Meet Flexcut artist Jess Harms of Represent Art Co. in Grand Rapids, MI. By night she works as a truck driver, and by day she hand carves incredibly detailed woodcuts, illustrated in the photos of the amazing 10” x 14” woodcut pet portrait she carved of her best friend Carole’s cat, Moush.
An animal lover herself, Jess’ own adorable Sphynx cat often perches on her shoulder while she works, sometimes in a cute little cat sweater! (She also has an adorable little Dachshund, Dresden, who makes regular appearances on her page).
Jess was kind enough to do a Q&A with us – here are the questions we asked her.
What is your background and how did you get involved in art—specifically printmaking?
“I’ve always made art—even as a kid, I’d get up in the middle of the night and draw dinosaurs and airplanes by the light of my night light when my parents thought I was sleeping. That urge to create never went away. I’m self-taught in everything art-related; I like figuring stuff out myself. In my early 20s I opened my own brick and mortar art gallery to sell my paintings. I dabbled in Native American wood carvings and 3D mini totem poles for a bit then I took about a seven-year break to pursue another passion for playing roller derby. Once that ended I needed something new to try so I went out and bought myself really nice Flexcut tool sets and a small printing press and got to work. I’ve been hooked ever since!”
What do you like most about creating woodcuts?
“I like starting a piece and always thinking this isn’t looking so great but then once it’s finished, it usually looks better than I could have expected and I have that proud moment of ‘I made that’!”
How do you get inspired or get into a “creative” mode? (even if you aren’t feeling creative)
“This is gonna sound silly but I like to get dressed up, I’ll put on my nicest clothes to make art in… I think most people are the other way around. If I feel good inside I’m more likely to want to make something amazing!”
What do you enjoy most about creating? Are there any down sides?
“I really enjoy woodcarving because it puts me into a deep meditative state. I can carve for hours and lose track of time—I’m talking like 10 hours straight. The downside is I have to force myself to take exercise breaks because my body will often be fatigued from all that sitting.”
What’s the best piece of creative advice you’ve been given? Why?
“Create things that you enjoy yourself or use subject matter that appeals to you. It will be more fun and you’ll be more likely to stick with it!”
If you could offer three tips to someone who wants to get started in the world of printmaking, what would they be?
“Make sure to get some quality made in the USA tools, not some flimsy mass-produced set that’s gonna fall apart the first day you use them. Start out with pretty basic designs, don’t bite off more than you can chew on the first project, get used to the tools and learn what each one is for first. Have fun, there are no rules, just take your time and don’t cut yourself!”
How has your art changed or evolved since you began creating?
“In the early days my woodcuts were pretty basic as I was learning how to use the tools and hold them properly. As the years went on I’m now able to pay closer attention to detail and read the grain in the wood to knock out cleaner cuts and lines.”
“I think my dream project would be creating more wood carvings that are on a larger scale. The smaller pieces are really fun to create but I like trying to learn how to use some of the bigger tools and master new challenges.”
Which Flexcut tools do you use and what do you like about each?
“I have the deluxe palm set, the micro and the mini palm sets, I like having a variety of sizes depending on what I’m working on. The U gouge (FR309 3mm) is my favorite for clearing away wood and creating negative space… and any of the V gouges for the outlining of designs.”
Submitted by Flexcut