June 12, 2017

Prints, Paints, and a Squirrel Brush

Jen Garrido is an artist—an amazing artist. Tucked away in her corner studio in an industrial building located in Portola Place (the neighborhood between Portola and Hunter's Point here in San Francisco) with high ceilings and an extraordinary set of windows, Jen creates her work. Paint aplenty, a library of brushes, and artwork tucked in corners, flat files, and on the walls, her studio is energetic. While not curated, per se, the space is organized. Everything has a place—nothing unintentional. It is a case study of beauty emerging from utility.

While self-admittedly "not that into nature," Jen is inspired by natural forms and her current works are stunning likenesses of plant forms in watercolor. Understandable at first glance, the layers of depth and complexity become incredibly alluring after spending more time with them—not unlike Jen herself.

Aside from being an artist, Jen also produces and sells a line of printed textiles under the moniker Jenny Pennywood. We recently worked with Jen to create a fabric print for our Good Acre Collection—check out the Emma Dress and Michelle Shirt in Maze Print. Here's a bit more about Jen and Jenny...

Okay, so the first question has to be: who is Jenny Pennywood and how do you know her?
Jenny Pennywood is the name that I gave my alter-art-ego back in 2008. At the time I had a desire to do more graphic / commercial work, and I didn’t want it to hinder my fine art path, so I decided to give myself a new name to work under. Jenny Pennywood, the name came from nothing more than a conversation with an old studio mate … it just sounded good, and I didn’t give the name too much weight, I just picked it because it rolled off the tongue.

You have a background in fine art and are an amazing painter. How does your art practice inform your patterned prints?
I approach all of the work I do with the same concerns which are more formal in nature—I am drawn to shape, color, form, texture, line quality, movement, balance, how forms lean and lay, etc. So really, it all comes from the same place. I consider myself to be mostly process-oriented, so most of the time I am just working it out through “making,” so painting or designing or whatever all feels related.

What was your inspiration for the Maze Print? Is it in the name?
I named the print after I finished it … and it just seemed like the most natural name. As for inspiration—it just came from a session of drawing with ink and brush. I liked the movement of it.

It seems like patterns are often taken for granted but there is a lot of work needed to perfect then repeat. Can you walk us through the process of creating a pattern?
A goal of mine with Jenny Pennywood is that all of the patterns and colorways can all look good together. I want it all to feel cohesive. So I guess I start there when I am designing something new. Other than that, I just draw and scan the shapes and lines into the computer and then take the pieces and begin to compose. I’d say that some of the patterns are developed more in the computer than on paper, and then others are done just on paper; it just depends on what I am looking for. Once the pattern is complete, I hand it over to the screenprinter and he makes films and screens. I screenprint locally in SF and all in water-based inks.

Can you describe your studio? And your favorite tool? What could you not work without?
My studio is about 1,000-square feet, and it has two walls of windows. It is a somewhat traditional studio building with concrete floors, tall white walls, and big open space. My favorite tools I suppose, are these squirrel tail brushes. And what I guess I couldn’t work without is my materials: paint, paper, etc.

What is a squirrel brush?!
Hair from a squirrel—yes—it is so soft.

You've been a resident of San Francisco for quite some time. How has the art community changed in recent years?
I’ve been in SF since 1998. I lived for a few years in Oakland and Berkeley while I went to Mills College for grad school, but then we moved back to the city in 2004, and we’ve been here ever since. I feel like this is such a big question! San Francisco has changed so much. As most people know, it is nearly impossible to stay in SF for just the normal, non-tech creative type. We are very fortunate to have a generous and kind landlord, and we’ve been on our block for 13 years, plus we have studios (my husband is a woodworker and has a studio out in the Sunset). Sometimes it feels like we don’t know anyone like us—both being freelance artists parents and who are just making it work. But the positive side to that, for now, is that we do get to stay in the city, continue to grow our businesses and art practices. That said, our future is in the city is blurry, and we have lots of conversations about where we will go, where we want to go and what we will do. There is such a deep craving to live somewhere where we can afford but who knows where that is now and does that place also allow us to continue to do our work?

But to answer the question about how the art community has changed—personally, I just don’t know. In 2008 when the economy crashed so many things changed for me, and I feel like I went in a different direction. I created Jenny Pennywood, I no longer was showing in galleries, and my whole focus was just to keep doing creative work so I kind of shifted away from a fine art painting path as my main focus and started doing more commercial / graphic work. So the art community that I knew from undergraduate / graduate school wasn’t really part of my new thing. My whole goal is always just to keep working, and luckily I’ve been able to maintain Jen Garrido which has grown quite a bit in the last five years, continue to develop Jenny Pennywood, and also try new businesses like doing clothing under the name See Sun with my friend Lena Corwin.

Being a parent shifts things too and there is a desire to be around like-minded families and those people are dwindling here in the city. People are leaving the city because it is too expensive to stay, or there isn’t space or the schools aren’t good or they want to be closer to their families … there are lots of reasons why artist people are leaving and in my world, those seem to be the reasons.

Where can we see your work? When is your next show? What are (shameless plug)you currently working on?
I like to post lots of studio shots of my work in progress on Instagram—Instagram has allowed me to invite people into my studio and I really love that. As far as galleries and shows, my work can be seen at Wally Workman in Austin, TX. I am having a show of paintings at Spartan Shop in Portland opening in late September. People can also see all of my current and past work on my website as well as my online store. I have been working on releasing limited edition Jen Garrido art prints through my online shop which is a project I’ve wanted to do for a while and I, finally got around to it. Plus, for Jenny Pennywood I have lots of stores that carry my textiles and I am considering exploring doing some women and kids clothing with Jenny Pennywood. We will see.

As far as what I am working on right now is that I am very, very pregnant and I am really trying to slow down … I haven’t had much success with it, but I am trying!