Corset designer Jennifer Gonzalez of Jupiter Moon 3 talks shop discussing corsets, time management, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and evolution.
Q: What’s the story behind the name- Jupiter Moon 3?
It’s a long story. When I was starting out part time, as a hobbyist, I went through several company names. Nothing ever felt right, and nothing stuck. But all of the names I came up with had something to do with planets, I’m not sure why. I was “Triptych Moon” for a short while, then “Eight Thirty and Earth” after an exciting Burning Man experience in 1999. Then one night, in 2002, I had a dream that I was on Jupiter with my family. I looked out at the horizon, as the sun was setting behind me, and in the sky I saw nine of Jupiter’s moons cascading in each others partial eclipse, one behind the other, in a sort of orange-yellow spiral. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever dreamed up! I need to paint that some day! Why I chose to add the “3” is a mystery to me. It’s my lucky number, maybe that’s why. However, I may drop the 3 eventually, people rarely know it’s part of the name.
Q: Tell us about the early days of Jupiter Moon 3, how did you get your start?
My mom taught me to sew at an early age. But when it came to corsets, I had to start almost from scratch. I think it was fate; I was a poor starving artist! I couldn’t afford to buy a corset. I was going to college at the time in the Bay Area in California when I got started, in 1997. I fell in love with Romantasy corsets in San Francisco, and couldn’t afford to indulge. But I was determined to have a corset, so I started creating my own patterns for simple waist cinchers, it was more affordable. Gradually I moved on to more intricate underbusts and overbusts. It was a difficult process, and it took me many years to perfect. I’m still perfecting my designs, it’s a never ending process.
Q: How did you take your corset making business from a hobby to your full time job?
When I started making corsets and costumes, my designs caught the eye of my friends. A few of them placed orders with me, then friends of friends, then people who heard of me through word of mouth. After I moved to Texas in 2000, I started selling as a very part time income, just for fun. I never thought I could make a career out of it. After I started selling online in early 2004, my designs were selling like hotcakes, and I was able to make Jupiter Moon 3 my full time career. I was almost forced to; I was receiving so many orders, I didn’t have time for a “regular” job anymore!
Q: The rewards are often obvious, but what are some of the biggest challenges you face as a small business owner?
I do everything for my business. Designing, sewing, secretarial work, web design, promotions, everything. I do this so I can keep my costs down for my clients by not paying someone else to do all of these things for me. But it creates problems at the same time. One of my biggest challenges is keeping up with all of those tasks and still finding time to actually sew. I work about 60 hours a week on average. Sometimes a lot less, sometimes more. A 14 hour shift is quite normal for me. I try to keep my clients happy, and not let them feel neglected, but answering the plethora of emails I receive is increasingly difficult with more and more orders being placed. It’s something I’m still adjusting to after all this time! I do find my balance, it just means more hours. I have to turn down orders occasionally, otherwise I would get too backed up, and orders would just take too long. But the positives greatly outweigh the negatives, I work at home, I make my own hours, and I don’t have to ask the boss if I can go on vacation, so I don’t complain too often!
Q: What are the have been the biggest evolutions or revelations in your work?
Every day is an evolution. Every corset brings new challenges, new ideas, new revelations, and my work is constantly evolving, improving, and changing. I look at corsets I made several years ago, and I can pinpoint every little detail that I have worked through, changed, and improved on with more recent corsets. I am always adding new details, new support methods, anything to help my corsets and my skills improve. I will never plateau with my work, it’s a constant challenge to make them better and better.
Q: You have done custom corset and costume creations for some of the biggest names in the industry including Masuimi Max and Angela Ryan. What has been your funniest custom order? Which has been your most challenging?
My funniest costume order has nothing to do with corsets. When we were dating, my husband asked me to make him a Master Shake costume for Halloween, from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It turned out so much better than I could have imagined, and it was hilarious! He has worn it on three different Halloweens now. I joined him two years ago as Frylock, with high heels, black hose and garters, since I couldn’t float or make my legs invisible! It was my first un-corseted costume in more years than I can remember.
My most challenging piece was a costume I recently completed for Masuimi Max. She wanted a circus costume, and putting together all of my ideas was like putting together a puzzle with no picture to refer to! I had all of the components in my head, five pieces, but no idea if they would look good together when it was completed. I challenged myself and went for it anyway. The skirt in itself was a challenge, the finished edge was over 65 yards of organza with a rolled hem. It was also the most crystals I have ever added to a piece. The costume turned out to be my favorite creation yet! A close second is the Snow Queen costume for Angela Ryan!
Q: Without giving away any trade secrets, can you take us through your creative process? What makes your work so unique & of such high quality?
My creative process is an assembly line. Most people would probably work on one corset at a time to avoid the monotony. Not me! I work on four or five corsets at a time. On day one, I will iron and interface all of the fabric, then pattern and cut out each one. On day two or three, I will sew all of the pieces together, including bone accents, making a sort of corset shell. Then I will cut and tip all of the bones. I will sew in trims and other accessories. After that, I will sew each shell to it’s lining and finish the fabric part. Then I sew on lace, glue crystals, sew on bead work, and whatever else my client wants, those are my crafty days! On the last day, I will grommet all of the corsets. This whole process can take days or weeks, depending on the intricacy of the orders, and how many corsets I am working on at the time.
My corsets are quality because I try to pay attention to every stitch. My corsets are original, and will remain so, because I design my own patterns, and because I taught myself how to make them. No other designer sews corsets the way I do. I have a very different process than other corset makers. All of these details keep my work unique, and I pride myself on quality and dedication to my work.
Q: What should women look for in a quality corset?
The most important factor in a corset is having it made custom. It’s very difficult for a woman to find an off the rack corset that fits her perfectly. It does happen, but custom is perfection. If her grommets are closed at the bottom and open at the top, or vice versa, or even closed in the middle and open at the top and bottom, it’s a bad fit. She would be so much happier in a custom corset.
Another important thing to look for are the supplies. Steel boning is a must. Plastic boned corsets shouldn’t even be considered corsets, in my corset-snob opinion!