ARTIST INTERVIEW: Jenna and Cary of Ace & Jig
Artists: Jenna Wilson & Cary Vaughan
Ace&jig is a textile love story. In 2010, designers Jenna Wilson and Cary Vaughan set out to create a season-less women’s collection from their own yarn-dye, woven fabric that they design. They work one-on-one with weavers in India to create timeless garments from their own textile designs, as interesting in texture as in color and pattern. Their aim is to create effortless clothing that can be worn many ways, for many years. The colors and silhouettes shift, but each collection is anchored by the stripe. They believe yarn-dye stripes, whether created by alternating textures or through pops of saturated color, are an iconic and timeless medium, and an endless source for reinvention.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now.
We met in Soho Circa 2001! We were the first interns for a company called Language in the fast fashion world of NYC. Jenna was steaming and Cary was ironing. We instantly bonded and discovered we had a shared love of all things vintage, rummaging through antique markets, finding textiles that breathed history and soul. We worked together for many years at Language NYC and LaRok, learned a TON, had endless late nights, traveled the world, and eventually decided to branch out on our own after the births of our first children. It all started in a teeny tiny space in a shared studio on 7th street and avenue A that was in a basement and was max 100 square feet. We went there at nights after our day job. Omg it was crazy – this pace all split up among struggling artists- all following their own dream. Our’s was to make our own fabric. Thus ace&jig, inspired by the initials of each of their firstborn children (Alice and James), was born.
Our aim was to create effortless clothing from our own yarn dye woven fabric designs. We searched all over until we found our partners, textile experts working on ancient handlooms in India who could help us make our designs a reality. We wanted to slow down a bit and get off the hamster wheel in this fast paced industry.
Our first collection was Fall 2010 with just 3 fabrics. People were like – you can’t do a line with just 3 fabrics. But we persisted, stayed true to who we were and slowly grew and now each season we make around 25 custom textiles. We could not have done it without our amazing team and engaged community. We have been able to create a no waste company where we can give back and do more than just make clothing, but our love for textiles remains unchanged.
Do you have any objects you like to keep around you as inspiration? What are they?
We have endless baskets of fabric scraps which we reference for patterns, textures, color combinations, and weight, all collected through our collective years of travels. But we also pull inspiration from everything all around us – the vibrant colors of a late fall sunset, the vintage yellow of a metal lunchbox, a funny color combo from one of our kids’ drawings, the texture in the small lot of rags we bought from a rug salesman in Morocco (who though we were crazy for buying his rags)….the list goes on.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
For us, the ideas and inspiration have always been boundless! It’s been less about finding them, and more about finding the time to bring them to life. It’s a continual struggle, but we’re getting better at this! And we have a long list of exciting things in the works and around the bend.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
100%! Community is essential. It’s what drives us forward – the community of artists around us, the women we work with here and in India, and the fans/friends of the brand that has sprung up over the years. We consider ourselves beyond lucky to be have this and a big part of the reason we’ve never felt a lull in our enthusiasm and excitement for what we make. Our community continues to excite, surprise, and inspire us.
How do you define success in your art or craft or alternatively what does failure mean to you?
Success to us is a combination of these things: We find joy in seeing and hearing from all kinds of women that wearing ace&jig makes them really feel like themselves, creating a strong community where women connect and become IRL friends that support each other, being able to give back to organizations that we care about, and focusing our energy on no waste initiatives and passion projects. Wait!- Oh and seeing Madonna wearing an ace&jig dress to her son’s birthday party was a WOW moment. Never did we think when we were teens dancing to Like a Virgin …that that day was going to come.