Good morning! Today's Friday Finds is the wonderful Jennifer Orkin Lewis - a.k.a August Wren, whose painting I've admired ever since I saw her work in the Lilla Rogers course we both took. I just love this profile picture that Jennifer dashed off a few days ago. She mentions her daily project further on...
© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
When did you start your business and why? Did you plan how you started meticulously or was it almost accidental? Tell us your story of how “August Wren" came to be!
I went to Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and after I graduated I worked in textile studios painting patterns and repeats. I became a stylist with a NY textile company. I didn’t paint or draw much at the time but I was working with patterns, repeats, design studios and artists, putting together the line each season. When I look back I know it made a big impression on me and has influenced my new work tremendously.
When my son was little I started cutting back my days at work, one because business was a bit slow, and two, the industry was changing and I was ready for some new challenges. One of the studios I bought designs from asked me to design for him. It was a great way to get back into doing my own thing. I sold lots of work for greeting cards and fabric. The style I was painting in at that time was very different than it is now, more ink and watercolour and softer. I did lots of freelance work for fabric companies, some book covers and graphic design work.
After a few years I was moving on again, I just started making lots of art, lots of digital work, but I started to realize my true love is painting. A big project the past 2 years has been illustrating for a blog called The Perfect Score Project. www.perfectscoreproject.com. I have licensed greeting cards, done fabric design, eco blankets and more. After taking MATS A&B I think I have solidified my style more and am still trying to decide who I want to be now!
Eat Your Hat © Jennifer Orkin Lewis
Did things take off immediately or has it been a slow burn?
It’s a slow burn. I did decide that I really only want to do work that is satisfying to me and where I’m not compromising my aesthetic. I’ve seen lots of my patterns on fabrics but I wasn’t always thrilled with the final product. I want to love what I do and love the outcome.
Do you do your business part time or full time?
My son is away at college now so I have the luxury and curse of working all the time.
Two pages from the sketch book © Jennifer Orkin Lewis
I want to grow, I have lots of ideas and plans. I’d like to do some lifestyle editorial work as well as expand into more licensing. One project I’ve worked on for over a year is a children’s book. The author and I are working on getting a publisher. Things are starting to simmer with that so I will have something to show soon!
Do you make a good living if you are full time?
I make way less than when I was a stylist but I’m also much happier.
Where do you sell your work?
I have an Etsy and Society 6 shop. I sell lots of original work during our annual local studio tour, art/craft shows and word of mouth.
Table © Jennifer Orkin Lewis
I sell much more live.. I think it’s because I haven’t been great at keeping up my shops. There’s also something about seeing the work for real that seems to make a more emotional connection with a buyer. I am painting a series of large canvases now and hope to have a gallery show soon.
Who do you think your typical customer is?
I really love to paint flowers and quirky people and patterns. I think those subjects appeal to women.
© Jennifer Orkin Lewis
Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most?
I love when I start out a project and I don’t really know where it’s going and through exploration I create something I really love. On another note, I am on the board of our local arts council and among other things I run a blog where I interview local artists. I find it very inspiring to meet so many creative people and their passion is thrilling. That blog is at http://riverartsblog.wordpress.com/
Is there anything you would have done differently if you were starting your business today?
I wish I could have taken the Make Art That Sells class years ago.. I learned so much about what I want to do and how. Of course it wasn’t available then!
Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive?
I’m very intuitive, but I make small goals for myself. I don’t have a great ability to see far into the future. My yearlong project right now is a 30 minute painting everyday in my sketchbook. I just finished month 3. It’s been an amazing experience, deciding what to paint everyday, how much I can accomplish in 30 minutes, playing with techniques, and getting comfortable letting what happens, happen. I post them everyday on Instagram and it’s such a supportive community there, it keeps me very motivated.
Have you ever or do you employ people part time to help with any aspect of your business? For example, book keeper, accountant, packers? If you do how did you find people who were the right fit for you?
I’m hoping to get a part time intern this spring for a few weeks. I want help upkeeping my shops especially.
Green Floral © Jennifer Orkin Lewis
Could you describe where you work? Are you alone most of the day or with others? Do you feel that they way it is now is the best fit for you? Do you see that changing?
I’m in my studio with my cat Sushi. I am very comfortable here but I’m starting to crowd myself out, now that I’m doing larger paintings. Someday we will renovate our old stand alone garage so I can have more space.
Do you have a mentor or people who you are able to discuss your business with? If not how do you find you best make decisions about your business?
I have a few friends who are very supportive and encouraging. One in particular loves to come by and brainstorm with me. My husband is also a great help, we were at RISD together, he’s an architect and very visual yet business minded, He will help me sort some things out.
What is a typical day for you in your business as it is now? What would be a dream day for you – business or otherwise?
I’m most creative in the morning. I try get up early, do my most creative work whether for a job or myself before 2 or so. After that I am more drifty.. That’s when I can do more technical things. I do find in the evening I can do my big paintings it must be a different corner of my brain. I make a big list every morning and I use a timer to keep me focused! It feels great as I cross out tasks that I accomplish. A dream day would be one that is 48 hours rather than 24 and where I just paint all day.
Anything else you want to add… tips or plans or ambitions or even special offers to my blog readers?
I would love to offer a print of one of my sketchbook drawings to one of your readers. Either the green sketch above or this one below ....
Black Vase © Jennifer Orkin Lewis
That’s so generous of you Jennifer - I think this both are lovely and wish i could enter!:)
To win one of these prints please leave your comments below making sure that you include your choice of either "Green floral" or "Black Vase" as part of your comment and I will draw a winner in approximately seven days time and put Jennifer in touch with whoever wins!
Finally Jennifer please tell us where we can buy your work:
Society 6: http://society6.com/AugustWren
Thank you so much for letting me interview you Jennifer and showing your glorious paintings; you are a true inspiration to me.