BABE #92: JENNA ALEXANDER,
Owner + Artist @ Jenna Alexander LLC
Jenna is an absolute delight. We haven't met IRL but I've admired her work via the internet since I moved to the area two years ago, so I'm really honored to be collaborating with her today. From the outside looking in, she really does seem like someone who has achieved a near perfect balance of being a business owner, raising a family and committing to hobbies of her own, and that's pretty dang impressive if you ask me. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Jenna. You are, of course, a Babe.
Babe you admire and why?
I admire my grandmother, Rosemary Jensen, because she's a badass who started 10 orphanages in 10 African countries. She would also hate that I referred to her as badass, but it's what she is.
How do you spend your free time?
With my family! I love being outside, so we're usually playing at the beach, pool, park, or gardening.
Favorite app, website or blog?
I've been following Treasures and Travels, a blog written by a few girls in Canada, for almost 7 years now. They cover everything from traveling tips to cooking ideas.
Must-have item in your purse?
Snacks for my ever growing three-year-old.
Go-to coffee order?
Black coffee. My dad taught me right.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
I want to say something exotic because I love all sorts of food, especially Ethiopian food, but if you ask my friends, they'd probably tell you a kale salad.
Biggest pet peeve?
Running out of toilet paper.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
My best friend, Julia.
What’s one thing you wish you knew more about?
Gardening. I'll get there one day.
Right now it's Cars because we've watched it 46 times in the past month with my son.
Dipped cone from McDonalds. Yep.
What is something most don't know about you?
I shaved my head at age 21.
Tell us about your hustle:
I wear a lot of hats in my business as I juggle three different mediums: photography, illustration and fine art/painting. My photography sessions range between maternity, newborns, weddings, family, business and culinary shots, etc. For illustrations, sometimes I'll create a logo for a company, or design a menu, or illustrate a family portrait. My recent projects include kimchi jar labels for a company in Michigan, cold brew coffee labels for Juniper Market right next door, and a stripes and buns illustration for a client. Lastly, there's fine art and painting, which is my jam. I love working for my clients, but as an artist, I always have my own ideas that I want to pursue. In addition to the things I mentioned above, I have to maintain all other aspects of my business including keeping up with clients, emailing, sending invoices, keeping an organized workspace and calendar, paying bills, shipping orders, and advertising through social media.
What does your typical workday look like?
You can find me in the studio emailing, painting, editing, drawing, printing, packaging, shipping and on the phone, etc. I'm just now realizing that I need to set days for each activity so that I'm not all over the place. Monday: editing. Wednesday: painting. Friday: emailing and invoicing. But it's easier said than done.
Have you always had a passion for the arts? How has this passion evolved?
I have. In high school, I absolutely loved my art classes more than any other class, but was worried I wouldn't be able to make a career out of it. So instead of going to art school, I went to a small college and pursued a psychology degree with an art minor. My "a-ha" moment happened at the end of my sophomore year, when my favorite professor asked me why I wasn't majoring in art. Not having a good response, I decided then and there that I'd change my major and go for it. Another professor, however, told me to prepare to ask, "Would you like fries with that?" After college, I spent a year in Tanzania teaching preschool and first grade art, then spent two years as a photographer/creative assistant at a nonprofit. At age 25, I finally opened my own studio and shop with Anchor Boutique in St. Augustine. I am now in a full-time studio of my own and haven't looked back! I am so happy to work as a full-time artist, and I haven't once asked anyone if they'd like fries with that. ;)
What’s your favorite medium to work in ?
How does working across multiple mediums professionally benefit your sense of creativity?
I get to bounce around from project to project and I think it helps stimulate my creativity! I also have a different eye when it comes to photography because I was trained in fine art - composition, angle, and proportion all go into looking through that lens, so I think my training in fine art has made me a better photographer. I also paint from photos I take, so my photography makes my fine art better, too. With painting, I have to start with a good photo to paint from, so thank goodness I know how to work a camera.
What is your work environment/office culture like?
I love being at the studio, where I meet incredible people, and share the space with Jenn, owner of Juniper Market. She's great to be around! My mom and step dad own the building and will eventually live above the studio, so there's an added plus in getting to see family when I go in for work. My work ethic game is strong because since my kids are little, I’m only committed to three days in the studio each week, so I make the most out of it each time I'm there.
How would you say being a woman has affected your professional experience?
Being a woman in my career definitely has some benefits! I would say most of my clients are women either shopping for home decor, women booking photo shoots, women booking me to shoot their wedding, or women who want to wholesale my art in their shops. Not to say men don't do all those things too, but something about the arts - especially my style of art - has given me a chance to meet some really great female friends. I also think being a mom has helped me book more photo shoots because other moms feel more comfortable around me since I'm familiar with kids! And I will say, women definitely feel more comfortable with me (versus a man) during their boudoir sessions.
What are some common misconceptions about your job(s)?
I work wayyyyyyy more than people think I do.
What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
My biggest struggle is balancing my time. I could easily put in 60 hours a week at the studio and still have more to do, but I don't want to commit to that amount of time while my children are so small. I really want to be with my kids as much as I can because they're only little once, and I know when I look back on this time I'm not going to say, “man, I wish I took that job…” I’m going to say, “man, I wish I spent more time with my kids!” So my biggest struggle is saying no to jobs that I would like to take, and turning my phone off on days that I'm home with the kids. I work MWF at the studio, and when I'm there, I'm 100% there. On my days off, I'm 100% with my kids. Sometimes I'll sneak in an occasional email during nap time, though. ;)
What is one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
I think the biggest obstacle I've faced so far was actually starting my own business. I had a lot of doubts that I wouldn't be successful. With my husband's incredible encouragement, I went for it, and here I am today, 4 years later, still in business! I've definitely had bumps along the way, but overcoming my fear of actually starting my business was the biggest obstacle.
Do you ever struggle in coming up with new ideas? How do you combat creative blocks?
I have so many ideas but not enough time! I do get creative blocks that I have to work through. Sometimes if I'm tired of editing, I'll force myself to sit down and edit a certain amount, or I'll set a time limit until I can move onto the next project. The nice thing about working with multiple mediums is that I can switch to another project if I get stuck on one. Paintings are always daunting, but once I get started I find myself smiling, I get in the zone, and I don’t ever want to stop.
Has creating for a living changed your desire to pursue Art on your own time? What would your advice be for other makers and artists who are hesitant to pursue their work professionally?
It has taken me four years of being in business to realize I need to set aside time for my own art. And it's funny because now that I'm creating what I want to (versus what clients ask me to create), people are showing interest in it and wanting to buy it. It's very uplifting. I have to make time to create my own work to keep the passion alive. If I only create what people ask me to create, I’m not able to express myself artistically. My advice to other artists who want to pursue their art as a full-time job is this: be ready to see art in a whole new way. It’s not just a craft or a joy anymore, it’s a business. Sometimes it's not all fun, and yes you are creating, but it's all the other things that come along with it like meeting deadlines, sending emails, brainstorming over and over again with a client, or finishing a beautiful piece of work that meets all your standards but your client doesn’t appreciate. So my advice is to balance your ‘work’ art with your ‘passion’ art. No matter what, don't lose your passion in creating, because at that point... what’s the point?
What kind of support system do you have behind you and your work?
Lots of support. My in-laws watch both of my kids while I work three days a week, and my mom and step-dad designed and built my new studio! My dad encourages me on a daily basis through long-distance texts and calls, and if it weren't for my husband, I probably wouldn't be in business. He keeps up with the household chores when my job gets busy, he juggles his job and the kids while I work, and he’s the ultimate encourager.
What would you say is your biggest strength in your current role?
Making people feel special whether it's through a photo shoot or a custom piece of art.
What would you say is the skill you most need to improve?
Probably my professional language. I'm really casual.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Teil Duncan, Heather Day, Yas Imamura, Anna Bond.
Are there any dream projects or milestones that you’re looking forward to?
Reaching the point where I don't take commissions.
What helps you wind down/how do you manage stress?
A glass of wine and a good smooch from my husband. And if I'm feeling really stressed, we’ll hop in the car and head to the beach for a good sunset. I also really like clearing my head with a good run or workout.
What are some notable (funny, embarrassing, intense) experiences you’ve had on the job?
I was shooting a wedding and totally congratulated who I thought was the grandfather of the groom, but was actually the father of the groom. Whoops!
What’s next for you?
Turning all of these ideas floating around in my head into art.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Make your passion your full-time job.
In partnership with:
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