This is the first in a series of interviews that aim to inspire and encourage us to
follow our hearts.
Jen Hewett is a printmaker and a business consultant who recently launched a kickstarter project to fund production of her collection of linen and leather bags. I got to know Jen through Twitter and her blog and was thrilled that she agreed to participate in this interview. I hope you find Jen's path as inspirational as I have!
What activities make your heart happy and your life full of meaning and purpose?
Making things – using my hands and actually creating something tangible – makes me happy. I can lose track of time when I'm in the middle of a creative project. Of course, it does take a good deal of hard work (and a lot of frustration) to get to the point where I'm truly in the flow. I think this is something that isn't discussed much among non-creative people – that the act of making is actually work. But it's so worth it.
I also really love teaching. This is something that I discovered late – I'm an introvert and I am exhausted by large groups, but I find that I love helping people grow their skills or develop their knowledge.
And I love being outdoors. I bike and walk a lot. I also live close to the ocean. I feel most myself when I'm printing, or when I'm walking along the beach.
How did you discover my heart’s true path? How do you continue to discern what is true to your heart?
I was that kid who did really well in school and, because of that, I felt that I needed to have a "real" career. I thought I needed to have an office job, needed to get dressed up to go to work, needed to do something that was both impressive and easy to explain to people. The funny thing, though, is that I never really followed that path, and every time I did, I would quickly find a way to reset my work life and do something that was more in line with my values.
I've discovered my true path by paying attention to the work that I still love doing despite the challenges. And I have to be honest and say that my path has to support me financially, so there's sometimes a give and take between what I want to do now and what I can do. For example, I'd love to be a working artist, but I also know that in order for me to make a living, I also have to work on sales and product development and marketing. So, I've never had the illusion that being an artist means sitting in a studio and painting all day, every day.
And, for now, I also work as an HR Consultant to small businesses and startups. It's great – I earn a nice living, and my consulting allows me to work with people who are really passionate about what they do. My clients are experts in sales, marketing, branding, finance and product development. It is an honor to work with them.
What rituals do you practice that help you listen to and honor your heart?
I have a pretty clear sense of what I want to do and I trust my gut. When I am conflicted or am having a tough time, I leash up my dog and go for a walk until I'm able to think clearly. I'm lucky that I live close to Golden Gate Park.
Also, I am very deliberate about my workload and my commitments. I do not take on more work than I can handle, and I am really focused about how I spend my time. That doesn't mean that I schedule every bit of my day; rather, I say "no" to a lot of social engagements and don't fritter away time with lots of TV or web surfing.
And, finally, I get eight hours of sleep every night. I can't focus when I'm sleep deprived!
Are there tools that help you stay on track?
I'm really big on visioning exercises. I do them once a year (if that) and that helps me figure out where I want to go and it somehow happens. Well, that's not completely true – I will look at my calendar, decide when I want to accomplish something or start a project, and work from there. I'm not a great project manager so I try to keep my projects flexible rather than tightly bound to a timeline. It takes a lot for me to commit to an idea or a plan, so once I say I'm going to do something, it's pretty likely that I will.
Also I use a special post-it note system to keep me organized.
Tell us about your heart's community: Who are your supporters? How have you found people who believe in you, accept you and cheer you on through your journey?
I have a fantastic community of creative women. I'm part of a group that meets once a month to discuss goals, progress, and challenges. Most of us used to meet weekly, but our schedules just wouldn't allow that. This group means the world to me. Seriously. I don’t think I would have felt so much confident about making some of the choices I have without them. Also, they challenge me in a good way. They push me to do things that I'm not comfortable doing, but also tell me when it's okay to take a break or walk away from something. I’m so grateful that Stef, Steph, Amelia, Liz, and Tiffany are a part of my life!
I also have other artist friends who are not a part of this group. I originally met a lot of them through Twitter and Instagram, and then we eventually met in real life. I've grown close to a few of them – a surprise because we met online, and because I hadn't expected to make so many new, creative friends as an adult.
What is a book, song, artist or quote that inspires you?
I have two favorite quotes:
"And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." – John Steinbeck
I'm a recovering perfectionist and I will sometimes revert to my old ways when I'm really scared of trying something new, or taking a big risk. This quote reminds me that good enough is so much better than perfect.
"My goal is always to come from a place of love, but sometimes you just have to break it down for a mother@*#!" – RuPaul
I don't always have to be nice. I can tell it like it is. And it's okay to have boundaries and hold other people accountable.
As for artists, I adore Ira Glass. Really. I have a crush on him. But he did a video (which I can no longer find online) about making work that sucks and sticking with it. Because we have so much "visibility" – especially through social media – into other artists' lives, we often think that it's really easy to get out there and create. It isn't. It's hard work and it takes practice and failure before we can reach a point where creating comes more easily. I don't think I've learned everything there is to know about printmaking. I'm certainly not a master illustrator. My work does often still look better in my head than in reality. I'm okay with that, because I know that if I keep at it, I will eventually get to the point where my work is almost as good as – if not better than – what I imagined it could be.