TSKC's Sarah McCrorey interviews embroidery babe Jessica Dorrell!
Jessica is an embroiderer and blogger who just left the world of improv (shout out to Dallas Comedy House) to delve into the world of entrepreneurship. We talk about all of those things, as well as, how important community is, coping with mental health and paying tribute to inspiring ladies after they pass on.
Okay, so let’s talk about Babes Never Die… what inspired you?
Well, I have been making things for friends since forever. People were saying I should start to sell my creations, but I felt strange about it. Finally, I had a week off of work between Christmas and New Year's and I used it to set up my website, launching it on New Year’s Day 2017. To sum it up, having my community’s support is really what has really inspired me to make my website.
2017? Cool, I didn't realize you’ve had it up since then.
Yeah, I just eased into it and mostly had my built in support (friends) in the beginning.
That’s something I have noticed about entrepreneurship fairly recently, you can’t expect to be a success instantaneously.
I hear Mark Zuckerberg didn’t try to make money for the first year and look how that turned out…
So how did you come up with the name for your website?
The name is actually a title of a song by the band Honey Blood and I was making the playlist before the… election.
(nervous laughter from both of us)
I know, I know *trigger warning*…I was making this playlist that was all angry girl bands called Stay Mad, and I found the band while making it. They had a song called “Babes Never Die” and I immediately identified so hard with it. I also really wanted to get a tattoo at the time, so that became my new life motto. I do have a tattoo that glitters and sparkles and says “Babes Never Die” now. So, when I was looking for a name for my website it was right in front of me. It encompassed everything I wanted for my business. It was empowering, as well as, dark and weird, something I’ve always felt was a part of me. Also it emphasizes that being a babe is an attitude above all else.
What is your personal philosophy on creating your own business?
For me, take it slow. It’s hard. I’ve always wanted to work for myself, but there’s not a ton of info on how. I have a full-time IT job, so it’s hard to balance full time with running a business. I’ve really had to reassess my priorities and realize that my time is money, but also remember to take breaks. It’s a lot to juggle. Still, I try remind myself that I'm learning as much as i can at work that will help my business later on.
Yeah, I’m sure the corporate world helps you learn systems to assure that things get done in proper time. So what’s in the future for BND?
My big plan is to create a huge community space for artists, because there isn’t much like that in Dallas for people to work with. Even when looking for studio spaces you have to be some defined artist and/ or showing at galleries. I think it’s really important for these sort of spaces and classes to be open to the broader community and to have free resources. Not sure when this will happen, but that’s my long term vision.
I love that. If only we had art spaces like libraries.
So I know that you have big love for your improv community, let’s talk about it. In one of your posts, you talk about how Dallas Comedy House has been there for you and how it gave you the courage to start new endeavors. Can you recall a specific moment that you remember noticing yourself feeling more ready to say “yes and” in real life?
Oh my god, I could talk about improv all day. First, you learn “yes and” and then you notice the people around you that are so negative, including yourself. So, it made me aware of all the things I was saying “no” to and how I was seeing things through a negative lens. When I started my business I knew all the improvisors would have my back. The positivity is so infectious. Having them gave me the courage to start my business and step away from improv to focus on it.
What is your favorite aspect of improv?
Just getting on stage with friends and having stupid fun! Not having a plan and getting up there is amazing. Being in my troupe, Summer Girls, felt like a slumber party.
Wow! I love women in comedy, I am always seeking them out.
Yes, I was very lucky to help start an all-ladies group called Queso Queens at DHC, that is still happening today. Dallas Comedy House has a lot of female troupes and they have ladies night with an hour of stand-up, sketches and improv. It’s a very powerful environment for women. Amanda, the owner, is always there, she is the head of it. Watching her run around in businesswoman mode was so inspiring.
I will definitely have to see a show next time I’m in Dallas. It seems like that community has been so important for you…
It has and I feel like it’s my duty to give back to the community. For example, I'm working on a zine right now and I asked people to submit stories, poems and more about women in their lives who have passed that inspired them. The feedback has been very positive, and I’m so excited for it to come out. Being able to provide emotional outlets and eventually learning outlets is a cornerstone of my business. There is so much going on and I feel like any platform I have, I have to use it.
That sounds like a very cathartic zine, I’ll be keeping an eye out for that. It’s so important, especially since women often experience erasure once they have passed.
Yeah! The whole idea came from the Call Your Girlfriend podcast when they talk about sending each other women’s obituaries. I had never thought about how few obituaries there are in comparison to deaths. I went down a rabbit-hole of reading small town obituaries and seeing all these “wife of” “mother of” feeling like these people were so much more than that. So, I really wanted to provide a place for people to talk about it and process their emotions.
Yes! I remember that episode. I’m glad you are providing your community a place to grieve as well as celebrate. So, is improv the first time you felt this sense of community?
I think college was the first time I felt that. Freshman year, meeting you and Elizabeth and such a strong group of women with strong personalities was amazing. With improv it was like that times one million because we are all on stage together and spending so much time together.
Yeah, that time really cultivated feelings of community for me, too! I had one more question about improv, do you have any advice for people who want to do improv, but are a little shy?
Sign up as early as you can and just forget about it until day of, and then just do it! You can take classes, so do that. Remember you are not alone in improv like you are in stand up, and if you feel alone, everyone is doing something wrong. So my advice is just to take the leap and don’t think too much about it. Even if the audience doesn’t laugh, your team is up there laughing.
Okay, don't overthink it. Got it. So what made you passionate about mental health issues?
Well, I have them! I have depression and anxiety and I have to take care of myself. I felt like improv really helped with my anxiety, but when I stopped it got worse. So I had to see a therapist and get on meds and it’s also changed my life in ways that improv has. It feels like this is how my brain is supposed to feel. So, since feeling better after 10 years of not paying attention to my mental health, I want to be open and hopefully help build a community to support others going through the same thing.
I like that you are incorporating it with color and everyday life.
For me, making sure that it’s not stigmatized and not a hard pill to swallow is very important to me.
A very worthy cause. Anything else you do for mental health?
I see a talk therapist and a psychiatrist and I try to take breaks, so I don't burn out. I have also have been taking better care of my physical health the last year. I found a community to work out with. Another amazing community of women. I feel like I am being held up by lots of groups of women.
There you have it! Nothing better than a supportive community. Check out Jessica’s work at babesneverdie.com