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  • Annette Dawm

Sending It with Jessika Savage

Jessika Savage is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer who is “super-duper into roller skating”! Her passion project, Full Send Studio was created after she attended a pop-up roller rink in Chicago, four or five years ago. Savage recalled how the trendy hotel "had little rental skates there. I put them on and it was like I immediately got transported back to my childhood when I used to skate all the time! I could still remember how to spin in a circle and go backwards! From there, I was hooked! I was like, ‘Wait! Why did I ever stop doing this?’ So it’s been a huge part of my life since rediscovering it… and now I have a whole business kind of built around roller skating. A big part of my audience includes roller skaters and people I’ve met through the roller skating community.”

“I guess I technically started roller skating when I was a toddler.” She continued. “I have a picture with my very first roller skates with the little Fisher-Price Velcro-on, red and yellow plastic roller skates. I definitely grew up on going to the skating rink and roller blading, because that was very cool in the ‘90s…. I used to always build little ramps out of scrap lumber…. I would put them at the end of my driveway and I’d jump off of them. I never thought that I would be still doing that as an adult! I built a full half-pipe in my back yard and I host monthly quad skating meet-ups at skate parks.”

Full Send Studio is best known for designs that feature “mushrooms with roller skate legs”. Jessika described the aesthetic of her work as, “a candy-coated Wonderland” that has surreal and psychedelic elements to it, with a “bad-ass twist”. The mushrooms can be found on various products, such as stickers, fanny packs, zipper pouches and more:

“Obviously anybody could use zipper pouches. You could use them for pencils, markers, makeup—but I also wanted to make sure you could fit a full set of roller skate wheels in them! Everything is very much in service of that community. Luckily, they have the same sense of humour as me!”

“I’m not afraid to use dirty words in my work or make things a little bit risqué here and there. It’s childlike but also mildly inappropriate sometimes…. For me, my illustration work is about having fun and about letting go and letting the silly little ideas and thoughts that are in my mind exist for other people to enjoy. It’s about not taking yourself too seriously and having a laugh! It’s very nonsensical—the more nonsensical, the better…. I have these little ramen ‘Send Noods’ stickers! If it makes me chuckle, then I usually draw it out. I’ll throw it out there and see if it makes other people laugh! Sometimes not, but usually when it’s cheeky like this people will take to it…. If I try to make something for other people by looking at trends and looking at what people are into… it’s not as successful. But when I have an idea like, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if a mushroom had roller skate legs?’ and I am true to myself, those things tend to be the most successful….”

As a graphic designer and illustrator, Jessika is often tasked with creating more “serious” work for other clients that is specific to their brand and audience. She mentioned that this leaves little room for fun. So she decided that Full Send Studio would be a play area for her “inner-child to run rampant.”

“I needed a name for this ‘playground space’ for me…. ‘Full send’ is a term used in a lot of more extreme sports. It kind of just means, ‘Give it your all! Let it all go! Don’t hold back!’ So if somebody’s about to try a trick or something that they’re nervous about, you’d tell them, ‘Just send it! Just send it! Full send! Don’t think about it, just do it!’ That’s kind of what this exploration has been for me. Doing these illustrations and stuff has been a lot of, ‘don’t think about it, just do it!’ ….I just go all out and don’t hold back! ….That’s how I would like to live life as much as possible!”

That being said, Jessika admitted that balancing her client-based jobs with her Full Send work is equivalent to a “tight-rope walk”.

“This business has grown exponentially in the last couple of years.” Savage explained. “It went from not existing to now I’m wholesaling. I’m in boutiques across The United States and I’m also doing my regular Etsy orders and things like that. Lately, I’ve been trying to enjoy the success of Full Send and not letting myself feel super pressured to constantly be creating new products. I have to kind of remind myself that the things I’ve created are continuously selling.” She added that she is constantly restocking her inventory.

“I don’t always have to make something new… and that helps create space for me to be able to do my design work or my commissioned illustration work…. Sometimes I would much rather be doing Full Send because it is my play place. I create things that make me happy. It’s a total passion project! ….I have to keep myself in check and it’s hard sometimes to prioritize one over the other. One holds my heart and one holds my wallet, although I generally try not to take any freelance work if it doesn’t speak to my heart. If it’s not hitting me in terms of who I am as a person, I’m not going to be giving the work what it really needs. So I tend to avoid work that doesn’t speak to me, which is not always an option.”

In terms of her drawing style, Jessika was the type of person to carry a sketchbook with her “at all times”. However, she has shifted to working mostly on her iPad. She also makes digital collages in Photoshop in order to determine various proportions and sizes based on reference images. Once her collage is imported onto the iPad, she can draw it with an Apple Pencil or a similar tool:

“A lot of times when I have my iPad open and I need to work on an illustration for a client, it’s like, ‘I need to warm up before I start drawing'…. Then five hours will pass and I will have created an entire project or product and I’m not doing the work I am supposed to be doing…. Sometimes I’ll have a really complex idea. Maybe I’ll splice a bunch of things together and have a big concept…. I used to sketch things out by hand and then I would go in and trace them digitally. Now I can sketch by hand right on my iPad which is so convenient!”

One of Jessika’s first iPad designs was an illustration called, “Scully Hair, Don’t Care”. It gained a lot of attention online and in prospective job interviews. The poster was also signed by Scully herself, Gillian Anderson!

As Savage explained, “….I left corporate America in 2017. I worked at advertising agencies and I still freelance with advertising agencies here and there…. Out of my entire body of work, the one thing that creative directors and leaders of these agencies were always the most interested in was the one personal project that was on my website…. I was obsessed in the ‘90s with The X-Files! It was my favourite show and so I did this illustration project when I first got my iPad. I needed to practice using it.”

“I always wanted to make a poster of all of Dana Scully’s hairstyles! She’s always been ‘hair goals’ for me. I’ve been a fake redhead since being obsessed with The X-Files when I was like, 14! I started illustrating these and they’re super detailed! All of the little strands of hair are drawn and everything! I made this poster and she signed it! It says, ‘Jessika, this is awesome!

–Gllian Anderson’ and it says, ‘Official Scully Hair Documentarian’! She just scribbled it on here for me!”

“It was just a little passion project. It was a way for me to be creative outside of work. It’s not marketable at all! ….It was the only thing people wanted to talk to me about in job interviews and the thing that they always pointed to, as to why they brought me onto their team….”

People can buy their own (unsigned) poster on Etsy. As with any business venture, having an Etsy account comes with pros and cons. One of the most positive things is that Etsy can reach a lot of people without Jessika having to advertise to them.

“….It makes it very easy for people to find me who aren’t already in my orbit….So someone might pop on Etsy and search for roller skating accessories or mushroom stickers. People who aren’t necessarily following me on social media find my work and relate. It’s always interesting when people relate to my work who are outside of the skate community or other communities that I interact with. I love seeing how that work impacts other people….It’s very easy to set up a shop and get rolling (pun intended).”

On the other hand, Etsy does take a cut from each profit which can be a challenge for sellers. Although it doesn’t happen often, Jessika has found that the customers themselves can also be an issue. For example, she said that people tend to expect items to arrive the next day, even if they live around the world:

“It’s rare, but I have definitely had customers who have ordered things like a sticker and it’s going to France. Then they message me two days after they’ve ordered it and they are upset. They want to know where it is, why it isn’t there yet and that it’s unacceptable. I have to explain to them, ‘Your sticker is coming in The United States Postal Service. Then it will get on a cargo ship or a plane over to France and then your postman is going to bring it to you. It’s probably going to take a week to 10 days. It says that when you order.’”

“Or people will expect a refund if the sticker is smaller than they thought it was, but the dimensions are on the listing…. People really don’t read. We are moving so fast these days, which is fine, but when something isn’t how you expected it, you should go back and reference.” She advised. “I’ve definitely bought something and thought it was going to be ‘XYZ’ and been like, ‘What is wrong with this? What the heck?’ and then I go back and look at my purchase. It says right there that it’s this big…. "

"People want their money back and it’s like, ‘I will give you your money back, but this isn’t Amazon and it’s very damaging to a small business.’ I think that’s something that’s very hard for Etsy sellers—that expectation for that level of customer service…. There’s a lot of pressure from the platform to offer free shipping and it’s not always affordable. It can really cut into a super-small business’ margins. There are some difficulties, but I would say in the end, my customers are absolutely amazing! I can count on one hand how many negative interactions I’ve had and I’ve had 10000 sales or something on Etsy! So I’ll take those odds!”

Starting in May, Jessika and her husband will be going full send in another way, as they set out on a new adventure:

“I am looking forward to a very big life-change coming up. My husband and I are moving. We have an RV and we have been working for years now towards living and travelling full-time…. I’m very, very excited for it! I’m very excited to learn how to bring this work along with me. I still plan on keeping my shop, but I am excited about what being in all of these new places and living life in a different way is going to do for my creative work. I think I’m going to find a lot of new niches and fun things to get into while we’re out there. I’m looking forward to the community that we’re going to meet while we’re out there travelling and really shaking life up a little bit!”

When asked about their upcoming travel plans, Savage replied: “Oh my gosh! I mean, we want to go everywhere and that is kind of the plan! We don’t have an end date. We’re looking at this as more of a life-style change rather than a trip…. I’m very excited to head west. I’ve been in Chicago—in the mid-west my entire life. Two years ago, we spent two months in California during the winter. We just found an Airbnb and drove on Route 66 out there and stayed. I absolutely fell in love with it! We were in the central coast of California, near Monterey and had the accessibility to nature. We were able to hop in the car for five minutes and be at a National or State Park. To be hiking was so, so, so incredible! I’ve been in the city here for 14 years, so I’m definitely feeling drawn to the west. I am also looking forward to exploring more of California. We’re going to head up to The Pacific Northwest this summer and I can’t wait for that! I’ve never been there before! Once it starts to get cold, we’ll start to head south… and hit lots of National Parks along the way. Our map is based on where the National Parks are that we want to visit, where our friends live and where we can conveniently camp with the RV…."

People can follow along with their journey on Instagram. Currently, a YouTube channel “is on the back burner” since there hasn’t been much for them to document yet. However, Jessika is hoping to share the process of redecorating the RV within the next month or so:

“….I want to paint it and put wallpaper and stuff like that. I want to make it feel a little more ‘us’. It feels like it’s more for a grandma and a grandpa right now. Even though it’s not old, it looks old.”

Finally, Jessika Savage gave the following advice for her fellow creatives: “Stay true to yourself! Find your niche! Be weird and go for it! If you’re working in a creative sphere, other creatives will see that and they will gravitate towards that way more than if you create the most beautiful logo for the most interesting company. That’s great, but I think that doing projects that really speak to you and doing things that you’re really passionate about are how I’ve made every career leap and every really big achievement….”

For more information, please follow Full Send Studio on Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Jessika Savage.

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