We sat down with Jessica, the creative force behind Tempest Eve. You may remember some of the beautiful Tempest Eve pieces that we posed with at our popular Disneybounding pinup workshop, or perhaps you’ve seen them onstage around Perth! To celebrate Jessica returning to the studio on April 5 2020 for our GODDESS pinup workshop, we asked her a few questions to find out more about her work…
Tell us a little bit about how you got into fashion and design..
When I was in my early teens I started to develop a sense of how I wanted to dress, but I struggled to find clothes that matched that aesthetic in stores. And even on the odd occasions I did find something, I generally couldn’t afford it. I became frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t translate my ideas into reality, until I realised that maybe I could make them myself! So then, with one whole Home Ec unit under my belt and a whole lot of optimism, I embarked on teaching myself how to draft patterns and sew clothes for myself. There was a lot of trial and error, many wonky hems, and plenty of tears. But it was hugely exciting to see the things I imagined slowly start to come to life, and from that point on I was hooked! I continued teaching myself what I could through high school and university, before studying fashion design formally at TAFE.
Your pieces often seem like they draw inspiration from a multitude of sources, whether it’s fashion, art, or nature – can you tell us a bit about what inspires your unique style?
After high school I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at UWA, and I think that degree had a huge impact on my personal design aesthetic. I draw a lot of inspiration from the art world – Art Nouveau, the Pre-Raphaelites, Vanitas and Memento Mori, and religious iconography are a few elements I find myself referencing again and again. I’m also frequently inspired by mythology, folk stories and fairy tales, because I love the contrast of light and dark that is often highlighted in these stories. I really love pulling them apart and examining the beauty that can be found in the darker elements.
I’ll often get design ideas when I’m busy doing non-fashion related things – it might be inspired by a lyric in a song, a line in a book, or the colours created by the sun filtering through leaves. I’m very inspired by nature and frequently use motifs like flowers, branches, leaves and feathers in my work. I’m very fond of using texture and contrast to tell a story, and these natural elements all have an irregular, spontaneous quality to them that makes every piece unique.
Of course, I’m also inspired by the fashion world! I’m very fond of historical fashion, and love to reference silhouettes and design elements from past eras. My style has definitely been influenced by designers like Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier, as well as photographers like Tim Walker and Kirsty Mitchell. Overall, I’m very drawn to people who tell stories through their work.
What are some of the highlights of your journey as a designer so far?
I’m still very early in my design journey, but I’m fortunate to have had some wonderful experiences. Participating in a runway for RAW Natural Born Artists was a very memorable learning experience! I was teamed up with a hairdresser and a makeup artist, and we were able to have full control over our runway segment. Together we selected models, developed the art direction and styling, and staged the runway on the night. It was a lot of work, and a lot of fun getting to collaborate with other creatives to being our vision to life! It really gave me some invaluable insight that I was able to bring to future projects.
One especially memorable highlight was being asked to make a bridal bodice for a friend, as I was very aware of it being one of the most important occasions I could ever work on! It was the most complex piece of pattern matching I’ve ever undertaken, and there was a lot of love put into every stitch. I still look back in awe at being a part of such an important event!
What are some of the struggles that designers and artists need to overcome – do you have any advice or tips to share with those who are just starting out?
I think one of the biggest struggles is not letting our own insecurities and perfectionism get in the way of creating. There are many times that I’ve been too scared to even start on a project, because I’m worried it won’t live up to my expectations. It’s something I still struggle with, because I’m definitely my own worst critic! However, I’m trying to change my own mindset. Instead of being fixated on the end result and perfection, I’m focusing on the process being the important part. It’s better to get started and do 10%, 20%, or 50% of something than to do nothing at all because you’re scared! It’s also important to not be discouraged by mistakes, as they’re often important learning experiences.
Some of our LVC members are lucky enough to own original pieces from you, custom made! Talk us through the process of ordering a custom commissioned piece from Tempest Eve – what can customers expect?
Initially, it begins with a client coming to me with an idea. Some people have a very clear idea of what they want, and then it’s just a matter of finding a way to make that into reality! In other cases a client may only have a vague idea of what they want, and then it’s my job to help interpret that. It’s an extremely collaborative process and it’s really fun to explore all the possibilities for a project. They might come to me with an outfit they would like a matching headpiece for, a selection of inspiration images off the Internet, a colour palette, or a story they want to tell. From there I can find out what their requirements are – maybe it’s going to be used in a photo shoot, in which case we can throw practicality out the window and go as dramatic as we want! Or perhaps it’s going to be used in a routine on stage, and needs to function in a specific way according to choreography. From there I usually do a few design sketches to help narrow down the concept and see how the client feels about different elements. From this point I can start to provide quotes on cost and timeframe, and sometimes this is the factor that helps them to decide which design suits their needs the best. I try my best to find solutions to fit my client’s ideas, budget and schedule as well as possible!
When designing headpieces for use onstage in burlesque or cabaret acts, what are some of the unique challenges that you have to consider when creating your pieces?
Burlesque and cabaret are some of the most challenging (and also rewarding!) fields to design for, because not only do the pieces have to be beautiful and easy to see from the audience – they have to be functional too! I’m always aware of just how physical the performers are on stage, so it’s really important for me to make sure that my pieces can live up to that! I try to make sure everything is as lightweight as possible, and it must also be stable and sturdy. This means that there’s a lot of trial and error to ensure structural integrity! My main priority is to ensure that the pieces are easy and comfortable to wear, that they contribute to the story of the performance, and don’t cause any hassles or wardrobe malfunctions for the wearer.
What are some of your favourite headpieces or gowns that you’ve created?
One of my favourite pieces is definitely the gown I named “Miss Havisham”, inspired by the iconic character from Great Expectations. I think it’s quite emblematic of my design aesthetic as a whole, because I wanted to take something that other people might perceive as sad or creepy and instead celebrate the beauty in it. For this gown I hand-dyed multiple different fabrics with varying strengths of tea, layered them over each other, appliquéd lace over sections, and tore up other sections. The final layer was made of metres upon metres of gauzy, cobwebby muslin that had been tea stained and torn to shreds. I loved the idea of making a dress that would become more beautiful as it was worn and all the textures started to take on a life of their own. Instead of becoming too hung up on keeping beautiful things perfect and pristine, I wanted to celebrate the unique nature of worn-out things and the stories they tell.
As far as headpieces go, I’m very fond of the series I created featuring flowers and animal skulls. I’m endlessly fascinated by Vanitas and Memento Mori artwork, and this was another tribute to these themes. I love the juxtaposition of life and death, and I also love the idea of finding beauty in the transience of life. Knowing that something is temporary makes it all the more important to celebrate it fully while you can, and not save it for a special occasion. When I made these pieces, I was also toying with the idea of an ending leading to a beginning – perhaps the death of the fox allowed the flowers to grow.
I’m also very fond of this snow queen branch crown, which was a real labour of love. It was inspired partly by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, and partly by The White Witch from Narnia. I wanted something regal and beautiful but also wild and connected to nature, as I felt that was important to honour in a snow theme! It took a lot of experimentation to get the structure of the branches to feel stable enough to wear, without the support structure getting in the way of the aesthetic. It also featured many hours of hand beading, which was worth every minute. I really love projects that allow me to focus on all the minute details and use hand finishing techniques, because I always learn a lot.
Are there any pieces, themes or ideas that you’re looking forward to exploring in 2020?
I’ve always loved creating a whole conceptual look from head to toe, which is a very time consuming process – but also very rewarding! Over the past few years I’ve been focusing more on headpieces, but I would love to get back into doing more dressmaking, as well as branching out into a wider range of accessories so that I can create more full-body looks. I’m also hoping to get an online store up and running so that I can start selling some of my readymade pieces. I have so many ideas that I want to pursue, so the hard part is deciding which to run with first!