Say “Kate Spade New York” to the fashion-savvy, and visions of sophisticated, chic designer womenswear and accessories come to mind. Some of those visions may be of designs by our very own Jessica Bourque BFA ’07, who has worked at Kate Spade New York as a textile designer since 2013. She designs prints for apparel, handbags, scarves, shoes, and other product categories, and her path to this job is as varied as some of her designs.
When Bourque was a high school student in Canterbury, Conn., a neighbor mentioned the University’s Hartford Art School (HAS) during her college search. After a campus visit, attending open houses, and portfolio day at HAS, she says one thing sealed the deal—“the kind and encouraging nature of the faculty members who reviewed my portfolio.”
“When I started at HAS, I had every intention of being a painting major,” Bourque says. But, in her sophomore year, a friend encouraged her to take a lithography class in the printmaking department. In the lithography process, images are drawn on a smooth stone or metal surface, etched, inked, and then printed. A different stone or plate is used for each color.
“I instantly felt a connection to the process of the medium and the opportunity to develop greater depth in tone through the print process,” she says with great passion. “I also liked that it was a bit of a surprise once your work was printed compared to what it had looked like sketched onto paper.”
Bourque graduated summa cum laude with a major in printmaking and minors in painting and art history. She says her professors were always encouraging and realistic about what it’s like in the “real world.” “They shared their personal experiences as working artists, which allowed us to see that it was possible to have a career doing something you love,” she explains.
After graduation, Bourque taught art at a school, took courses in silk-screening, and worked at a summer arts camp. It was there that she met a textile design artist. “It was my first introduction to what textile design entailed,” she says, “and I realized it was the perfect marriage of my love of screen printing, color, pattern, and a little bit of fashion.”
After taking more print design courses part-time, she enrolled in an MFA program in 2011. A portfolio day there landed her an internship at Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) in 2012 and, shortly after completing her MFA in 2013, she joined Kate Spade New York.
“As a company, we look to a lot of vintage fabrics for inspiration and re-design them to suit the brand identity and color palette for the season,” Bourque adds. “The Kate Spade muse is inspired by [a woman who] travels often and by the idea of ‘leading an interesting life.’”
Inspired by UHart, where she found her passion, Bourque herself is certainly leading an interesting life as an artist thus far.