I have the pleasure of sharing another unique local treasure with you guys today. Mrs. Jess Carlos of CultGrrrl is a native Houstonian and a regular at our bi-annual Pop Shop Festival. She makes totally original, sometimes creepy, and completely adorable stuffed, crocheted figurines. (How do ya like them adverbs?) Seriously, though, she’s amazing.
Hi! So, please tell us a little about yourself and your artistic background. Where are you from? Where are you now?
Hello, my name is Jess Carlos. I was born and raised right here in Houston, TX. As far as my artistic background…well, not really sure how to answer this. Growing up, my family was always involved in sports but I’ve always been drawn towards performing arts in one way or another, whether it be music or stage performances. I went to the Art Institute of Houston for a couple of years to study Interior Design but found it wasn’t really my “thing”. My ‘day job’ right now is marketing and advertising for a family owned HVAC company which allows me to practice some on computer graphics…but you can only do so much with that haha.
Have you always been crafty and drawn to making things?
Oh yes! I used to make and sell friendship bracelets in grade school. Growing up, my best friend’s family were artists. They would encourage us to create art from all sorts of different mediums. Her father would let us paint ceramics and he would glaze and fire them for us at his studio. They were very supportive of our creative energy. Unfortunately, they moved out of state and I lost that guidance.
What inspired you to build a business around your crocheted oddities?
My grandmother taught me how to crochet many, many years ago. It started off as scarves, beanies, and booties. She always told me my stitches were too tight and I had to loosen my grip on the hook. I could never get the hang of looser stitches so a lot of my scarves and beanies were super small. I was in my early 20’s around this time and was more interested in going out with friends and having a good time so I stopped crocheting for a while. I would pick it up every now and again but it wasn’t something I did all the time (like now).
I walked in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer and needed to raise funds to participate. I thought why not sell some of my crochet items for donations? That was when I found the art of amigurumi (crochet doll making). Your stitches HAVE to be tight so I found my calling haha! Me, being me, couldn’t just make your typical, cute doll. I had to do something ‘different’, something dark, something whimsical. Needless to say, things kind of grew from there, and here is where we are now.
What’s your creative process like when you start a new project? Do you like to sketch and plan or just wing it?
I have a ton of ideas on the back burner right now. Usually, what happens is I get something wild in my head, jot down the idea, draw up a quick sketch, then work something up. Sometimes what I envision is a little more difficult to actually make so I frog (or rip) a ton of the ideas. Sometimes things come out completely different than expected but I run with it anyway. I don’t have patterns I work from, just notes here and there to remind me of how it should be done.
What’s your studio or work-space like?
I’m now lucky enough to have my very own room in the house to work in. I have my desk area for all the boring office part of running a micro business. I have my favorite comfy chair in the corner of the room where the ‘magick’ happens. There is also my ‘work in progress’ table where I keep unfinished items and yarn. I have bins full of yarn under that table (and in closets). There is a small area with plenty of light and light-box for photography. Finally have a small television, mainly for background noise while I work. I’ve been trying to fill my space with art from the different artist I find at a lot of the pop-up shops for inspiration.
What keeps you coming back as a vendor to the biannual Pop Shop Festival?
Mainly, the customers! They are AWESOME! It is so refreshing to get positive feedback from people who truly appreciate the time and effort it takes to handcraft an item. Another notable thing is how well organized the festival is run. Communication with the organizers is fantastic so you know when and where you should be at all times. That is always a plus. 😉
I just snooped on your CultGrrrl Website and saw that you and your husband run a website for underground extreme metal music! That’s so cool! That also adds to your plate, on top of CultGrrrl and raising a young boy. So, what do you like to do to relax?
Yes. I run a website called TheAdversary.org for extreme metal music. I try to keep the Houston metal concert calendar updated there pretty regularly. I haven’t really done interviews / reviews like we use to because life got a little too hectic to really focus on that as much. My husband plays guitar in a death metal band called Saturnatas. That is really where his center of attention is now and is his way of creating art.
I do have a little man, Cyrus. He is my entire world! He is a ballet dancer, a gamer, and all around really cool kid. He cracks me up on a daily basis with his brilliant wit.
What do I do to relax? I crochet. I get into the zone and create. It is so therapeutic, relaxing, and best of all, I can do it ANYWHERE.
What makes you happiest in life?
My family. I’m sure by now you can see my family is a major part of my life. We are a crazy bunch but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Follow CultGrrrl on Instagram to keep up with her fresh creations. Also, get your stalk on, so you may know where to find her vending and probably crocheting another masterpiece.