Collect, Make, Explore: interview with author Jessica Wascak

By Hannah Schenker

Here at The Natural Parent, we believe in children being allowed to be children when they are young. To freely explore the world around them, learning as they go as organically as possible.

We spoke to a mother and artist who shares the same philosophy – Jessica Wascak. Jessica is a full-time artist, part-time blogger, former art professor, and author. Her own artwork always has a natural thread running through it, but since she had her two children, she has been pulled to write a book.

Collect, Make, Explore is “a sweet visual field guide that shares ways that I have connected our children to the natural world using nature art, outdoor explorations, and an ever evolving natural lifestyle”.


The passion: What inspired you to write your book? Is this your first book?

I believe strongly that the earth and the body are one in many ways.  I often explore the push and pull between the corporeal and the ethereal ~ seeking out the connections that our spirits have to this world we live in.

This being said, much has changed in my world.  My husband and I now share our lives with our two amazing little children.  As I looked back on the ways that my day to day experiences have been structured over this time I came to realize that without knowing it the same core investigations that tie my artwork together have also helped shape my parenting philosophy and practices.  This was such an eye opening realization.

This realization fueled my almost obsessive need to all of a sudden focus all my attention on writing this book.  And now about four months later here I am – the first book I’ve ever written published and in my hands. I am excited to have the opportunity to inspire others to bring their families a little closer to the natural world through nature art, outdoor explorations, and an ever evolving natural lifestyle.

The Launch: How did you start out in the beginning? Did you self-publish?

I did self-publish and I began this project with a lot of research on the topic well before even knowing what type of book I wanted to write.  For a while I had a long commute to work on my hands so I took advantage of this and listened to a lot of podcasts and books on tape. These gave me valuable insight and inspiration as an independent artist and overall creative entrepreneur.

After I had the idea for the book I sat down and gathered all the photographic source material I had instinctively collected over the years.  The photos of my day to day experiences acted as the roadmap for the book.

The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you in writing this book?

Honestly, I started writing this book using a photographic outline so to speak.  Not necessarily a traditional way to formulate the structure of the written material but as a visual artist it made sense to me.  Yet by doing things this way I was writing in a stream of consciousness style for a bit, waiting for the bigger picture of the book to hit me and eventually it did.  I work this way when creating images in my artwork as well.  I work and work and then when a title comes to me for the work I feel like all the puzzle pieces fall into place.  When I came up with the title for the book, “Collect. Make. Explore.” I knew I finally had a clear plan and the book unfolded rather quickly after that.

Yin and Yang: How do you balance writing and family?

Balance is a tricky thing! I was a full-time professor in Digital Art for ten years and right before having my second child in 2015, resigned to focus on being a mom, an artist, and an author, full time.  With the help of family nearby, I am able to work for approximately 5-6 hours a week during the day.  Then after the kids go to bed I start the night shift, working for 1-2 hours before bed when I can.  Being a master of time management, shifting gears, and being eternally grateful for all life has to offer, allows me to feel a little closer to the elusive balance we all seek.

The Drive: What challenges have you overcome?

The feeling of never having enough time is probably my biggest challenge.  I always have multiple projects percolating in my head or started in real time.   I have to constantly remind myself that they cannot all happen at once.  Especially not when I am trying to be a mother to young children.  Some days I am able to move past this challenge better than others.  Developing a way to create a positive mindset is the best tool I have come up with to overcome the anxiety that can creep in when I am not able to work as quickly as I might like.

Practicing a natural lifestyle has been a life saver.  I focus on letting the natural world in which figuratively and literally allows for a breath of fresh air when I need it the most.  Getting the kids and myself out to throw stones in the creek, hike in the forest, or watch the sunset gives me a great understanding of the bigger picture and provides a little bit of Zen.

Hopes and dreams: What next?

I have another book that I’m trying to figure out that is geared more towards authenticity in art and self.  I have also been fixating on stars and trees as of late. As I begin research on these topics I believe they are going to find a way into my writing or artwork soon. Continuing to develop my studio practice and to reach a wider audience with my artwork is an ongoing project of course. So many wonderful things ahead, excited to see what the Universe has in store for me next.

Head over to Jessica’s website to find out more or purchase a copy.

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