A Crafty Questionnaire: Jessica Tai

From her Brooklyn studio (located along the C subway line), Jess Tai of C Line Creations has spent the past two years melding traditional Chinese art techniques with modern functionality, giving rise to a line of best-selling knotted hair accessories and handpainted cards. This east-meets-west approach evolved naturally, reflecting her life as an Asian woman who grew up in America with an appreciation for Chinese culture (her parents grew up in Taiwan). Taking a page from the stylized, intricate designs of Chinese brush painting and patterns, Jess creates vibrant watercolors for the home, and personal accessories with bold satin knots.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness would be doing something that I love for a living that also gives me a flexible work schedule so I may comfortably raise a family and be surrounded at all times by the people that matter the most to me. Not much to ask, right?

What is your greatest fear?
It may be cliché, but spiders really freak me out. All those long hairy legs, bulbous eyes, and creepy-crawliness… ick.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Hm… I’m not really sure actually.

Which living person do you most admire?
My parents, equally between my mom and my dad. They came over to the US for grad school, not knowing the language and having no family nor friends in the area. That sort of courage blows my mind, and the fact that they were able to thrive and provide a wonderful life for my younger brother and me as we grew up.

Do you have a theme song, and what is it?
If I had to pick one, probably "Don’t Stop Me Now" by Queen. It always puts me in a good mood and gets me pumped up for whatever I need to do.

What is the trait you most like in yourself?
Determination and resourcefulness, both of which have served me well in my crafting life, as well as through school, sports, and other activities.

What is the trait you most like in others?
I really admire a good sense of humor. My dad and my brother constantly make me laugh, which is, for obvious reasons, hilarious.

What is your greatest extravagance?
After discovering Etsy, I’ve definitely become slightly obsessed with handmade soaps. I have a growing stash sitting in my bathroom, but I can’t help browsing shop after shop and coveting all those yummy soaps. Handmade jewelry has caught my eye as well – I’m planning on purchasing a bubble lace ring in the next few days, which I’m very excited about.

When and where were you happiest?
Probably when I was a baby. I don’t remember it at all, but if old home videos are any indication…I used to dance gleefully anytime my parents played the soundtrack to the Broadway show “Cats.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would make myself more patient and less stubborn, though I guess that’s two things…

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
This is going back a bit, but I used to be a very avid gymnast. My junior year in high school, I tore my ACL and had to undergo reconstructive surgery. After a year of rehab and training, I was able to come back and win the all-around state championship in my senior year.

If you were to be reincarnated as a person, animal, or thing, what do you think you would be?
Probably a kitten. It is strangely ironic that I love cats so much, since I am rather allergic. But I can’t imagine a better existence than sleeping, eating, chasing a couple squirrels or birds, napping, eating, being cuddled and petted, and sleeping some more.

What is your most treasured possession?
A few old letters from some of my friends and family. Things like that are really priceless.

Which talent or skill would you most like to have?
Ceramics, I love ceramics. But I am absolutely terrible at it. Anything I throw on a wheel comes out lopsided, if it doesn’t completely collapse in on itself.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Like I said before, my parents are amazing. They have so much courage, and I am so appreciative of everything they have done to help me and shape me.

What is it the one thing you dislike the most?
This may be kind of weird, but one of my biggest pet peeves is when drivers don’t turn off their turn signals after switching lanes. It drives me crazy!

What is your motto?
I don’t know if it’s a motto per se, but I always believe that you should just concentrate on what you are doing and don’t worry about anyone else. As long as you are happy with your own work, it shouldn’t really matter what other people think or what other people are making.

Who are your favorite artists?
I’ve always liked Dali and his melting clocks. I think it’s because most of my fine art (Chinese brush paintings) is based on landscapes and nature. It has always been much harder for me to produce art purely out of my imagination, so I really appreciate the way Dali melds reality and fantasy in his pieces.

Is there any invention you wish you had thought of?
Many! But right now, as I sit here with a bowl of amaretto ice cream, I would have to say a refrigerator really makes life so much easier!

What's the first thing you remember making?

Oh, I can’t even really remember… it seems like I’ve always been making things. Well, when my parents finished the basement in their house, back when I was maybe 7 or 8, I made this little clunky dog out of scrap pieces of wood. It still has a place of honor in their downstairs bathroom, acting as a small stand for a potted plant.

Learn more about Jess and her passion for painting and knotting at her Etsy shop, CLineCreations.