We discovered the work of Jessica of Knask Designs through our Unglued Craft Fest this past year and have loved seeing the crazy variety of art she creates with wood! Whether it’s an inspiring quote by Amanda Gorman or a beautiful Minnesota scene with a loon, it’s been really fun to keep up with her creativity and new pieces she makes—and our community has loved it too!
Tell us a bit about yourself:
Hi! I’m Jessica. I grew up in various communities around Minnesota before moving to Seattle in 2006 to continue my education in Theoretical Linguistics. My husband and I loved living on the coast but decided to move back to the Fargo-Moorhead area in 2015 to be closer to our families as our son grows up.
Besides my art, my other passion comes from teaching about the Norwegian language and culture. For the past 21 summers, I have made my way to Bemidji to work at Skogfjorden—Concordia’s Norwegian Language Village—to help bring the joy of learning language to life. Skogfjorden plays a huge part in my life, including where I met and married my husband of 10 years, and has been the key motivator in raising our son in a Norwegian-speaking home.
When I’m not creating, I spend my time reading, going on bike rides with my family (the Moorhead Dairy Queen is a frequent stop) and enjoying time with friends. I’m definitely an introvert at heart and spending time by myself helps me to refuel.
Describe what type of products you make?
I like to say that I make art with wood and heat. I try to create pieces that fuse beauty, function and a natural element. From earrings and keychains (with a local flair!) to wood “paintings,” I try to be playful and positive in what I create.
Tell us how you got started with laser cutting.
I started out as a pyrographer. Over my years at Skogfjorden, I have honed my skill for wood-burning the wooden name tags that we all wear throughout our sessions. These little treasures have become a tradition for my family that we use to highlight important milestones from the past year.
As my interest in art grew, my medium had to grow too. I bought my laser last fall and my art has evolved with it. Since then, I have enjoyed experimenting with different woods, playing with the wood grain and even using acrylic and leather in some of my pieces.
Where does your inspiration come from for the type of signs you make?
I try to keep my pieces uplifting, so typically a new idea comes from a quote I’ve heard recently or something happening in the world. I’ve recently gathered inspiration from such varied places as a children’s book to the war in Ukraine. The goal for every piece is to create something that adds joy or positivity into a person’s life. While I am usually a bit snarky and sarcastic, I haven’t been able to create art from that part of my personality as I would rather put more optimism in the world through my art. And at the end of the day, I only create things that I would put in my own home which helps to keep my work focused.
What is your personal favorite creation so far?
My favorite creation so far was a set of customized family nisser that I made for my mom for Christmas last year. My mom has been attending the Nordic Holiday Craft weekend that I have been running for the past five years so nisser has become a pretty big part of our holiday experience. The family nisser I made last year each had a little icon to show who they represented like a king of hearts for my stepdad, a dinosaur for my son and a coffee cup for me. I’m looking forward to seeing them hanging on our stockings for years to come.
A close second would be anything I have created as a custom order for someone. Having someone else put their faith in my work is really meaningful. From more than 100 50’s themed name tags for a 60th anniversary party to a display piece for a Boy Scout Arrow of Light, figuring out a new challenge and learning from the process is very rewarding.
What is something people might find surprising about working with the type of process you do?
I think people would be surprised about how much time I spend on the computer. What I love about this art is the fusion of graphic art with wood.
Using my computer to translate what is in my head onto a wood surface is very gratifying, especially when something new comes together how I envisioned it. Plus, my house always smells nice now too! (That is… if you like the smell of burned wood.)
What is something you’ve enjoyed the most about doing this handcrafted business?
I have really loved the freedom it has given me to pursue new interests. Being my own boss allows me to dive deep into a project when I want but to also take a breather when I’ve hit a creative wall. I also love the feeling when someone else appreciates my work like I do. Bringing a little piece of joy into someone else’s world is an amazing feeling.
I am also very thankful for what pursuing this path has done for my family. My husband is also an artist and art teacher and now our son is pursuing his own artistic path. He has his own goals for his own art business and I love seeing him work towards his own dreams and bring them to life through art.
What is the most challenging thing?
The most challenging thing is limiting myself and managing my time. I definitely go on “creative benders” and somehow it’s 4:00 a.m, and I have forgotten to sleep… again! The process is very rewarding and I love doing it, so sticking to some sort of schedule and balancing the other aspects of my life can be tricky.
What is a word that best describes you?
Organized—I do love a good spreadsheet! One of the best compliments I ever received was from a dear friend and mentor who told me I was the perfect combination of “get sh*t done” and “dream big,” and that those attributes of order and creativity don’t often go hand-in-hand.
What advice would you have given yourself 10 years ago?
To take risks and not worry about having the next steps planned out. That being happy at the end of the day is more important than being comfortable.
Where can people find your work?
I currently have some items available at Unglued in Fargo and more on my website (knask-designs.square.site/). Hopefully, I will also be at the upcoming Night Bazaars and Christkindlmarkt. I will keep my event schedule up-to-date on social.
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