If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than today, you’ve seen the plethora of AMAZING DIY tutorials and inspiration pieces that we’ve been lucky to feature from the amazingly talented Jenn of Ribbons & Bluebirds. Jen is hosting our LAST DIY WORKSHOP OF 2014 (this Sunday. Seriously. Don’t miss it!) and we thought it would be fun to do a little “Meet the Maven” interview with Jenn ahead of her workshop. Can’t wait to see you all on Sunday!
Originally trained as an architect, Jenn specialized in traditional design including hand-drafting and watercolour (and even some furniture.) She has lived in Rome and London for her architectural studies and career, and she worked on some very interesting projects before leaving the field and focusing on her stationery business.
Jenn has been living in the DC area off and on since 1996 (the year she met her husband, on the elementary school playground.) Their family includes two mischievous cats and one handsome dog, and their townhouse is a continual DIY-in-progress.
How’d you get into graphic design/stationery?
I’ve always been interested in graphic design, and especially paper products, but it really took planning my own wedding before I transitioned from being an admirer to actively pursuing information to take me to the next level. I don’t have a degree in graphic design but I do have one in an art-related field, and I think that gives me my own notions on what a balanced, well designed piece looks like.
When we started wedding planning, I was living in London while my better half was getting his master’s degree here in the DC area. Planning anything was difficult given our lack of overlapping time and the fact that I was having trouble reaching out to vendors from overseas, and I was getting really frustrated not “making progress” – so I threw myself into planning the invitations and the overall design of the wedding. I think I created 8 or 10 totally different design directions before I convinced my dad to help me build my own letterpress, which changed the direction again.
About midway through wedding planning, it became obvious that I really enjoyed working with all this specialty paper, and I decided to transition into a business. For almost three years I ran my stationery company on nights and weekends, after coming home from my architectural job, but early last year I took a chance to transition to working on Ribbons & Bluebirds full time. Now I work on learning and creating every day!
Where do you find inspiration for your DIY projects?
This is just as hard as you’d think it would be – some days are just not great creative days! But I love brainstorming with other wedding pros and friends and family, and then I save lists of ideas to try out. I would say at least a third of my ideas never make it past the testing phase – either they require specialized equipment or crazy artistic skill, or they flat out don’t work. I spend a lot of time in craft stores, and I often run across cool products that I know I want to try and incorporate somehow. In addition to my own personal inspiration directions, I do try and keep up with trends in the wedding industry and think about how I can bring those (often expensive) looks into a smaller scale or a handmade product.
Any tips or tricks for those of us that don’t find ourselves particularly crafty?
I joke that I test out my DIY’s on my sister to get a lay-person’s opinion, but the what I honestly believe is that most people have more crafting skills than they think. If you’re really feeling like the projects you’re taking on aren’t working, then look at your results and try and determine what went wrong – are you using different materials that don’t work in the same way as the original, or are you missing a tool that could make a big difference? Make sure you haven’t set yourself up for failure.
If you do feel like you’re not crafty but you’d like to be, then I’d recommend either taking a class or starting with a simple, clear DIY that doesn’t require too much free-hand work. Using a template, or a pattern, really helps set the groundwork for you to be able to follow along, and ultimately create something you’re proud of. Paper Source or other small specialty stores are a great resource for learning about tools, and taking small hands-on workshops (and of course, the last of Bree’s awesome DIY workshops is THIS WEEKEND, hosted by yours truly!)
Starting small and simple and taking baby steps not only builds your confidence (and your tool library) it also starts to improve your coordination and technique as well. But most importantly, don’t stress! Crafting is supposed to be fun, and if it isn’t fun then it’s time to take a break!
The coolest/best/most rad DIY project you ever finished?
This is hard, because I love almost all my DIYs. An easy answer would be to say my homemade letterpress and my wedding invitations, but I also love the little things I’ve been working on recently and I am especially proud of how my cake toppers are coming along. I think I will say, with total confidence, that my favorite DIY is always right around the corner, waiting for me to get started :)
Thanks so much Jenn! Now go get your ticket for Sunday’s workshop!