The Paris Market kids' section just wouldn't be the same without the lovely creations of Jessica Duthu, or as she's better known, Strawberry Moth. Jessica has long since been a part of the Paris Market family; in fact, she used to make posts on this very blog! But we are so happy to now have her contributing in another way: with her wonderful handmade products for kids! From adorable t-shirts to delightful pennants, we can't get enough of her screen-printed designs! And we'd be remiss to remind you that any of her creations would make the perfect gift for all the little Paris Marketeers on your Christmas shopping list this year! ;)
We recently had the chance to visit with Jessica in her amazing studio space & get a behind-the-scenes look at the production side of Strawberry Moth. We, of course, also used the opportunity to pick Jessica's brain about what it's like being a working artist & how she keeps herself inspired. Her answers certainly left us feeling inspired so you definitely want to keep reading to check them out for yourself!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jessica Duthu. I am the Illustrator / Maker / Creative Mind behind Strawberry Moth, a brand specializing in Illustrated Goods for the Nest and Nursery. I currently live in sleepy Savannah, Georgia with my dashing husband, Terry, and my two dog children, Wicket and Moro.
You studied production design at SCAD. Was it a conscious decision to move away from that field to illustration & screen-printing? And how do you think having that background in production design influences your work?
I think when I first started at SCAD I had a different idea of who I wanted to be. Travel and the film industry seemed to appeal to my 18 year old self. It was only after actually working in the film industry after I graduated that I discovered that that kind of life style just wasn't what I wanted. Friendships, family and home life is where happiness lies for me and the 14 hour work day, on the road mentality is just not who I am. The beauty of studying at SCAD is that you have every form of art at your fingertips. Production design was just a section of my studies, I also took classes in animation, fashion design, drawing, painting, and photography. I believe learning what you don't want is just as valuable as learning what you do want, at the core I am a creative soul and I love making things.
Illustration has always been a part of my life in some way since I was really little. I used to illustrate along to songs on family car rides, every christmas / birthday / get well card was hand illustrated by me through the years. Illustration just comes naturally and it never occurred to me that it could be a career.
What would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned as an artist since being out of art school?
Don't be afraid to change up what you are doing. If a career or job isn't moving you in the direction you want to be in, leave it behind. Close doors and open new ones. Use your creativity and create the career you want.
Where did the name “Strawberry Moth” come from?
Strawberry Moth actually started out as a blog. It was a place for me to escape during a time where I felt somewhat lost. I had graduated from school, worked in the film industry and realized it wasn't for me, and I didn't know where to turn. At the time I was working a dead end retail job and Strawberry Moth was my creative outlet and source to connect with other artistic souls. Through it's creation and success, it opened a door to new possibilities. I Illustrated a lot of my graphics and fans started asking for personalized illustrations, so I opened an etsy shop to meet the demand. Personalized illustrations turned into cards, cards turned into notebooks, notebooks turned into children's tees and pennants. Through everything the name Strawberry Moth has stuck and continues to evolve with me.
What is your favorite part about what you do?
The customer and fan base I have gained since opening my business is incredible. I love interacting with each person and over the past year I have brought Strawberry Moth to several craft fairs, traveling as far as Nashville, Tennessee. My products are now in over 10 stores worldwide and my stockist base is growing. Selling wholesale as well as retail enables me to bring Strawberry Moth to places I could not reach on my own (my products are even in a store in Australia!). My work is about sharing my joy with others, especially littles. Every illustration, hand-lettered design, wool-felt pennant flag, and kiddo tee is designed for the child and child at heart.
What do you see as the biggest challenge of being a working artist & what are some ways you try to overcome it?
The biggest challenge of being a working artist is definitely time management. When you own your own creative business you are not just the artist, you are the book keeper, marketing director, packaging specialist, supply manager, errand runner, product designer, studio cleaner, social media expert, customer service representative, and you have to fit lunch in there somewhere. The best way I tackle all the tasks of running my own business is to make a loose schedule and do my best to stick to it. I say loose because things always change, but setting Mondays as packaging/shipping day and Tuesday as design/production day (etc) helps to somewhat break up tasks so that they are more manageable. Knowing that I can accomplish so much is truly rewarding in the end and I wouldn't have it any other way.
What do you look to for inspiration when starting a new project?
Inspiration comes in many forms. It can be a place I've been, a book I've read, or a person I've met. I try to not look for inspiration but let it come naturally. Any creative endeavor seems to back fire when it is forced. I keep several notebooks full of ideas and the true challenge is streamlining them and choosing what to create next.