Conversations with the Makers

An array of questions to fibre/textile artists and their answers.

header photo

Conversation with Jill K Berry, USA

Jill K. Berry is a mixed-media artist who makes story-telling structures that often involve maps, symbols, and poetry. Her work has been widely published in books and magazines, including, Somerset Studio, Letter Arts Review, Cloth, Paper Scissors, Art Journaling, Drawing Lab, Journal It!, The Complete Decorated Journal, 1000 Artists’ Books, and Art at the Speed of Light. She has written two books: Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking and Map Art Lab, due May 2014

Her paintings and artists’ books have been shown in national invitational and juried shows and can be found in public and private collections across the U.S.A. She has taught at five universities, and various other institutions around the globe. 

Art Blog:
Map Blog:


CONVERSATION WITH THE MAKERS (CWTM)Did you always envision a life as an artist?

JILL BERRY (JB) Some sort of art, yes. My college degree is in interior design as a practical move. My heart was always in fine arts.


CWTM What was your first experience with making art?

JB Painting my baby brother blue when I was three.


CWTM Do you have a dedicated studio?

JB Yes, in the basement of my home.


CWTM Can you describe a typical day?

JB Coffee, kids off to school, carpool, walk the dog. Down to the studio to take care of emails and all things electronic, then make tea and start the art.


CWTM Would you consider your art making to be more about the process than the outcome?

JB I wish I always felt this way! Sometimes deadlines are looming and the product is the focus. The days were I just toss stuff around in the studio to see what happens are my favorite days.


CWTM Do you agree that a small element of uncertainty about the finished look is what makes the process of creating so enticing?

JB Absolutely. The journey of creating a new piece is so thrilling just because of that mystery.


CWTM Any indispensable tools or equipment?

JB Way to many to count. I love my paints, dyes, all kinds of surfaces, threads, papers.


CWTM Do your pieces start with a planned course of action or are they more spontaneous?

JB About half and half I guess. They end up veering off course if I plan them too much, so I don’t do much planning unless it is a commission.


CWTM How do you know when to “stop” – when do you consider a piece actually finished?

JB When I have to ask myself if it is time to stop, the answer is “yes”. There seems to always be a moment that announces itself when  a piece is done, it seems clear. Of course, I do not always listen…..


CWTM Your greatest source of inspiration is….

JB Stories, poems, mysteries.


CWTM Favourite quote?

JB I am inspired by this quote from Salvador Dali, because I think we would all like to feel like this, at least once!

“Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dalí?”


CWTM When do you do your best creative thinking?

JB Early in the morning or the middle of the night.


CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

JB It makes me feel like a magician. The act of creating is a gift I have chosen to honor, and it means the world to me to be able to express myself visually especially when it may be difficult to do so verbally.


CWTM Best advice you’ve ever received?

JB “You have to earn the right to be frustrated, and it is not at the beginning of learning a new craft.”


CWTM Worst advice you’ve ever received?

JB “Start with branding yourself.”


CWTM Best part of your day?

JB When I feel finished and happy with what I am doing.


CWTM Who would be 6 people that you would invite to dinner?

JB Mark Twain, Anne Lamott, John Singer Sargent, Wayne Thiebaud, Raffaello, Maya Angelou


CWTM What inspires your creativity?

JB Sometimes a story, or another artist. Sometimes a poem, or wise words. Being in a group of creatives.


CWTM What are you excited about right now in the world of textile art?

JB The possiblities to make mixed-media maps


CWTM You’d be lost without…

JB The internet


CWTM What would you do with a few extra hours each day? 

JB Hike more 


CWTM Your favourite luxury in life? 

JB Good coffee


CWTM Has the advancement of computers and technology impacted your work?

JB No, I actually have gone from being computer geeky crazy (I started with the first Mac) to getting back into my hands. That said, I love doing research on the internet.


CWTM What do you enjoy most about your work?

JB How it changes in content, color, message, size, shape and material


CWTM Is it important for us to be recognized by the art world and if so, how can we help affect that change?

JB I am not sure how to answer this. Some of the best known artists I know are not the ones I admire most. Ambition is not paired with talent, that is for certain.


CWTM What is next for you?

JB Online classes, larger mixed-media maps