If we’ve learned anything from popular culture, it is that a reluctant protagonist is the best. When Jessie Uyeda agreed to start a YouTube channel at the request of her brother Ben, her reluctance translated into on-screen confidence.
iJessup’s videos are typically stark, no-nonsense demonstrations on how to simply get things done. Need a table that looks neat but don’t know what you’re doing? Here, this is how iJessup would do it. Feel discouraged, like you need to be a big burly guy with a beard or own a whole wood shop to make cool furniture? Just watch some iJessup and get ready for the inspiration to flow.
We connected with Jessie to hear more about her approach to making projects and videos alike. —Make: editors
When I was a child, my mother always encouraged me and my three siblings to be creative. In hindsight, I think she was most interested in getting the four of us out of the house. Both of my parents are very creative and capable people and they never worried about us hurting ourselves with power tools or sharp blades because they had already taught us to be mindful of what we were doing and to not be reckless.
AT A GLANCE
Year joined: 2015
Projects: Woodworking, blacksmithing, textiles
Total channel views: 513,059
Does own editing: Yes
Cameras: Canon Rebel T6i / iPhone SE / iMovie
So we made stuff. But I never viewed making things as anything other than ancillary to my main objective. I sewed patchwork quilts because my stuffed animals were cold, I cut limbs and twigs off of trees to make bows and arrows because playing Robin Hood required me to do so, and I hand-sawed boards and nailed them together to make stools because I was — and still am — short. In the Uyeda household, these were just things we did.
My background from there is varied in the extreme. I am a classically trained violinist, I was a librarian for 15 years, I was a high school special education teacher, I was production manager for a symphony orchestra, and I was a restaurant manager for 10 years. I never graduated college and I have no training, per se, in any of the things that I do now. I did spend about six months working at a lumber mill. That was one of my favourite jobs.
To me, being a maker means being a problem solver. The question is not “how is this task accomplished?” but, rather, “how do I accomplish this task?” I am not particularly good at any of the things that I do. In fact, I am not very good at most of the things that I do. Being good at something isn’t my goal; my goal is to be useful.
When I moved to Boston, it was my understanding that I would be working behind the scenes for my brother Ben’s YouTube channel, HomeMade Modern. I had no desire to make my own videos. In truth, I have stage fright and feel very awkward on camera… also, in person. So, when Ben asked me what I wanted to call my channel, I told him that I didn’t want to have my own channel. His response was, “You have to.” My response? “Okay.”
I decided that my angle would be to show people that the biggest thing that can keep them from making things themselves is the idea that they can’t. Again, my biggest goal in life is to be a useful person, no matter what my experience level. I’d love to know that others can find that out about themselves, as well. My first video is one of the most basic things anyone could ever make: a coffee table with 2″×2″ balusters for legs and a floor tile for the top. I had no idea what I was doing so the simplicity of the project lent itself well to my “skill” set.
With my videos, I do everything myself. There is a definite benefit to living with two other content creators in that there are always people to bounce ideas off of and get input on what would be a good title for a video or which photo would make the best thumbnail but we all do our own filming and editing.
The most difficult part of the process for me is, by far, the initial idea. I never know what to make. I get really caught up in wanting to build something that is functional and something that I would potentially use or need. But, there really isn’t much that I need. So, then the problem is: what do I have the skill set to build and how do I make it interesting? I feel like most people in my field are teeming with ideas and that’s where I have the most trouble. I’m not good at drawing and I don’t know how to 3D model so I often just skip the planning phase and go straight to building so I can figure out the problems as they arrive.
I shoot my YouTube videos and thumbnails on a Canon Rebel T6i and my instagram is mostly shot on my iPhone SE. All of my videos are edited using iMovie. I don’t know anything about cameras or editing so I just do what makes sense to me with what I already have. People are most interested in the content ,and as long as it doesn’t look terrible it doesn’t really matter what your equipment is.
I am now embarking on my biggest project ever: an entire house. I spent last year trying to talk my brother into buying me a small house to fix up. What I got was a long abandoned, hoarder’s house that has been home to several squatters and legions of rats over the years. It is both exhilarating and terrifying. While I am not building an entire house from the ground up, I am almost certainly stripping the existing house down to the studs and taking it from there. There is so much that I will be learning from this huge project and I am so very excited to capture all my triumphs and failures and share them with anyone who has an interest in doing things themselves.