I don't mass produce anything. I try to keep it small so that everything feels really special and intimate. The towels are 100% cotton made in the USA on a small loom, which is really important to me too, to keep everything as local and sustainable as possible.
~Jess, on the Talkaboutit podcast Interview with Lena, 2022
On June 22, 2022, Jessica Thornton Murphy, the founder of Plunge, celebrated the two-year anniversary of the creation of her company. Located in San Francisco, California, Jess first began her creative endeavors with Plunge at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. Like Jess, many of us can relate to the difficulties of adjusting to indoor life while struggling to find inspiration and productivity. The slow pace of pandemic life, however, roused Jess to create Plunge. Using her experience from the many people she’s met, and jobs and experiences she’s had, her creations began to involve artfully made 100% cotton, Jacquard-woven towels (meaning woven on a loom instead of printed or dyed).
Jess chose to create towels because of a special connection she has to one of her mother's. She had purchased the towel in France while pregnant with Jess, and it has remained in the family ever since.
There are a plethora of reasons that make these artfully-made towels so special. On top of the attention to detail in how they are manufactured, Jess also works intimately with artists to create fun and unique designs to display each of their unique styles. Towel selections range from colorful designs and patterns, lounging beach bodies, and funky doodles and designs, offering a wide array of artful options for Plunge’s customers, and a platform for artists to display their work. Each towel is also made in a limited edition so that it feels like a usable art print. The goal for the towels to feel special and for the buyers to have an intimate connection with them, thus, mass production is not in the picture for Plunge.
It takes about two months from start to finish. I usually reach out to an artist to gauge their interest and then we talk about design. I ask them to make an original piece of art and I send it to my weavers to start the weaving process.
In an effort to foster these relationships, Jess began doing studio visits with the Plunge artists in late 2021. She and photographer Macayli Hausmann visit each person in their workspace (wherever it may be) and document the experience for their publication, Plunge Rag. It’s a slow, ongoing project that happens alongside towel production, and Jess hopes the zines can help readers feel more closely connected to the artists they love through sharing deep-dive interviews about navigating a career in the arts, a look inside their “studios,” and playlists. The first volume of Plunge Rag was published in January, and Volume two was released on July 14th.
Jess has worked with artists such as Molly Bounds, Maria Paz, Momo Gordon, Rachel Kaye, Chelsea Ryoko Wong, Karen Barbour, and Daisy Sheff.
Recently, Plunge partnered up with the Oakland, CA artist Lena Gustafson. Plunge generously contributed Lena Gustafson story for reproduction on the Withitgirl platform, where we learned about Lena’s love for swimming, art, and multiple motivations and inspirations for her Plunge towel design.
For the future of Plunge, Jess hopes to continue to create and build community by working with a greater array of artists and is brainstorming some more towel-adjacent products for the company. Primarily, Jess hopes her projects can sustain her and the artists she works with and continue to be intentional.
It's hard to share your work on social media. My suggestions would be to connect to the people who you admire, and to realize that other people on Instagram, are also scared, too. Talking to each other and realizing that you're not alone in that fear is super empowering.
To any young artist out there wondering what next steps to take, Jess’ advice is to “just do it.” Even if it's something you don’t personally think of as creating, as long as you're making things and trying, Jess emphasizes to just keep going. "If you can keep a ball rolling", Jess says, "it's so much easier than to stop and start", reigniting a flame that may already be burnt out.
Jess's Favorites Playlist for withitgirl
Lena grew up in New York City and came to the West Coast to study Graphic Design and Communications. She enjoys making art (especially collaging), being outdoors, finding new music, and hopes to improve her surfing skills in the next year. Lena is the team leader for the Talkaboutit podcast. Lena was recently accepted at UCSB and will be transferring in the Fall 2022 to finish her academic studies.
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