Jess has taught students at Warren Wilson College, Penland School of Craft, Hampshire College, Buxton High School, and The Cabbage School

My Teaching Ethos

I am a weaver; of people and threads, of ourselves to our environments.I am drawn by the mundanity of the everyday- how we pay attention, what we notice- and how the subtle accumulation of moments grows the world we inhabit.

The simple repetitive task of weaving, thread by thread, is a spell. Is- in and of itself- a record of time, but is also a canvas to experiment with being. In it’s earthy conjunction of plant, animal, mineral and human ingenuity- cloth is the spell I choose to explore what it is to be conscious and embodied.The gift of cloth, the everydayness of cloth is rendered invisible in it’s necessity- I choose to work at an intersection between visible and invisible.The way the cloth I weave holds time has many aspects that are invisible to even me, the weaver. The mill an unknown yarn was spun in, an unknown pasture that nurtured an unknown sheep, an unknown battle fought by unknown farmers over the organic status of a cotton field…let alone the many moments when I am at the loom, but my mind has wandered and when I find myself back right where I left myself- I can’t quite recall all the places I have gone. Every bit of these untold tales are held in the cloth- on top of the beauty of what is known and visible- the deep indigo, the way a bit has faded from the sun, where I fixed or didn’t fix a broken thread, decided to change colors or textures, and most usually- the way I followed the map I set out for myself in designing a particular cloth, and the moments I found freedom and the unknown amidst the many fixed, unchanging knowns.

My experiences on the loom inform my revolutionary spirit. And I have often sought to share my unconventional techniques through teaching and participatory world building. I am most passionate about my work scaffolding brief and finite heterotopias. The loom makes a great foil for experimentation- since weaving is fairly passé, to fail at the loom or to make terrible cloth is relatively inconsequential- which creates a beautiful ground for bravely trying and failing in bigger more visible ways. I find that I can more easily access folks' sense of adventure and bold experimentation when tangled threads are present.

For the 5 years preceding COVID, I founded and ran The Cabbage School- a rigorous, skills based fool school- in the wilds of southern Appalachia. It was a residential mountain school, and folks would come stay anywhere from a weekend to a month or a season or a year and we hosted a variety of classes- from bucket coopering and brick making to anti-capitalist tech skills and destructive writing. Beyond our schedule of classes, we treated the school itself as a living school- we raised farm animals and food, we built and renovated buildings, suffered interpersonal melt-downs, and hosted countless folks in their nomadic cycles who felt as though the Cabbage School was one of their many homes. We were guided by the mountain who held us, and we weren’t afraid to scrap everything and try something new.It goes without saying that COVID times shook all of our lives loose- and while I grieve the loss of the Cabbage School, I am thankful for the lessons it taught me- and am excited to see what will emerge next.

My work is based in emergence, in creating environments conducive to emergence- which often means lots of seemingly rigid (but ultimately malleable) structure- like threads dressed on a loom. There is no deviating from a weaving pattern- until you get in there with your hands, betray the coding and the mechanics of the machine, and manipulate the ground cloth into your desired form. It takes decisiveness, ingenuity and bravery to choose to make a change- to go against the plan, to listen to the needs of the moment or the composition and allow a new way to emerge.The heterotopoias I create are similar to my cloth in this sense. I want folks to feel safe enough to break free and brave enough to fall hard, break some threads, and tie the loose ends back together in a never before seen way that shocks us all back into a state of presence and awe.

I want folks to live with a sense of what is possible, to bravely question limits and rules, to hold multiple truths as true at the same time, to experience tension and release, to treadle between dualities, to experience the magic in the mundane-And we need places to practice these ways of being.

I want to continue to build opportunities for folks to be surprised by themselves and the world around them. To feel joyous and powerful as we dream new worlds to spring up and die all around us.

The Cabbage School

An ever evolving alternative school
an ongoing performance
[20012 - 2020]