jill bliss draws, sews and makes things in her studio everyday. her studio is nestled in between two majestic redwood trees and an ancient cherry tree, one hour north of san francisco. jill’s small company, blissen, collaborates with others to make beautiful, useful and thoughtful items in limited editions from reused materials.

Website: Jill Bliss

What do you do and how did you start?
i draw with colored pens, and sew with various sewing machines! my favorite materials are paper and fabric, though occassionally other types of materials sneak their way into the limited edition stationery and fabric accessories i make.

How old were you when you realised you wanted to do and how old were you when you actually began?
ever since i was small i wanted to be a grown up, draw or make things all day, have a dog and live by a beach and a redwood forest. i have 3 out of 4 of those things now, almost there!

What steps did you take to create your own business?
what i do full-time now is what i’ve always done on nights and weekends after the day jobs. making things gradually took up more and more of my time, and gradually began paying the bills. i still augment my blissen income with other freelance jobs.

What kind of formal education, training or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
i avoided the “real world” as much as possible by going back to school whenever whatever latest day job i had became too tedious to bear. all of my degrees have been in design: fashion, illustration, design theory, and most of my jobs have been in small companies or freelance.

How did you first begin to sell/market your work?
i’ve always worn clothes or accessories i’ve made myself, and often would be asked to make more by friends or strangers. it wasn’t until i got my own website and the ccnow payment system, and later paypal came along, that i realized the possibility of having my own “line” or “company.” if it weren’t for the internet, i don’t think i would be where i am now!

What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? The most frustrating? 
the most rewarding thing about being self employed is that i can set my own schedule. i’m braindead between 3 – 6 pm, so that’s when i slack off or run errands. i’m most math/planning productive in the morning and most creative at night. generally i love what i do and am thrilled to finally be able to do it just about all day and night, everyday. sometimes i try not to work so much and have a “normal” life with friends and weekends off and vacations and such, but then quickly get bored or broke and get back to work!

Do you have any fears about what you do, and if so, how do you deal with them?
there’s always the fear of having to return to a crappy day job again, which just makes me work harder!

How do you deal with creative blocks?
i have years of sketchbooks of ideas so i can always consult those. but, generally, my problem is too many ideas and not enough time and money to see them all through!

What has been your biggest struggle(s)/challenge(s) with your creative career?
balancing time and money!

What kind of work environment do you have?
my sewing studio is in what’s supposed to be the master bedroom of my converted live/work space, the shipping area is in what’s supposed to be the kitchen/ dining room, and i do all my drawing on the couch in front of the tv at night.

Have you encountered any financial obstacles, and if so, how did you overcome them?
as i said before, if it weren’t for the internet i probably would not be able to do what i do! before the internet came along, having a small business like mine took a lot more money to start up and maintain. also credit cards have been a big help when orders come in that i don’t have the cash flow to produce.

What is your definition of success?
living where you want to live, doing what you want to do, surrounded by people you want to be surrounded by.

Who or what are your inspirations?
i like to go for walks or hikes, or travel, or read non-fiction books or magazines. anything that gets me out of my usual routine.

Words of advice for those pursuing their creative goals:
i didn’t realize until very recently how helpful it is to make a plan with concrete goals to reach, and outline steps on how to get there from where you are presently. strangely, that’s not something that was really taught in all my years of design school, but it’s the most helpful tip i’ve learned on my own.

Do you know any helpful/inspirational books, websites, organisations etc.?
for essential business and legal stuff, check out the books on nolo.com; for essential graphic design/ illustration business practices check out the graphic artist’s handbook from gag.org. you can also borrow these from any good library if you’re short on funds.

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