I’ve only been creating for the past 5 years, and I never went to art school, but I have definitely seen my techniques improve as I learn. My color schemes are more cohesive, my faces more contoured, and my paintings have more depth... all because I’m addicted to learning. I will never stop being a student, and I believe there’s always going to be a new technique to learn, a new product to try out, and a new opportunity just around the corner. I don’t think my style will ever stay exactly the same, and I hope my pieces reflect the knowledge I gain as I continue on my journey.
If you were making art solely for yourself, not for sale, what would you make?
I would probably make an abstract painting with lots of texture, and simple silhouettes. I have an idea for a couple pieces that use lots of molding and crackle paste... lots of peaks and valleys with deep color. Love.
Which type of venue for selling your art has been the most successful for you?
Word of mouth. I have made multiple paintings for people at work, and they have referred me to friends who need pieces for their home, or for charity auctions. I like working with people one-on-one to create something perfect for them. It narrows down my wild imagination into something tailor-fit for them.
I think artists now are realizing that they can’t rely solely on selling one type of art. What are all the types of art that you sell (such as your preemie line)? Do you do any writing?
I have just started a NICU-friendly preemie clothing line. I have been busy making blankets and fitted sheets, and the clothing production will start in the next couple months. I write for my two blogs, PeachHoneyLove and PeachHoneyPreemie, but don’t write for anyone else at the moment, although I would love to have such an opportunity in the future. My blogs are in the middle of a major renovation as I change over to Wordpress, and build my brand. I hope to really figure out where I want the two blogs to go, so it’s useful and successful.
How did you get started with making video tutorials, and is that something you want to continue with?
I love making videos! There were days where I couldn’t transform my thoughts into a beautifully well-written blog post, but talking it out felt natural. I sat in front of my MAC laptop, one day, and just talked. It felt so good to be able to get my point across. I will definitely be making a lot more videos in the future!
I met you online when we were both taking an e-course taught by Kelly Rae Roberts. What was your motivation for taking that course and did it fulfill your expectations?
I was feeling so burnt out at work, working 50 hours a week, and not sleeping. I was missing my creative time, and was dreaming of having a successful artistic career, like the one Kelly had created for herself. I read her blog every day, and jumped at the chance to find out how she did it. The class was the kickstart I needed to really be serious about taking the plunge into a different life. I have read through the class twice, and am going through it again at the moment, picking at different lessons as I build my brand and create a community, online and locally. Kelly’s class was my “aha moment” that proved anything I wanted was, indeed, possible.
It seems you’ve taken a few other e-courses. What can you recommend about them?
My new obsession is collecting e-courses. Kelly’s was the jumping off point, and then as I began to build my business, I started looking for other classes focusing on certain aspects of the game. I just finished Holly Becker’s Blogging Your Way class because I wanted to find my voice, and turn my blog into a resource for others (this is still in the works). I’m in the middle of Tara Gentile’s Website Kickstart Class because I wanted to build a website I had complete control over... this has been the start of many steps to building the PeachHoney Brand. I have also taken a lot of art-centered e-courses from SuziBlu and Monica Zuniga. They have a ton of videos you can save right to your computer and reference any time you’re struggling with a technique, or need some quick inspiration.
You seem to have worked hard to cultivate an online presence as an artist: you write blog posts quite often, you’re on Facebook, twitter, Youtube. Is there anything I’ve missed?
I justed signed up for Pinterest this week, so we'll just have to see if it ends up being another soldier in my social media army.
What do you think each of these connections do for your artistic business?
When I first signed up for Twitter I didn’t know what I was doing. I never tweeted, and when I did I didn’t know what to say. I’m a little smarter now, and I love Twitter for creating a community. I have met so many people, and they have become an integral part of my business. My Twitter friends celebrate my successes, link to my posts, and send me all kinds of love through the air waves. I’ve been building a new website, from scratch (AHHHH!). Whenever I have a dreaded code question, I send in out to Twitterland, and I get an instant response from friends. Kelly said it best! Twitter is like standing on the front porch waving at people to come check you out. It's your first line of defense in the world of social media. It gets people interested in you. My favorite people to follow are the witty tweeters. Even though they don't always tweet about their business/art/blog, I feel like I'm getting to know the real them, and it gets me to their site... and that's what we want, right?
YouTube is a great avenue for reaching people in a completely different circle. It was slow, at first, but recently I’ve been getting a lot of emails from artists just starting out.
I do find a jump in page views when I post to my Facebook fan page. I think because it alerts my friends, that don't religiously follow my blog, to my posts and daily happenings. I have linked my Facebook Fan Page to my Twitter account, so if I take a shopping trip to buy more fabric (which happens more often than you would think), I post it on my Fan page, my Twitter peeps get the message too.
Where do you make your art? Do you have a dedicated space in your home, or different spaces depending on the art that you’re making?
I use one of our spare bedrooms as my art studio, and have started to overrun one of the other guest rooms with my sewing supplies, much to my husband’s dismay. I have so many art supplies, so if I’m working on a big piece, I will sometimes bring it downstairs, so I can have some more space.
Can you tell me about your new preemie line, and what stage are you at with that business?
This project is my pride and joy!!! I’m a NICU nurse, and I’ve always seen a void in the preemie clothing industry that I was dying to fill. The professionally-made preemie clothes out there don’t work for a majority of our babies because most of our kids have IV’s, gastrostomy tubes, or something else that hinders their ability to wear clothing. We can’t feed their arms through clothing because of the risk it will affect their lines. On the other hand, the other NICU-friendly preemie clothes are not professionally made.
I hope to create a well-made NICU-friendly preemie clothing line that not only works for the majority of our babies, but is also professionally made and stylish. I’m a preemie advocate and stylist, and they’re in dire need of a cute wardrobe! I have had most of my patterns made, and am now looking for a sewing contractor (hopefully in my area), to produce my line. After I get my samples made, I will take it to work to try it out. I hope to have some samples in hand in the next couple months.
Thank you, Jess for this great interview! If you would like to see or hear about more of Jescalyn's artwork, you can visit her here:
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/peachhoneylove/ (still in the beginning stages of development)