An Interview with Amy Jolley

This month, painter/textile artist/sewist/milspouse Amy Jolley inspires us to try something new. Change is inevitable, so why not welcome it…or even boldly step out of our comfort zones and seek it?

MilspoFAN: Tell us about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.

Amy: I grew up in Santa Rosa, California. A then small town, it has grown quite a bit. It’s about an hour drive north from San Francisco nestled between Napa, Healdsburg, and the Sonoma Coast, known for its agriculture, wine, and small-town feel. It is also in close proximity to the Sierras, the beach, and the big cities, and was a great place to grow up. I have a twin sister and 2 older sisters. I spent a lot of my childhood playing outside, hiking, camping, and waterskiing with my family. Even though I lived in other places around the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Rosa will always have a special place in my heart. It was here that I fell in love with oil painting and graduated with an Associate of Arts degree from Santa Rosa Junior College, later going on to Sacramento State, only to come back to Santa Rosa to enter my artwork into the Fine Arts Festival in Montgomery Village, where I won a first-place ribbon!

My husband and I met in junior high school and went on to attend the same high school. Even though we didn’t have the same group of friends, we knew of each other.  We had crushes on each other and didn’t even know it. About 20 years after high school, we reconnected on Facebook. He was stationed in Rota, Spain at the time and flew me to Spain to visit for a week. We hit it off right away, and he proposed. I moved to Spain for the next summer, and it was like living in a dream. It was so magical. I have so many fond memories of that time. After the summer was over, I flew back to the states to plan our wedding. After the wedding, we moved to Southern Mississippi. I had never lived outside of California; it was quite a shock, and living far away from my family had its challenges. But I adapted and I grew in so many ways. During this time is when my sewing began to take off. We got together a little later in life, in our late thirties and have been married for 4 years. My husband has been in for 15 years, and my, has it been a whirlwind! Time flies so much faster. 

MilspoFAN: What drew you to the visual arts?

Amy: I feel as though I have always been an artist and I’ve always been drawn to color. As a child, I can remember that I could draw well from observation and I loved using watercolor over crayons. It was magical. My Mom tells me that I always excelled better in grade school if my teachers provided art-based lessons. I took an art class in high school for fun and later on in Junior College. I took an Art Theory class, and I was mixing a lot of paint. I knew from that class that I wanted to attend art school and pursue a bachelor’s degree in Art. My parents were also creative in their own ways and, I believe, greatly influenced me. I learned by watching my parents practicing their own creativity and seeing the sense of satisfaction of a completed project.

My mom was always sewing and crocheting whether that be blankets and quilts, or sewing clothes for my older sisters, my dad, and herself. She also is very good at crochet and cross stitch. My father, on the other hand, was proficient in building and constructing things with his hands. He could fix just about anything. And if he didn’t know how, he’d just figure it out. I’ve always admired this about him. 

MilspoFAN: Describe for us your paintings and the process of transitioning to the textile arts?

Amy: I started out painting just my class assignments, until my junior and senior year of upper grad coursework. My professors were always encouraging me to paint large and what was important to me and to be inspired from the events of my life at that time. Coincidentally, my dad had been battling Dementia and later Alzheimer’s while I was away at college. I really struggled with processing his new dynamic and how our relationship was changing. I channeled a lot of this uncertainty into my paintings. More and more my paintings became larger in size and developed into very abstract pieces where I used color to symbolize emotion and found objects for texture. 

My transition into textile arts was really a matter of circumstance. I had an art friend in college who I’d get together with for a “Crafter noon” about once a month. This friend was an excellent sewist and taught me so much more about the textile arts than I knew before. During the 4 years before I met my husband, I was doing both, painting and sewing. When I met and married my service member, I was looking for a medium that would travel easily with little tools and mess. While I loved painting, I found less and less time and space for it. I wanted to still be creative, so I taught myself embroidery and I still continue to sew bags and smaller items here and there. Sewing is soothing in its own ways and I could still experiment with color and composition just like I’ve done with my paintings.

MilspoFAN: How has your role as a Military spouse impacted your work as an artist- creatively, logistically, or otherwise? 

Amy: There have been times when I haven’t been able to paint or sew at all because of our location or of our living space. And other times, I’ve had to choose one over the other until recently. Since we’ve been on shore duty (Navy), we were able to convert one of the rooms in our house to an art/craft studio for me. I’ve always wanted my own creative space and having it now has helped to encourage my creativity even more.

There is a level of uncertainty of being a Military Spouse because of the constant moves. I have consistently had to readjust and pivot in my creative pursuits depending on our location. At times, it can get very lonely and isolating. To counteract this, I’ve made it a point to create and  

to remember that making art of any kind brings me so much joy and it’s my medicine. 

MilspoFAN: How do you cultivate your creativity?

Amy: I spend a lot of my free time in my creative studio tinkering around, looking at other artists on Instagram, and watching YouTube videos to expand my knowledge. When I’m searching for inspiration, I will visit a local art museum or go for a hike to clear my head. Being a military spouse has only opened me up more to creative possibilities. We move so much, that I am exposed to different ways of living, different cities, and cultures. There is so much inspiration out there.

How do you meet other artists or plug into the local arts scene when you PCS? 

When I arrive at a new city, the first thing my husband and I do is get out and explore. We find the places where the locals like to go, and I look to see what craft or art stores are available and I take a class or two. I look forward to the day when I can again attend a local craft show.

What’s next for you?

I’d like to continue to grow my Etsy shop business and incorporate more of my Circuit Designs into my sewing projects that I’ll be listing. I’m also collaborating with my friend Tiffany Lanza, a photographer, to develop a tarot card deck to blend both of our passions: photography and painting. I’ve enrolled myself in a watercolor class with a local artist and I’d eventually like to create my own line of fabric.

What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to other artists?

Keep creating, making, and learning. Give yourself permission to deviate from the medium that is familiar to you to try something new. You may be surprised at what you discover.

Find Amy on the web at:
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