I think Jennifer and I connect over our total inability to make small talk. Cut right to the good stuff, eyes often welling up, the beauty, the ugliness, the weight of the world and our hopeful solutions as we attempt to grasp its problems -- it’s all there in a five-minute conversation (usually followed by a LOT of jokes about said conversation). The thing is, we get a shit-ton of work done at the same time and she always smoothly maneuvers through tricky, uncharted tasks with focus and resolve. Jennifer is the assistant art director at ARQ, but wears many hats both here and in her personal life. You're going to love hearing her considered and meditative thoughts on art, plants, caregiving, instinct, and her broad appreciation of what it means to be creative. (We tend to agree!) From painting to weaving, gardening to jam-making, this green-thumbed renaissance woman gives us a peek into the deliberate life that she lives so beautifully.
You are such a multifaceted artist. We were so in awe with the breadth and depth of your work - from painting, to weaving, to crafting the most amazing jams. What were your early creative experiences like, and how did you express yourself creatively as a kiddo?
Thank you! I've often felt a lot of pressure as an artist to stick to one medium but it's something that I've managed to resist doing. I really do think that medium-based art-making is outdated and I've always felt much more aligned with concept-based and collaborative creating. I love to see artists pull from a number of different mediums in a manner of endless curiosity in order to create. I think part of this simply comes from my love of creating that started when I was a kid and I didn't have a lot of traditional art-making materials around like paints, canvas or clay. Instead, I would use whatever I could get my hands on in order to do some creative work. Collage is perfect for making something out of nothing, and I used to cut up mail order catalogs from the trash and glue them together to make pictures as a child. My step-mother had a small tin sewing box that I loved that had two spools of thread and old buttons and needles in it. I could spend hours cutting apart my clothing and reassembling new fun pieces together by hand with a needle and thread from that little sewing kit. When I had my daughter at age 20 I dived further into sewing and made most of her clothing. It made me so happy to create in this nurturing type of way! I later formally studied oil painting at university and fell in love with fiber arts (first knitting, and then embroidery and weaving) while working at a Waldorf school. I've only recently discovered my love of creating in the kitchen and it's definitely inspired by my fiancé, Danny, who is a chef.
The name of this month’s Posy is Deasil meaning in the direction of the suns’ course. We are pretty excited about sun and warmth coming our way, and we imagine you might be, too? How do the seasons and the weather affect the art you choose to make? And does spring and early summer evoke more of a longing to craft one thing over another?
I love the concept of Deasil and, truly, nothing makes me feel more alive than the warmth of the sun! I lived in California as a child, spending 99% of my formative years in the Mojave Desert riding my bike aimlessly around in the California sunshine with my brothers. My mother moved our family to the PNW when I was 12, but I still consider myself a California girl at heart. As an adult, I'm still finding that all of my favorite things to do are inspired by the sun. Spring flowers, summer berries, farm-fresh vegetables and herbs make my heart sing and I love to spend the warmer months of the year outside gardening, hiking and exploring wild plants with Danny. And now we have our brand new yellow lab puppy, Ruby, to enjoy the sun with too! We just bought a house here in McMinnville together, and we are so excited to fill our entire yard with berries and fruit trees for our jam company. I see the process of making jam as literally preserving the power of the sun so that you can enjoy its warmth during the wintertime. I feel so honored to be able to provide that gift of the sun for people through our jam.
When we look at the pieces you make, we travel to so many faraway places in our minds. Do you enjoy traveling? Tell us about the places that inspire you most.
I've always been overly sensitive to motion and actually don't like traveling by car, plane, boat or train at all and tend to get very stressed out by travel. However, I am grateful for having been able to travel to some amazing places in my life so far. Some of my favorite travels have been to New Orleans, New York, Paris, Venice, Rome, Athens and Santorini. Danny and I want to travel together in the future, but we also want to be environmentally responsible and so I'm not sure what that will look like.
I can say that my absolute FAVORITE thing to do while traveling, whether near or far, is to wander. Give me a day to wander a new place on foot and I am in heaven. I skip the museums, historical monuments, well-known restaurants and go-to places as a general rule. What I prefer is to wake up in a new place without a purpose or a plan and see where the day takes me. The best days start while having a cappuccino and some good bread at an outdoor café and are spent wandering outdoor markets and neighborhoods and getting a feel for how the locals live. In this way, my art completely relates to my mode of travel. I always create art without a purpose or plan, but prefer rather to wander with paint or wool or whatever medium I choose and see where things take me. It's the best feeling in the world.
The fruits and herbs you, along with your fiancé, Danny, combine to make Alchemist’s Jam sound like medicine in jars. You are both artists, and you obviously make an incredible creative team - and the proof is in the jam. Are there any other ways you connect and create together?
I love this question so much because creating together is so central to the way that Danny and I live. Danny's favorite mode of creating is skateboarding and I am so inspired by skateboarders! I love to go to the skatepark with him and watch everyone push their own limits, encourage each other and displaying their own unique style. If you've never seen someone drop into a bowl on a skateboard for the first time, I highly recommend it! Can you imagine leaning forward, ready to go straight down full-speed ahead just knowing that you're most likely going to hit the pavement and yet doing it over and over and over again until you get it? It's unbelievable and, I feel, a true artistic feat.
Outside of making jam and skateboarding, Danny and I both share a love for drawing. When we were first dating we had this sketchbook that we would carry around and every time we were at a restaurant or coffeeshop we would pull it out and make these crazy exquisite corpse drawings together. They're super funny and I will cherish them forever. For years now we've been floating around the idea to create a local zine together that centers around our drawings and experiences together. We hope for it to be a throwback to the days before social media where we can write articles about farming, skateboarding, art, garden recipes, urban homesteading, local happenings, psychedelic mushrooms and other natural medicines, and self-care. We're pretty excited about it and I hope we can get it out of the concept phase and out into the world soon.
When we peruse your Instagram, we are immediately aware of your green thumb, and how, along with your gorgeous cat, your plants are the centerpieces of your home. Taking care of that many plants is a lot of work, but you do it so well! Were you born with your love of plants, or is that something that began and grew? What is your schedule for caring and maintaining your indoor garden - bless us with all of your tips, please!
My fascination with plants has coincided with parenting my daughter. After she was born I lived in Baton Rouge and I spent all of my time there growing food in our backyard. I was stumbling along as a young parent, but the act of growing plants centered me and gave me confidence as a caregiver. When she was old enough, I helped her make her own little herb garden. There were years when 75% of our food came from our yard and it made me feel so good to grow food and to have her go to the garden to pick the food we used for our meals. However, it was funny because in those times I couldn't keep a houseplant alive no matter how hard I tried. When my daughter was in college, I moved here to McMinnville and the first job I had was at a little local plant shop in town. My friends would tease me because I started to bring a houseplant home from work with me almost everyday. Looking back I can see that I was empty-nesting, missing my daughter terribly, and desperately needed something to take care of. Through that experience I amassed hundreds of plants and learned so much about them! If I had to impart some sort of plant advice, it would be this: for outdoor plants, growing native plants is so important. Purchasing any random plant and putting it in your yard is an equivalent in the plant world to the colonials inhabiting America and in the process decimating the natives and using up resources in order to survive. Along the same lines, if you're going to adopt a houseplant, it's best to realize that that plant is a native outdoor plant somewhere. Find out where that plant is from and give it the care (sunshine, shelter from drafts, water supply) that it would get in its natural habitat. Every plant requires differing amounts of sunshine and water, and it takes some sensitivity and patience to figure it all out. I'm still learning about this and am so grateful to plants for what they continue to teach me.
Find Jennifer on Instagram here : @plantweavepaint
Find Alchemist Jam here : Alchemist Jam
Alchemist Jam on Instagram : @alchemistsjam
Photos by Marissa Boone
Marissa on Instagram : @lmarissaboone