Living and working in the same building on State Street gives Kristen Ley hope for the continued growth of Jackson’s creative economy.
By Emily Moore
Photos by Drew Dempsey
Business development has been on the upswing in downtown Jackson in the last few years, but for Thimblepress founder Kristen Ley, downtown is more than just her workplace – it’s her home.
“I absolutely love living above my shop,” says Kristen. She’s lived and worked out of the same downtown building for more than five years. “It’s funny because I’m always rearranging and moving things around,” she laughs. “I’m sure at some point I’ll separate my home and work life, but it’s been just perfect for this stage of my life.”
Before opening the downtown studio, Kristen started Thimblepress in the garage of her former home in Jackson. When she began, she only had one letterpress, a 1925 10x15 Chandler & Price, which she hauled a trailer all the way to Lexington, Kentucky, to retrieve. Through practicing, experimenting and working with a mentor, Kristen became confident in her skills and started to develop products beyond the letterpress.
“I truly feel like opening this business was a calling for me,” says Kristen. “I’ve always been enamored with creating art and working with my hands, and now my line of products and everything Thimblepress is about has become a reflection of my personality.”
Thimblepress now offers an array of products ranging from party supplies to journals and planners to home decor. In each product they launch, Kristen’s goal is to spread happiness and encourage celebration, which she feels is a theme for fellow creatives in Jackson.
“We have such a unique creative community in Jackson, and I love being part of it,” says Kristen. “It has taken off in the past few years, and thanks to technology, everyone is connected.”
Kristen says she is encouraged by the positive growth Jackson has seen in recent years and hopes it will continue. “I think one obstacle that keeps people away is that there’s such limited parking, but that could be easily solved with a garage or more lots,” she says.
“People also have a misconception about crime downtown,” says Kristen. “I feel extremely safe. I’ve lived and worked here for more than five years and have never had an issue.”
Kristen thinks the creative economy will ultimately drive people to downtown Jackson, and she says the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and Museum of Mississippi History have been spectacular additions to the neighborhood.
“I have a dream of opening some type of experience museum,” says Kristen. “It could be really cool and unique and could change every six months or so. I think stuff like that would drive more people to check out our area.”
As far as Thimblepress goes, Kristen has no intention of leaving downtown Jackson, but she did hint at some changes on the horizon for her company. “I would love to use my decade of business experience to help other creatives turn their dreams into reality,” says Kristen. She’s planning to start consulting and helping other companies learn how to start and market a business. She’s also booking speaking arrangements and focusing on sharing her knowledge with others. She says despite the changes, Thimblepress will still continue to make products as well as license out original ideas to outside companies.
“I’m really excited about where we’re headed,” says Kristen. “The one thing I’ve held fast to all these years is following God’s calling, so that’s what I’m continuing to do.”