Photo by Emily Tirella
Jessamy Shay Kilcollins is a textile artist, mender, and fashion designer whose work focuses on sustainability and handcraft processes. She holds a BFA in Fibers and a Certificate in Fashion Design from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. In January 2020, she was one of eight designers from the Northeast selected to participate in a sustainable fashion design competition called Project Upcycle, and she was awarded second place for her gala look sewed from repurposed secondhand clothing. Her current project is AMENDED, a collection of creatively mended vintage garments that would otherwise end up in the textile waste stream.
Jessamy has taught mending in the Boston area at the The Eliot School of Fine and Applied Arts, Make & Mend, the Cambridge Public Library, and the Somerville Public Library. She also participates in sustainability-focused mending pop-up events in and around Somerville, where she co-owns High Energy Vintage with her partner. They live with two cats and way too many chairs in an old nut factory.
As a mending and textile artist, I am interested in the intersection of functionality, sustainability, and personal expression. My work consists of two related facets: designing and hand crafting collections of one of a kind visibly mended and upcycled garments for sale; and teaching mending classes in group settings in the greater Boston area.
My mended pieces, released in small mini-collections which are united under the name AMENDED, are crafted from damaged vintage clothing sourced from thrift stores and textile recycling facilities. Handcraft processes like embroidery, applique, and darning (an old fashioned process by which missing fibers are rewoven or reknit to repair holes) are used to creatively repair these discarded garments, usually highlighting the fact of the repair rather than hiding it. The materials I use are often secondhand too, found at flea markets, online resale platforms, and gifted from the community through a local buy nothing group. By utilizing as many pre-existing materials as possible, I minimize the environmental impact of creating fashion and rescue these textiles from a devastating waste stream.
The pieces I make are entirely dependent on what I find in my sourcing. I seek out garments and materials made of natural fibers for their comfort and longevity. Some of my favorite garments to work with are jeans, wool sweaters, and flannel - practical pieces that tend to get a lot of use in one’s wardrobe. Elements such as antique lace doilies, vintage table linens, and blocks from unfinished quilt projects are used to patch holes and cover stains; missing buttons are occasionally replaced with a mismatched but coordinating substitution; and embroidery and hand stitching in bright colors often tie all of these components together.
The second facet of my work involves teaching mending techniques at various local venues like libraries and craft schools. Sharing my mending knowledge feels especially crucial at a time when many people are becoming aware of the precarious situation our environment is in, and are interested in taking steps to change their personal impact. My workshops cater to a range of skill levels, ranging from those who have never threaded a needle to experienced crafters looking to expand their skill set. In addition to learning to mend, these workshops also provide an opportunity for creating community, which is especially welcome as we slowly emerge from the pandemic. Teaching has become a nourishing part of my art practice over the last year, allowing for an exchange of knowledge and ideas that benefits not just my students, but me as well.
The human experience is intimately entangled with fabric: we show the world who we are through our clothing choices; we keep ourselves warm with quilts passed down through generations; and we rest after a long day in our favorite upholstered chair. Textiles are so ubiquitous that some become easy to forget, like the holey jeans living at the bottom of a drawer, long ago replaced by a brand new pair, or the moth-eaten sweater in the back of the closet, unwearable but seemingly too nice to throw away. I seek to reconnect with these forgotten textile items, interacting thoughtfully and intentionally with their innate histories and teasing out the stories they have yet to tell.
2019 Fashion Design Certificate, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston MA
2007 BFA Fibers, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston MA
TEACHING ARTIST EXPERIENCE
2022-Present Somerville Public Library, Central and West Branches, Somerville MA
2022-Present Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts, Jamaica Plain MA
2022 Make & Mend, Somerville MA
2022 Cambridge Public Library, Valente Branch, Cambridge MA
3/2020-Present Mending Pop-up Events with We Thieves
2019 Mendi’s Boston Style Revival at Artisan’s Asylum, Somerville MA
2016 Fiber Installation at Starlabfest Arts & Music Festival, Art Farm, Somerville MA
2020 Second Place, Project Upcycle, 3S Artspace, Portsmouth NH
Jane Milburn, "Jessamy Kilcollins enjoys the thrill of sewing garments that fit her body," YouTube [Video], May 30, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp2S9HS98e4
Jeanné McCartin, “Project Upcycle competition culminates Nov. 7 in virtual broadcast,” Seacoastonline, November 6, 2020. https://www.seacoastonline.com/story/entertainment/2020/11/06/project-upcycle-competition-culminates-nov-7-virtual-broadcast/6185533002/