Jenny Strange: It Takes A Village But You Really Can Have It All
There was a time (in the not so distant past) where young girls could only aspire to marriage and motherhood. While in many countries, this is still the case, in the present day United States, women and girls are increasingly encouraged to pursue their passions and claim a space in the workplace. Today, women constitute a significant part of the workforce and statistics show that 70% of women with children under 18 participate in the labor force.
Artist, mother, musician, maker, and small-business owner Jenny Strange proves you don’t need to choose between having a career, starting a family, and following your passions. We spoke with the Bay Area cool-girl about how she manifested her dreams and built the life she always wanted.
Q. Tell us about Jenny Strange! (And we have to ask, is that really your last name?)
A. I would describe Jenny Strange as my passion and my outlet to bring my ideas to life.
And yes, it’s true! I married a man with the last name “Strange.”
Q. How long have you been an artist?
A. From as long as I can remember! Growing up, I was always creating, painting, and drawing. It didn’t just stop at visual arts for me, either. Music has played an integral part in my life as well - always singing, playing piano and the ukulele. I was in a few bands here and there and I always thought that’s what I would end up doing. I definitely miss performing...but that’s what karaoke is for, right?
Q. When did you realize you could turn your art into a business? Was there a moment when you realized your passion could become something more?
A. I went to school for Graphic Design and when I started Jenny Strange I was still in that field. I loved my work the most when I was working on the branding side, but it felt things were moving fast towards digital so I pivoted. I got into web design and worked less and less with my hands and more on the computer and things slowly got very technical for me — I was losing that messy hand-done-coloring-out-of-the-lines side. So, I started sketching and drawing and getting messy after work. The first thing I drew that sparked the idea of creating products came out of a night of drawing with friends...the wheels started turning from there!
Q. We first spotted your designs in ANOMIE, a local San Francisco boutique. How important has the community been for your art and your business?
A. First off, I love ANOMIE! Chelsea Moylan, the owner, has really helped get the word out for Jenny Strange. She’s a huge supporter of independent and emerging brands and artists. I’m so thankful for her support!
You get from the community what you put in it — it’s definitely a partnership. You invest in craft fairs and reach out to local businesses, artists and makers and it goes from there.
“Putting yourself out there is scary, but in the end, it’s been a very rewarding experience.”
Q. What is the added value of shopping and supporting small and local businesses?
A. Local businesses have access and the ability to showcase local artists in a way that respects their craft, that is unique compared to nationwide corporations. In a way, they preserve the uniqueness of local communities and culture. By supporting local and small businesses, you’re helping to give a voice to independent and local artists. So, thank you for shopping small!
Q. We love your Hands Off tee! Can you tell us a bit about how that particular design came to be and what the message is behind the design?
A. That tee came from a massive pile of sketches and drawings I had done for a project that in the end got cut. So I sat there, surrounded by all this hard work that I didn’t want to go to waste. I was shuffling through all the illustrations thinking about how to reappropriate it. We are in a time right now where women empowerment is being celebrated, especially through fashion, so I had that on the mind and it just popped into my head to use them on a tee when I saw them. That tee has definitely sparked all kinds of conversations and has meant so many things to so many people.
The best moments for me is when I hear from women who say the tee has helped them through tough times. A handful of times that has meant receiving messages from women battling breast cancer. They tell me that they have worn their tee* to chemo sessions and doctor appointments to help bring some light to an otherwise daunting and scary time. It’s an incredible feeling to know my work has had that kind of effect.
Q. There can sometimes be this notion among women that at some point, we have to choose between being a mother and being a working woman. How do you balance motherhood with operating a full-time business? What do you say to those who say ‘you can’t have it all’?
A. Amazing question. Firstly, I actually have a full-time job on top of Jenny Strange! I always get a look of shock when people hear Jenny Strange isn’t full-time for me. So yes, it’s been really hard to balance two jobs including being a mom and all the challenges that come along with that. Jenny Strange is my passion, and I need it or else all of that creative energy has nowhere to go. But to be honest, and not to be too sappy, I really owe a lot to my husband — Mr. Strange. He has been my cheerleader and an immense support system from the very beginning — allowing me time to work on Jenny Strange, helping me construct craft fair booths, dealing with the back-end business and so on.
“You can have it all, but especially in my case, it also takes a whole lot of help.”
Q. What advice would you give to women who are working towards starting businesses of their own?
A. Just start already! (Sorry for yelling, but this question gets me amped up.) For me, starting felt so permanent. As if where I started was where I was going to end up, as if nothing could ever change — not even my name haha. It was paralyzing. In my head, I needed to make sure Jenny Strange was PERFECT before launching it. But that held me back and I was tired of thinking about it. So I took a step back and told myself, “Ok Jenn, where you start is not where you will end up, things CAN change so just do it already!” Jenny Strange isn’t exactly where I want it to be, I’m constantly revisioning and experimenting and iterating! And that’s what’s so exciting.
Q. Who are the 5 people (dead or alive) you would invite to your dinner party?