One of the things I find very fulfilling in the process of blogging is the conversations I get to have while planning and writing blog posts for Patina & Hue. People will tell you, or you may know yourself, that blogs take a lot of time and they are a great deal of work. However, when you are doing something you love, I find it to be true that it feels less like “hard work” and more like a privilege. It is a privilege to get to know people I might have otherwise never have met, to share their story, their ideas and in the process learn something along the way. I feel that way about my new friend Kristen Jongen, self proclaimed crafter, artist, poet and speaker. She is constantly pushing herself forward and asking herself how to live her very best life while working to help others do the same.
Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Kristen [ through phone conversations ] as we explored how we might work together on a project I was developing. I was initially introduced to her work at a stationary trade show in New York where I learned that Kristen’s work was all-the-buzz in craft circles because her voice resonated with so many. I was immediately attracted to her use of vibrant color and learned that she had a massive following of collectors who were inspired by her messages of love, hope, strength, exploration, not-always-knowing, and learning self acceptance.
“The stretch of sun surfing on the horizon makes me desperate to cling…to frantically collect all the stars and reel in the moon…to contain the container-less in a place that is predictable, and I can easily find…when my soul forgets and needs reminding.”
Recently Kristen and I got together via Skype and had a great conversation about life, her art making, her business Soul Soup and her work with athletes. Here is part of that conversation:
Q: Kristen, can you tell us about your artistic and craft background?
A: “I have always been very hands-on and loved craft projects and tools. From my earliest memories, I was more interested in creating doll houses, and clothes than playing with the actual dolls. Even as a young girl, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to figure out how things were made. I spent my time learning how to make everything from yarn pom pom’s to handmade soap. I made paper and marbleized everything. This was before Michaels craft stores even existed—there were no craft kits available back then. I would check out books from the library or just figure out how to make something by diving in and working through the process of doing it wrong first. My mother was very crafty—which helped. She taught me how to sew and bead. We were both compulsive with our crafting and there would be baskets of finished projects laying around the house until I was old enough to understand I could make things AND sell them!”
“My parents bought me an oil painting kit for Christmas one year. I was overwhelmed by the entire process and had no idea where to start. At that time, I was more into making three dimensional objects. When I was 15, I talked to a store owner and learned about buying materials wholesale. After that I started ‘mass producing’ my crafts. I sold them at stores, craft fairs, school, everywhere. A few years later I went to school for Industrial and packaging design but I didn’t like the ‘on-demand’ aspect that is inherent in that industry.”
“Standing in the light doesn’t require a sturdy spine
Just a courageous soul willing to turn and face the sun.”
Q: When did you start writing and incorporating your poems into your work?
A: “My writing was a complete surprise. Ironically, it was the only subject in school that I was ever in advanced placement for, but it never occurred to me to be a writer. I enjoyed my creative writing classes, but I was so focused on art and music that I didn’t think twice about it until decades later.”
“Putting words for the first time on a piece of art made me feel extremely nervous. It was called, True Love. I had a business painting murals, and constructed these particular handmade paper/poem collages in my studio on the side. Writing those poems made me cry. I stored the original two pieces in my garage for two years. I was cleaning out my studio and decided to frame them and bring them inside. I hung them in the house. My husband had noticed them right away, which surprised me as I was always moving things around. That evening he asked where they came from. I remember feeling vulnerable, and said, ‘they are mine—I did them.’ He was surprised and said— ‘You wrote these?’ His next words were ‘Ka-ching!’ I laughed, but his approval gave me the confidence to start showing that kind of work to others. It took me about another two years, to get Soul Soup underway. I had always made art, but it wasn’t until I added my poems or thoughts to the paintings that things really took off.”
“We have not forgotten who we are. We are radicals-wise, blonde and nappy, green and eager hippies and cowboys. We are native and new survivors, heroes, fit and in wheelchairs. We are French fries and sushi, dreamers and scientists, rigid and bent suits and clergy, temples and churches. We are proud, humble and still learning. We love big, gay and straight, wearing yamakas and sombreros, kimonos and locks. We are hunters and vegans -(an all inclusive buffet of the rowdy and peaceful). We are brave. We are the world collected in a country connected by hope. We are awake and on fire. We have not forgotten we are proud to say we are Americans.” ~Americans by Kristen Jongen
Q: How did you come to a place in your life in which you were willing to express your own vulnerability on canvas and in your writing?
A: “I write about how I feel and what I believe to be true. My own personal journey has been a bumpy ride. I have been through a lot. I suspect most of us have at this point in our lives. From having children, to unexpected divorce, to a child with a chronic illness, to recovery from addiction, through near bankruptcy—the grief and healing add up. I made a conscious decision years ago to speak the truth by focusing on the light. There are enough cultural sources of darkness. I focus my energy on a solution. I might add, that is not the same as saying Live, love, laugh, and follow your bliss. I find the bubble-gum-fairy approach to inspiration insulting. I get more from the raw and vulnerable truth, warts and all.”
Q: What would you say to someone who has always wanted to make art but didn’t have the time or didn’t believe they could?
A: “I think we all are already artists of one kind or another. Just do it. Take the class, write the book, design and make the clothes, get started. I cannot tell you how many people have approached me with ideas. Inevitably I ask, them if they have have written the book? And the answer 99.99% of the time is ‘no’. ‘Have you designed your clothing line?’ ‘Have you collected your body of work into a series?’ ‘Are you currently acting?’ Ideas are like thought bubbles in the wind if you don’t take action. If you want to write. Write. If you want to paint. Paint. If you want to act. Act. If you want to make a movie, make a movie. The access we have to do all of those things is incredible. It is the content that is the struggle. That is where art lives.”
Q: What has been your biggest life lesson?
A: “The biggest lesson I have learned is that the older I get, the less I know. I used to drive stakes in the ground with self righteous indignation. I thought I had a strong foothold on what was right and what was wrong and everything in-between. I have learned that there are many shades of grey in a complicated world. I now have a hole in the doughnut theory—that the answer I am looking for, is actually in the hole in the doughnut I have usually been eating around. Peace is for me an act of surrender in the face of what I am fighting the most.”
Q: Over the course of your career you have worked as an artist, gallery owner, writer-poet and speaker, what is next for you?
A: “Yes, it has been quite a ride! I have worked in every facet of art origination and production. I stopped traveling three years ago to focus more on speaking engagements. I still have my line of greeting cards and prints through Soul Soup, and I paint original work. I am writing a curriculum for professional athletes and high performers to incorporate art and creativity into their training.
“When we maximize our whole being and serve from the heart, we create legends. We also heal the world.”
Enter our drawing to win one of Kristen Jongen’s books or a print!
You can enter one time by doing the following (make sure you do all 3 steps to get your name in the drawing):
1. Sign into the Soul Soup guestbook by clicking here: Soul Soup and write a note that says you are entering to win the September give away.
2. Like us on Patina & Hue Facebook page at this link
3. Email Pamela at Patina & Hue and include a note that you signed into the Soul Soup guest book
and “liked” the Patina & Hue Facebook page—if possible include a photo of yourself.
The drawing will be held September 1st and the 3 winners will be announced on
the Patina & Hue Facebook page September 2nd, 2015 !
Thank you Kristen for sharing your insights with us
and thank you to all of you for reading.