Q+A with Jill Bent

Today we're interviewing Jill Bent, a designer and seamstress located in Cambridge, MA, where she works from her home studio. Jill's been making beautiful quality handmade goods for the home for quite a few years and so we're thrilled she agreed to answer a few questions about her work.

Tell us a little bit about you. Where did you train or study and what led you to the path you currently are on?
Growing up, both my parents were craftspeople, so it feels natural for me to create handmade things.  I've always been drawn to vintage fabrics and a simple aesthetic, that's were my inspiration comes from.  I learned to sew as a child from the women in my small town, and as an adult, I renewed my skills taking lessons from a friend who is a master seamstress.  I left a career in library science when I had my second child and started my own business sewing and designing because it was something I truly loved, with the added benefit that I could work from home while my children were growing up.

What's your main focus currently and/or how would you describe your current design aesthetic?
Creating simple, useful, and beautiful things is my focus. In the past I have worked mostly with antique and vintage fabrics, and now I am moving away from that a bit, due to availibilty.  It's getting harder to source vintage fabric, but when I find it, I feel very lucky and inspired to make something special.  

Love your work - can you explain that design process?
My design process is very fluid.  Usually I design around a piece of fabric.  I let the texture, color, and weight of the fabric determine what the object will become.  I make my own patterns and often let things evolve design wise as I go along.

For me, designing an object is like solving a geometry problem: figuring out the measurements and the structure and the way the angles and lines will work to create a sturdy frame that will hold up to daily use.  I don't have a background in structural design, so this part of my work is entirely self taught, and often trial and error. 

When I'm sourcing fabric, I'm looking for color, texture, pattern and quality, and if it's right, I know it immediately.  An idea of how to use it will surface later on, but it's the immediacy of the look, feel and history of a particular fabric that draws me in and makes me want to create or transform something.

What designers/makers/architects, etc do you look up to, are influenced by or inspire you?
I am most inspired by the seamstresses who have come before me, the countless women who made clothing and household objects as a way of life.  I love to inspect an old piece of clothing or quilt from the inside out, to see how the maker constructed the object, the seams and the hand stitching.  Often, my work involves taking an older object apart to create a new one, so I get to see how people were doing things in the past and the care they took with their work. 

Any current designers and artists that you admire?
Ann Wood http://www.annwoodhandmade.com/
Pip Squeak Chapeau http://www.pip-squeakchapeau.com/
J. Morgan Puett http://www.finearts.utah.edu/newsandupdates/j-morgan-puett/
Makie http://www.makieclothier.com/home.php
Fog Linen http://www.shop-foglinen.com

Where else do you pull inspiration from?
Museums.  Since I live near Boston there are lots to visit: the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, or any number of New England's historic museum like Sturbridge Village and Strawberry Banke.  Travel.  I've been lucky to travel to some places like Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey to see first hand how craftspeople make textiles.  Movies.  I'm always so inspired by costume and set design in movies.  Films like Jane Eyre, Brightstar, Seraphine.  This past winter, it was Downton Abbey.  I usually watch it first for the plot, then go back again and watch it for the costume and set design.

Any sneak peeks or plans you can share of new or future things on the go?
I just finished making a line of bags and pillows for spring in linens and cottons, and to be honest, I haven't started to think about fall yet.  But again, I think it will be color and texture that serve as my main inspirations: yellows, deep rose, greens, browns, courderoys and wools and handknit things...things to wear, carry, or warm up your home for fall and winter...stay tuned...it will evolve. 

Follow Jill online:

Shop : http:// www.jillbent.etsy.com
Blog : http://www.36shea.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jilltbent
Poppytalk Handmade http://marketplace.poppytalk.com/author/jill-bent/

Jan Halvarson

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