Jemima Schlee Talks About Her "Take a . . ." Book Seriescomments (0) March 21st, 2017
Jemima Schlee is most notably a maker. Her hand-crafting expertise ranges from crocheting and dyeing to nearly everything in between. Some may know her from her five-book series, Take a Bandana, Take a Tea Towel, Take a Ball of String, Take a Tin, and Take a Seat (GMC Publications, 2016). Each book contains instructions for the decorative and often functional pieces she has made from those everyday items. Her innovative project for repurposing aluminum cans into a blossom-covered wreath, for example, could further inspire any crafter.
Beyond being an adept maker, Schlee has shared her creativity in the business world. She worked for nine years in the design industry as a graphic designer in print and television and as an art director, including two years as the global art director for Interiors at Laura Ashley, Ltd. Schlee later began sharing her passion through teaching art, graphics, and textiles in mainstream schools and to profoundly deaf teens near her home in England. She continues to work with the teens on a limited basis while writing crafts books and regularly contributing to craft, lifestyle, and interiors magazines. Some of her latest creations can be found on her website. She has a tutorials page, which provides step-by-step instructions for sewing a blanket -- and making a tasty biscuit.
Jemima shared her thoughts with CraftStylish in a recent interview:
CraftStylish: How did you get the idea for your first "Take a ..." book? What was the topic?
Jemima Schlee: My first Take a ... book came from a little bit of 'problem' solving. I was given a pile of fresh, new, crisp Irish linen tea towels and got to thinking about what I could make out of such lovely fabric, restricted by the size and using the simple stripe woven into them. I started with an embroidered knitting needle roll, and other ideas took off from there. I love the simplicity of Shaker and Bauhaus designs and try not to overcomplicate my designs, although I'm aware I don't always achieve it.
CS: What are the other books in the series?
CS: All five books in the series have come out quickly, did you work on them simultaneously? If so, was it difficult?
JS: I usually only work on one book at a time. While doing so, I get totally immersed in thinking up new ideas and often am thinking about my next book background. There's usually a moment in the whole process when you're editing one book while producing the next, which does feel a bit odd. I've recently worked on two books at once, and it did get a bit confusing. I rely heavily on list-making and take great joy in crossing achievements out at the end of the day-satisfying!
CS: Would you say your crafts cater to beginner or experienced crafters?
JS: My books usually contain a bit of a mixture of complexities in their projects but all have instructions for every technique used, be it crochet, knitting, and embroidery.
CS: Have you written any craft books outside of the series?
JS: I've just finished two books coming out in the UK later this year, Gifts and Christmas: Decorations and Accessories. I've just finished shooting, surrounded by Chistmas atmosphere, a tree and theatrical snow, complete with Christmas music to get us all in the mood. Fun, fun, fun.
CS: Out of all your books, which have you enjoyed working on the most and why?
JS: A cliche of an answer, but it always is the one you're working on at the time . . . or the next one which is simmering gently in the background.
CS: Do you have more books coming up in the Take a ... series? Can you give us a hint as to the topics?
JS: I'm mulling over Take a Sheet of Paper, otherwise I also have an embroidery book and a knitting book, and the list goes on.
CS: Are you a full-time writer, or do you have another job?
JS: I contribute to national craft and lifestyle magazines. Currently, I'm making things for Popular Patchwork that I'm really enjoying. With magazine work, the deadlines appear to come around with shocking speed. I also work part-time in a school for profoundly deaf teenagers.
CS: Where are you from?
JS: I was born and grew up in South London, spending holidays in the beautiful Isles of Scilly or on the East Coast of the America with my mother's family. I now live in Brighton, on the south coast of England just above the beach.
CS: What inspired you to delve into crafts and become a maker?
JS: I grew up making, drawing, crafting, and painting with an author mother and artist father. My siblings each create beautiful and diverse things, from lead letterpress printing books to taxidermy.
CS: What's your favorite item you've ever created?
JS: I knitted my daughter a Guernsey jumper. They are knitted in a single colour with cables and textures and the patterns traditionally represent fishing ports and villages in Cornwall to identify the owner. Hers has her favorite beaches and her initials knitted into it. It was a delightful but painfully slow process.
CS: What was the most difficult item you've made?
JS: I struggle with leather mostly because I don't have a heavy-duty machine and have never had any formal training cutting and stitching it. Hence, I only ever make small or simple items using it.
CS: Where do you look for inspiration?
JS: I look at all sorts. I live by the beach and have a little hut on the shingle where I collect pebbles and flotsam. I visit museums and galleries, collect thrift shop finds, and take photographs of textures and patterns I pass in the street, on the short and in the countryside.
CS: What would you say to young men and women to encourage them to become makers as well?
JS: I've taught art, graphics, and textiles for years and know that it's not an easy area to make a living. The most important thing is to enjoy yourself, to find an area or techniques which you are enthused by but which will also challenge you. Most of all, make things which are useful and will give pleasure.
CS: What's next in your crafting and writing adventures?
JS: I'm currently working on another Christmas book. It's always odd to be doing it out of season, but not as odd as working on a December magazine issue in mid-August.
Click here to access an exclusive project from Take a Tea Towel.
To learn more about Jemima and her upcoming projects, be sure to visit her at http://www.jemimaschlee.co.uk