Jess Coldrey – Artist Interview by Connor Findlay

Recently, I got the chance to talk to Jess Coldrey, a young, innovative engineer/artist doing wonderful work to connect the world together. Last year, she was placed in the Top 50 Women in Engineering by the Guardian newspaper showing her commitment to making global cities more inclusive and sustainable.


Explain to our readers about the work and projects that you do.

As a creative technologist, my work revolves around blending the worlds of art and engineering. I find engineering fascinating because of its power to change the world. I'm drawn to its logical thought process while embracing creativity. My projects often revolve around endometriosis, sustainability, and futurism, aiming to spark conversations and meaningful discussions that lead to positive societal change. The journey has taken me around the world, exploring places like France, England, and Scotland.


What was the inspiration to combine art and engineering, and how do they work together?

It all began during art school when I started photographing manufacturing shows and factories. I found the beauty in these industrial environments and the harmony with which machines flowed. This led me to experiment with building my own machines, starting with adapting toys and gradually progressing to creating my own electronics, algorithms, and 3D-printed sculptures.

As society faces significant challenges like climate change and rapid technological advancements, engineering has become an incredibly relevant medium for making art and addressing these pressing issues. By combining art and engineering, I aim to encourage people to contemplate the meaning of these changes and envision a better, fairer, and more sustainable world.


What would you say are some of your most notable projects and works?

One of my most well-received projects is my Retro Futurism photography series. In this series, I programmed robots to assist me with daily tasks, and it received tremendous appreciation during its tour around Australia. Additionally, my piece "Pet Drone #1" earned me the prestigious $10,000 Agendo Art Prize, which opened doors for me to travel, learn, and engage in an artist residency in France, where I developed a new series of works.

My work on endometriosis has also made significant impacts, shaping discussions about the illness at medical conferences worldwide. It was an immense honour to have my piece "Stabbing" from the Invisible Pain series exhibited in The Australian Museum of Photography, which I frequented during my school days.


Can you list any pathways that our young readers may undertake in order to enter your workforce(s)?

Pursuing a career as a creative technologist might not follow traditional paths, but it's about embracing curiosity and being proactive. When I was younger, I was told that the jobs I would have didn't even exist yet, which turned out to be true. I didn't find a predefined path for being a creative technologist. Still, I found my way by following my curiosity, creating things, and continuously learning.

To get more involved in STEM, take math and science subjects in school, and explore hobbies like coding outside of formal education. Engage in online resources, books, videos, and documentaries related to your interests. Your curiosity will naturally lead you to subjects relevant to society's future and offer opportunities for collaboration and growth.

To maintain artistic freedom, I often work in other fields like engineering through internships, short-term contracts, or projects. This enables me to invest in courses, books, and software to fuel my creative endeavours.


What projects are you currently working on that you'd be willing to share?

I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be an Artist in Residence at Bendigo Tech School from February to March 2024! During this residency, I'm developing an exciting five-week program that explores the captivating intersection of technology, textiles, and women's empowerment. Together with local schools, industry partners, and the Bendigo community, we aim to create an exhibition focused on social activism, sustainability, and the influence of technology on our lives.

The program will feature AI-generated fashion and creative science fiction landscapes, all with a futuristic sustainability twist inspired by Bendigo's rich textile history. Collaborating closely with young minds, we'll fuse AI-assisted designs, virtual worlds, and stunning photography to push the boundaries of fashion and technology. Stay tuned for updates as we embark on this exciting journey together!


What is it that you enjoy most about your work?

One of the things I enjoy most about being a creative technologist is the continuous opportunity to learn and acquire new skills. With the rapid developments in AI, 3D printing, augmented reality, and other technologies, there's always something new to explore that can push the boundaries of my creativity. Contrary to the notion that AI may destroy art, I find it an inspiration to delve into new areas and bring my ideas to life more efficiently, enabling me to test, iterate, and ultimately create meaningful work that resonates with others.