A few years back, while spending time at a local arts and crafts show, I stumbled upon an incredibly talented artist, Jen Born. Her artwork is nothing short of whimsical and awesome and reminds us that life is too short to let things get you down. (What's not to love about the name of her business "P.S. Enjoy Your Life"???)
I felt so honored that she let me interview her about her creations and what drives her to be so involved in her art. She is our very first guest in the Artist's Corner!
How long have you been creating artwork?
I guess you could say that I've been creating art since childhood. You could almost always find me coloring, drawing, building forts and sand sculptures, basically anything using my hands. I remember making paper dolls with my Nana.
One thing that really stands out to me is that she had a door in her hallway designated for all of her grandkids art. There was something so special about having art glorified like this, as simple as it was. I think it taught me that art was important, and that's stayed with me throughout life, in a world that sometimes deems art insignificant. I’m truly grateful for this.
How did you first get into creating art?
Full time? I graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA in Painting and Drawing in 2006 with no idea of what direction I'd be going in next. Lost, I started working jobs as a Teacher’s Assistant for children with disabilities. While this job had its rewarding aspects, it never felt like it was for me. It was work. It had benefits. It didn't however ignite any sort of passion, something I always assumed my eventual career would do for me.
So there I was, back living with my parents, making $13/hour, and dreading every morning when my alarm would go off. Then I hurt my ankle pretty badly, and it landed me out of work for over a month. Call it fate, luck, divine intervention, or whatever you want to call it, but without knowing it at the time, my career as an artist was about to unfold. I dove into my art. There was nothing stopping me anymore. No 9-5 job or sports due to my injury. I was in a pretty low spot in my life, depressed and on an unclear path while many of my friends were starting their “grown up” careers. I created everyday for hours on end. I wasn't making anything too great, in fact when I look back on what I thought was good work at the time I laugh a little because some of it was honestly pretty bad. But I was creating, and enjoying it, and that's all that mattered.
Slowly, I was developing a style and very slowly, I was getting better. I started going to SPOT Coffee on Sunday's for 4 hours with a group of artists where we would set up our art on tables to sell. I remember making $75 one time and thinking how amazing that was. If I could come up with a way to make $13/hr doing something I loved then that's all I needed at that point to keep going. I was receiving positive feedback from people, and it boosted my confidence as an artist, and helped me believe that what I was doing was important.
Eventually I developed a following of returning customers, many of whom still come to my shows today. My art began as a therapeutic device for me, but in time I started to notice that it was effecting other people in a positive way. It stopped being about me and more about what I could do to spread positivity through art. I think that’s when my art and business really started to come alive. I was hooked.
What forms of art are you currently doing or creating? What is your favorite medium or tool?
Well I’m a painter, but I have fallen in love with sharpies, especially oil paint sharpies. My latest pieces have been Rochester themed, each broken up into sections of what I think makes this city such a special place.
My most popular items are my “Enjoyablocks”, a term I coined a while back. Basically, they are prints of my art mounted on a wooden block, finished in resin, stamped on the sides with a checkered pattern, and ready to hang and spread smiles. This is a process completely done in studio by me, from the cutting and the sanding of the wood, stamping, sizing prints, and resining. It’s always been important to me to create a product that can be afforded by almost anyone. I don’t think you should have to be wealthy to have handmade art, and my Enjoyablocks have allowed me to create something well-crafted and affordable, making them great thoughtful gifts.
Was there ever a time when you have had a creativity block? How do you handle that?
When I’m in my creative state of mind, I work in almost a binge like manner. Sometimes it lasts for a while, a month or so, and other times it’s fleeting, and just like that the inspiration leaves me. Either way, I work until I’m drained and then I know it’s time to call it quits and refuel. Experiences help to fill my tank up again. Nature. Life in general. I never worry that it won’t come back because eventually it always does, and I’ve come to appreciate the off times for what they are. A time to stretch my creative muscles and gain new perspective.
I also fill this time with much of my more monotonous production work, cutting and sanding blocks of wood for hours on end. You’ll surprise yourself with what you can come up with during moments of monotony- it’s during these times that some of my most creative ideas come to me. I guess you could call it productive meditating =)
What would you say to someone who says, “I can’t do art- I’m just not creative.”
To me, this is an idea that we are taught. Most young kids don’t think this way, and look at their art- it’s great! Then at some point we put ourselves into boxes of ‘creative’ or ‘not creative’ based on what we think art is supposed to look like. If I judged myself as an artist based on much of the art I made even up through college, I would have stopped and never picked up a paintbrush again. Not everyone can paint a portrait that looks like a photograph, but that’s not all that there is to art. Art is simply an expression of ourselves. We are all worthy of that.
What is the creative process like for you? What benefits does it hold?
I feel most ready to make art starting in the afternoon after I’ve gone to the gym and had my coffee. Add a little music to the mix and I’m ready to roll! I work best uninterrupted with solid hours of free time to paint, as I often start slow until I catch the wave.
What are three interesting things you can tell us about yourself?
1. When I was little I wanted to be an architect like my Grandfather, until I heard that part of the job was designing where electrical outlets went. I’ll stick to drawing houses where there are no rules or guidelines as I find them quite boring.
2. My love for pizza has made its way into my art. One of my designs, “Just Eat Pizza” has pretty much funded my pizza habit for life =)
3. Public speaking has always been my biggest fear, though since I’ve started my business something has transformed in me and I’ve begun to believe I have something important to say to the world, kicking that fear to the side.
Do you have any advice or suggestions for people when it comes to art or creativity?
First off, just create. Do it a lot and without critique at first. Allow yourself time to find your own personal expression without others opinions. It might be awkward and messy, but work through it. Something great is usually happening. Be open to mistakes.
Secondly, don’t do it for the money. Money has a tendency to suck the fun out of anything. If your goal is to make a living as an artist then obviously you have to figure out ways to do so, but let it take a back seat to your love of creating. True passion is more sustainable than a stash of money any day.
P.S. Enjoy Your Life can be found online- psenjoyyourlife.com Jen also has a facebook page@PSENJOYYOURLIFE. She sells a variety of products from small to large. She is also often participating in First Friday where artists open their studio doors to the public on the first friday of every month. Check her website and Facebook page for her current happenings as she is quite a busy person!
Jen is a very personable and friendly person so don't hesitate to say "hello" when you see her out and around Rochester. (Just know that she has quite a following of art fans so you may need to wait a moment to introduce yourself!) If you are interested in purchasing her incredible artwork- make sure to visit her pages online or check out her next arts and crafts fair show.
If you have not seen her artwork or heard of her- you'll probably be hooked now! It's wonderful to catch up with Jen and her artwork and look forward to what the future holds with all her creativity! Oh, and P.S....Enjoy Your Life!!