Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessie Thompson.
Hi Jessie, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Like art, my life has been a juxtaposition—worlds within worlds of different layers and experiences and lifetimes. I grew up in Great Falls, Montana, running wild at my grandparent’s house in the country, hanging out in chicken coups with the new litter of baby kittens, antagonizing dogs by eating their treats, talking to horses, riding horses, and drawing horses. I never wanted to go home. One time I threw such a big fit that I intentionally locked my parent’s keys in the ol’ green Ford pickup so that we couldn’t leave; we were 30 miles from town. I perfected making mud pies and chucking them at my babysitter or brother. I collected buckets of frogs and stayed up past my bedtime, knee-deep in lake water, catching crawfish and moon powers. I learned a lot about life out there. The perpetuating circle of it that we can’t escape. The pieces that we accept and keep moving forward.
I was an old soul stuck in a young body. I created over-the-top projects in school, and my mom and grandma always taught me to let my imagination soar. My bedroom was drizzled with rainbow paint that dripped down from the top, with stenciled letters that read ‘Run wild, run free. Paint with all the colors of the heart.’ Another part of me was being an athlete, decorated in Nike sweats and accolades, jumping from track practice to karate, to soccer, to volleyball, to basketball. My nickname was ‘Hacker’ because, frankly, you didn’t want to fuck with me, even though I could be one of the softest people you would meet. I used to beat up the bullies in school at a young age. One time I remember the recess aid looked away when I beat up a boy who used to pick on my brother, who was two years younger. Then we moved when I was in 5th grade, and I started to get bullied. On the last day of school, I received a hate letter from a group of girls who wanted me dead. Although I didn’t understand it then, my light dimmed. I tell so much about this part of my story, because I’ve learned that as much as we search through the years, looking for ourselves, we don’t realize that we’ve been them all along.
I started high school after my parents got divorced. I learned as much about being a good human, having morals, and chasing your dreams as I did about dysfunction, and I say that most lovingly now. I was surrounded by humans all around me that were intensely passionate and deeply competitive, most of them entrepreneurs. My parents owned a store together, one that is still around today 25 years later. It was there that I learned the difference between average and great. I developed a hard work ethic that still pumps through my blood. My sophomore year summer, I made my boyfriend help me start a lawn mowing business, mostly because I needed his truck, J.J.’s Landscaping. I remember making personal invoices for my customers, ones that had the official carbon copy attached for official officialness. Thus, I began a lifelong search for that one thing I wanted to pursue.
I went to Montana State University, receiving a track scholarship to throw the javelin. My major was Horticulture, focusing on Landscape Design. After retaking it twice, I quickly learned that I sucked at Biology and had no desire to become good at it. I switched my major to Graphic Design, where I blossomed. Here, Lil Artsy Jess was reborn! In 2015, I graduated with honors but was a little lost. I wanted to work in a firm for a huge company in some big city, but my life changed completely before graduation, as these plans were centered around a three-year relationship that ended. We were both in the same program, same classes, and same friend group. I knew I was gifted with taking it to a higher level, but something was missing within me, and it was finally time to find that.
I moved to Portland, Oregon, with my dog, Kopper, and my best buddy, who was already attending school there. I started dabbling in freelance but was more interested in how the moss grew on everything and how the rain never ran out from the above clouds. The following year, I met my husband, Bryce. Finding a love that lasts a lifetime isn’t as easy as penguins make it out to be. Most of it has felt like we have been going through a shit storm, blindfolded, surrounded by little cupids shooting their love arrows in our hearts and butts. However, our generation has found innumerable ways to connect with those interested in us. Technology holds the key to many of those avenues. Our official matchmaker, Snapchat, a single 7-second video, and a rubber chicken named Frankee changed the course of both our lives forever. There was my life before Bryce. And now, here is my life with Bryce.
After dating long-distance for three months, we finally met in person when he moved to Portland. You know, it’s a bit of destiny when he had plans to do so already, going to school there to become a chef. A little bit more destiny, when we grew up in the same town, one mile down the road from each other. I think we high-fived once in high school, and he saw me get jumped at powder puff practice when I took the school’s meanest chicks quarterback position, so we had that going for us! Anywho, everyone that has come to know Bryce and I, know that we go fast, it doesn’t matter what we do. It doesn’t matter what we do. We moved in together 2 months later and moved back to Montana to his family’s cabin on Swan Lake in April, where we both worked at a summer lodge. He was head chef. I don’t like to brag, but I did it all; dishwasher extraordinaire, salad, dessert maker, and server. We both hated it. On the side, I started my little art business called Taste of J.A.M. I went to markets and sold art online. It was a bust, and that was okay. Another step closer to where I’m at today.
While sitting on the rock wall one evening watching the sunset over the lake, the idea of having a food truck was born. It would be called Koprenzo and would serve Montalian Food, Italian with a Montana twist; game meats were our staple. We named it after our two dogs, Kopper and Enzo, but it sounded Italian and made people think we knew what we were doing. We started experimenting in the cabin, attempting to master the art of making gnocchi. Our lake neighbors became our test participants in eating our recipes. We knew it was onto the next phase when no one croaked or got food poisoning. We ended our time there with a beautiful engagement on the fall covered shores on October 3, 2017. Winter was upon us, so we moved to Bozeman the next day, into a manufactured home that we spent the first-month cleaning, scraping, painting, and redoing. It was our happy place, nestled on the edge of a wheat field and a bedroom view of the Bridgers. In January, we made an impulse buy on a food trailer that had just been listed on Craigslist. It seemed legit, and there was a passion burning in our souls. After quitting our full-time jobs in May, we spent two months at my grandparent’s house rebuilding the whole thing. We found out quickly that it for sure, wasn’t legit, put together with God knows how many bits and discovered a previous fire. The best part was that we were also getting ready for our wedding on July 7, 2018, which we did everything for. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and the days we spent sweating and cussing and wondering how the hell we were going to get through, etched so much life into us under those big Montana skies. It was a transition from being kids to full-blown adults. We got married and opened Koprenzo two weeks later on my 27th birthday. (Still waiting on that honeymoon Bryce Thompson!!) We pushed, and we made it through the season. We were tired. I had also been sick for most of the year, and it was time to go into hibernation. After a couple of rum and cokes in some dive bar during a blizzard, Bryce and I concluded that we had become wimps and couldn’t handle winters anymore. Back to Portland, we go!
We moved in with my mom and her boyfriend while getting Koprenzo ready to rumble. On our way to inspection, our lives changed forever. We got t-boned at an intersection, and I hit my head off the dash. When they did scans, they found a non-incidental aneurysm in my internal carotid artery—a blessing in disguise. We opened 5 days later, on May 1, 2019, only to sell Koprenzo on October 17. We ran on otter pops, caffeine, Tylenol, and a fucking dream that was not sustainable. Burnout was behind those tired eyes and grease-stained shirts. I was so unhealthy, and it caught up to me. As we raked leaves in our new home in November, I thought I had a stroke. I was rushed to the hospital, and they did a spinal tap to ensure that the aneurysm hadn’t ruptured. A pretty big wake-up call for this 28-year-old. Stress is the silent killer that isn’t talked about much. Koprenzo was an era of impact. One that was fast, messy, raw, hated, and loved simultaneously. Thinking we finally had some reprieve, 2020 came. We all have our stories from that time. Mine continued in complete stupidity as I threw my back out, “borrowing” a pallet from Home Depot for the garden we created during the lockdown. I could hear my dad’s voice as I was lifting, ‘Lift with your legs, not your back.’ The following year was a dark place of chronic pain and stuck in my thoughts, in my own body, in my own home. I was angry on the inside but still trying to be that positive, happy-go-lucky ray of fucking sunshine on the outside. In 2021, I finally surrendered. There was too much. What was the Universe trying to tell me? I put down my fists and opened myself to healing, letting go, and finding peace. I began to peel back the layers of the onion to my repressed and suppressed feelings, years of just putting it ‘under the rug.’ Bryce did this dirty work with me, and we have built a relationship that I am damn proud.
I tell all this because that’s how Sunshine Sparklefaced came to be. It’s not attaching to the things we do in life for work that define who we are or just having that one thing to pursue, but the pieces that get us there. So Lil Bryce and Jess were once making out on our couch while living in Bozeman, and I stopped Bryce mid-make out and asked, ‘What do you think of the name Sunshine Sparklefaced for my Instagram handle?’ And I knew, at that moment, he loved me even more. It was dreamed of and created many years before today, on simmer, waiting until I was ready to receive and spread my magic with everyone. I always think of A Bug’s Life when Heimlich announces that he is a beautiful butterfly! Like, hey, THAT’S ME. It bent and folded to where I was in life, stuck in a tight cocoon, wanting to hide but also trying its caterpillar darnedest to bust out of that joint. On December 13, 2021, we said goodbye to our beautiful home in Oregon, family, and friends and rode that 26′ U-Hual to Phoenix, Arizona, in the buttcrack of winter.
I knew I wanted Sunshine Sparklefaced to be in Cave Creek, a small little artsy town, reminding me of Bigfork, MT, with honest, hard-working people and the smell of horse shit around the corner. One day I found a space that was available for lease and told Bryce I wanted to look at it. Well, he knew that game all too well and was prepared for an impulse decision. To his surprise, an impulse decision was indeed made! (Insert little laughing emojis here) I knew I wanted it even though I didn’t have all the logistics down. I had spent years analyzing and planning ways to make this art business of ours work, but there was always something missing. Connection. That was the missing part. I did not thrive working from home by myself. I wanted to build community. I wanted to take the pressure and label myself off solely for being a graphic designer or independent artist. I wasn’t fulfilled doing just that. I wanted to work with Bryce. Aside from the hard parts of Koprenzo, we got to be together. Blasting music after service, washing never-ending piles of dishes, adventuring to different cities for events reminding him too many times to only go 57 mph so we didn’t tip the trailer, cussing at each other when meatball subs went flying through the air….it’s love baby!
So here we are, opening an art gallery and gift shop—a space to bring other artists, makers, doers, and dreamers together. I’d be full of shit if I told you it’s been easy getting it going. But it takes sunshine AND rain to make a rainbow! We’ve painted sparkle floors, splashed the walls with vibrant colors, and have had our family’s helping hands and faith-filled hearts to bring this once barren building to life. There is an art war. Mass-produced, pre-made products that lack magic continue to push the fast-paced, half-assed convenience of our world today. Getting back to our roots in our lives isn’t just the clean products, healthier foods, and connecting back to nature. It’s also surrounding your environment with depth in something with an energetic connection. Something that has a story, a purpose. Art has the power to heal, to inspire, and to physically alter our brain chemistry, elevating consciousness. When you walk into Sunshine Sparklefaced and see the space and all of the art from different artists, we hope it brings happiness to your day. And the remembrance of all things beautiful that are worth making, supporting, and purchasing.
Six years seems like such a short time for as much as we have done. Maybe it’s because I didn’t get enough time with Bryce before, so we know how much we wanted to do in this life together. So, we go forward fiercely. Passionately and intense. Like wrecking balls, sexier than Miley, of course.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There are always struggles. But there are always solutions. Pick your hard. I mentioned briefly in my story the health struggles I had/have. I continue to work through them in all of this daily. That’s all we can do. Take it one day at a time.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am an artist by life – graphic designer by school. I specialize in logo design and am known mainly for that. I have recently started working with wood and staining it with rainbow colors. I also create custom chakra trees on wood done in wax pastels and then frame them with copper pipes. I do this because I have an energy device with which I can charge the frame with its high conductivity, bringing an elevated level of consciousness to a space. Energy is life. And that’s what sets me apart from others. Not that I make the best and most beautiful art in the world. I mean, it’s awesome. But I will put the most love and intention into that art.
Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I feel like I covered a good portion of my story! Thank you so much for the opportunity and also for reading!
- Instagram: @sunshine_sparklefaced