WORDS: Yahdon Israel PHOTOGRAPHY: Julien Roubinet
When Jessica was invited to a friend's potluck birthday dinner three years ago, she only knew how to make two things—eggs and Rice Krispy treats. Since eggs were out of the question, and since the friend, who hosted the potluck dinner, was a surfer, Jessica’s friend, Amanda, suggested she make a rice Krispy treat into the shape of a surfboard.
This was before Jessica left her job in fashion to pursue making Rice Krispy treats full-time under the moniker Mister Krisp while simultaneously pursing her MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from the New School. (She recently graduated). This was before she could turn a Krispy into anything from a fresh avocado to a portrait of Drake; before she amassed 44.1K followers on Instagram, with profiles in the Wall Street Journal, Vogue Italia, Huffington Post, and Buzzfeed; before Rice Krispies, themselves, partnered with her to donate toys for #treatsfortoys; and this was before writer Susan Cheever told her in front of an evening MFA writing workshop, “Jessica, we just want you to do with your writing what you're doing with your rice Krispy treats." Before all of this Jessica just wanted to make something for her friend that showed everyone how sweet she could be—not just in the sentimental sense; the sublime as well.
Whether writing or Rice Krispies, what you’ll see in Jessica’s makes is a desire to see things we’re used to looking at differently. I've lost count of how many portraits I’ve seen of Biggie Smalls, but I can tell you how many I’ve seen in Rice Krispy form: one. Unique perspectives add texture to our everyday lives and while Jessica has no problem getting likes, likes will never give us the entire picture. Not even half.
This is why we met up with Jessica at her apartment in Greenwich Village where—in addition to making us a purple alien emoji Krispy—she talked about her first make, what she feels her writing and Krispies have in common, and why there’s nothing sweeter than being able to live off your own creations.
What was the first thing you made?
An embellished denim shorts handbag. I was at Henri Bendel with my mom and sister and I saw these jean short handbags they had there. There was real fur on them and all these different patches and embellishments. It was like $500 or something. I was 12 and I obviously was not getting that so I went home, got all my arts and crafts projects, a pair of jean shorts and made my own. I didn't know how to sew so I used a hot glue gun to seal the bottom together.
Why do you make what you make?
I originally started making rice Krispy treats because I'd been searching for an outlet for a very long time. I didn't know I was searching but I was. A place where I could be irreverent and whimsical and silly but also be taken seriously.
When I figured out how to make use of rice Krispy treats, I tapped into something that legitimized my weird creativity because for the first time, I was making something that other people would want to buy. And for the first time, I was making something that wasn't really out there. A big part of it was luck but I also think my entire life was moving in the direction of some sort of creative pursuit that I would be able to make a living with.
I feel that. How do you decide what you'll make?
People either come to me with a really specific idea or they'll come to me with a theme and I'll make suggestions. A lot of the time I have ideas in my head and things that I wanted to make for a while so I can kind of steer people in that direction if it applies. Other times I post things that address popular culture.
I am very engaged with pop culture so I want to address what's going on in the world. Then I'll just get kind of weird quirky creative ideas, which is what I’ve had my whole life. When I have an idea that I can't wait to make, I get really excited and antsy, just like when I write. You have that itch and you need to cancel all of your plans, go home and get it done.
What was your most meaningful make?
My first rice Krispy treat cheeseburger. That started everything. When my friend, Amanda, suggested I do the surfboard I googled it and found that there was a recipe that had food coloring in it. As I was adding the red coloring to the surfboard and I thought, "Oh my God! I have to make a rice krispie treat cheeseburger!" I couldn't stop thinking about it.
I made it, put all the pieces together, and screamed out loud because I actually thought it was the coolest thing I ever saw. Then I took a picture of it and posted it on Instagram. That was the first time I'd ever got 100 likes. It felt good, so I kept experimenting.
I was doing donuts, bagel and lox, ice cream; then I did one for an artist friend and everyone thought it was amazing because I made a Krispy of one of her works. That's when I decided to start a separate Instagram and call it Mister Krisp.
The really cool thing about starting the business a bit older is that all of my friends were in positions of power at the companies they worked at and were able to promote what I was doing really quickly. I had friends with thousands and thousands of followers all posting about Mr. Krisp and people started following me almost immediately.
I was waking up at 5 in the morning to make Krispies and then coming home at night making more Krispies. I knew that I would never be able to get my MFA while I was working hours at Elizabeth & James so I left, applied to The New School, and started doing Mr. Krisp full-time.
Where do you feel your writing and Mr. Krisp align?
I'm most interested in taking things that are familiar and putting them into forms that are compelling and surprising. At its very core I think this is what keeps people coming back to Mr. Krisp—it’s surprising.
I don't mean that what I make every day is surprising. It’s the combination of elements. Seeing a cheeseburger or something made out of rice Krispy treats is inherently a surprising experience. That’s what I'm trying to do in my writing.
When writer Susan Cheever found out what I did with rice Krispy treats in my first semester she said to me "We just want you to do with your writing what you're doing with your rice Krispy treats." Nobody has ever said anything to me that made more sense.
Is there anything you wish you would've known sooner?
I wish I knew that people who are creatively fulfilled are productive and that there is a value to creative fulfillment. You don't have to give up your passions to make a living.
One of the biggest mistakes you made doing this that taught you a lot about what you do?
I signed up to do an ad campaign with a fitness company. Every partnership I'd done at Mr. Krisp had been super fun and positive. And it's because I have such a strong brand identity and people come to me knowing what I'm about, all of my experiences have really been about highlighting what my brand is. They said they were going to highlight what my brand was about, but I don't think I asked the right questions about what that meant.
In the end I was put in an uncomfortable position where the art direction was not what I had signed on for. I learned that it's really important to be clear with people about what your brand is.
What have you learned about people from your makes?
The #1 one thing I've learned about people from Mr. Krisp is that they're really nice. I have so many customers who for no reason at all, will email me three days later and tell me how much they, or the person they got it for, loved it.
That was really surprising to me. That's not necessarily something I would think to do, like write someone who I'd bought something from and told them how much I loved it.
Do you have any inspirations?
My mom is a huge inspiration. She's a swaggy woman, super creative. She’s always really followed her own creativity, and done what it is she sets out to do.
What’s the last thing you made?
Is there anything you feel you need to continue making?
I definitely need to continue growing my business. I think it's time for me to bust out, get some kitchen space, hire some people and figure out whether I want to ship and if so, how. New York is only so big. Got to get out there to the world.