Getting to know you – Jen, Painted Fish Studio

It’s time for the next interview. I wasn’t going to post it till tomorrow, but here it is, already ready to post, so I thought what the heck, I’ll just post it right now.

This week we’re getting to know Jen of Painted Fish Studio. Which I think is a pretty cool name. I should have asked her where it came from. Maybe she’ll leave a comment and let us all know… ;-) Right, now I think I’ll just be quiet and let you get on with reading what Jen has to say.

Your name
Jen, of Painted Fish Studio :: blog :: shop

Where in the world are you?
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

Briefly describe yourself and what you make
I dabble in crafts and arts. I wanted to be an artist when I grew up, but decided to become a graphic designer in college. I also studied art history, and took a few studio arts courses while working on my degree, but my focus was design. During my last year of college, I took a book making course, and fell in love with designing and making books.

I spent my twenties and the first few years of my thirties focusing on my career, which has morphed from graphic design into user interface design. During that time, I would take a class here or there, to learn new book making techniques, or to learn how to work with new mediums (ceramics, glass, collage, painting…). But my career really consumed me. It’s only been in the last year that I’ve really tried to make more time for creating, and I am so much happier!

Currently I sell handmade books in my Etsy shop, and my blog is my ”journal”, documenting my efforts to be creative, and to inspire creativity in others.

Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by other creative people, and their work. I love going to galleries: I usually walk out of them brimming with ideas and inspiration. The internet is wonderful as well: the crafting/creative community is amazing, and I am inspired daily by the people that I’ve met online.

When / how did you learn?
Some things are self taught: I paint occasionally, and really don’t know what I’m doing! It can be frustrating, but I try. I’m also very forunate to live in an area that has many organizations that offer workshops and classes in all mediums. There was a time, a few years ago, that I was convinced I’d be a professional potter! But I wasn’t that good at it, so I went back to paper arts, and I continue to take workshops to learn new things.

Why do you ‘bother’ to make things by hand?
It’s fun! Every day new technologies emerge, purportedly to make our lives easier. I have a small fear that books will go away in the future, and that art and craft will be manufactured by computers. I enjoy working with traditional materials and tools, and no computer could ever replace them.

What is your craft ”philosophy”?
The most important philosophy for me is to make things that I would use or buy. I do not follow trends, and I try not to create items only for their saleability.

Can you reveal a little about your creative process?
To be honest, it usually involves wine! I find that a few glasses of wine allows me to be less critical, less rigid, and helps me to not hold back. During the day, my work is very organized and methodical. At night, I need to switch gears and flip the creative switch on, and usually a bottle of wine helps! I also find that it’s best to try to create right when the idea comes to you -– when the inspiration is fresh. That’s hard when you have a day job!

How do you deal with crafty mistakes?
Sometimes they are thrown away, but sometimes a mistake helps me learn, or go in a different direction I never would have considered.

Do you have a designated craft space? What does it mean to you?
Yes and no. Currently I work in my dining room, and for the last few months, I have kept most of my supplies there. But I also have supplies in my office, and in my basement, so I have to run up and down stairs to grab materials. I wish I had a large, open space, purely for creating, but I also don’t like to feel closed off from the world. Natural light is really important to me, and my dining room offers the most of it.

Do you use a sketchbook or journal?
I do have a little book that I make notes in, and keep lists of things I want to make, but I don’t use it as much as I should. It’d be a good idea to carry it around and to sketch scenes or ideas as they come to me!

Why is crafting good for you?
It’s a release from day-to-day routine! It feels so good to make something that you’ve designed, then made. I create purely for the act of creating. The process of coming up with an idea, seeing it through to the final result is so rewarding… and if someone happens to love what i’ve made, then that’s the icing on the cake!

Is your craft a business as well? Any advice on running a crafty business?
I sell my work on Etsy, but it’s more for fun than it is to earn money. My best advice is to promote yourself as much as possible, and it’s easier to do that online than it is in person (if you’re an introvert like me).

What impact (if any) has the internet had on your craft?
HUGE! A few years ago, I spent the summer creating handmade books. I probably made 100, but I had no idea where to sell them! I am shy, and didn’t like the idea of walking into a store and asking them to sell my work, but I also didn’t have enough stock to bother signing up for a craft fair. It was only last year that a friend suggested that I open an Etsy shop, and with that suggestion I also decided to start my blog, and to really make an effort to create weekly, if not daily.
Do you make art or craft? Is there a difference?
I make both. I see crafting as creating objects that people can use… they’re functional. Art is created for pleasure: it’s a painting, a collage, it’s something that someone will view and enjoy. Both art and craft are equally inspiring, and involve creativity… There is a difference to me but neither is more important than the other.

If you could make any project without limits to cost, materials or even skill, what would it be?
I wish I could paint what I see in my head!

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