Here at LiveMom, we love meeting new moms (and dads) doing interesting things around town. Our monthly features give us an excuse to learn more about these hardworking Austinites.
I am constantly inspired by Austin’s creative community, which is on display quite frequently in our museums, artist tours and other cultural events. I’m also intrigued by mothers who embrace crafting, since my joy tends to get squelched by the fact that the set-up and clean-up seems to take more time than the actual process. All that said, I respect crafters and marvel at their creations. One of these local mamas I found out about is Jennifer Perkins. After getting her start as a jewelry designer, Jennifer has dabbled in just about every arts and craft genre: embroidery, scrapbooking, journaling and mixed media art, just to name a few.
Jennifer has collaborated with BlogHer, I Love to Create, The DIY Network, eHow, Treetopia Christmas Trees, Tuesday Morning stores, HGTV and Kids Crafts 1-2-3 Magazine on content and her work has been featured in ad campaigns for Michaels and JoAnn’s Fabric. Jennifer has two kids, one of which I met when I got up the courage to join Jennifer at a recent Crafts and Cocktails with Jen event at TOMS Coffee on South Congress. Not only did I take home a ton of bottle cap jewelry, but I left not feeling like a craft idiot, which is no small feat.
With holidays seemingly around every corner, we moms have kids off school and family members to make gifts for, so I’m looking for Jennifer’s site for inspiration and DIY gift ideas. Who knows, maybe I will embrace glitter after all.
Thanks to Jennifer for telling us a little about herself, how she made it to Austin and what she’s really excited about that she’s working on now.
LiveMom: You’ve been in Austin almost 20 years. Where are you from originally? What brought you to Austin?
Jennifer: In my early 20s, I found I was coming to Austin regularly to see bands and go record shopping. At the time I lived in the DFW area (McKinney) and there was not much of creative scene there. I went to college in San Marcos, spent most nights watching bands at the old Emo’s and decided to never leave Austin. The thing about Austin is that it was the perfect place to live as a 20 something writing music reviews and band interviews for magazines. It was a perfect place to live when I decided to become a professional crafter and start the Austin Craft Mafia and Stitch Fashion Show and Craft Bazaar in my 30s. Now as a mother (I’m still a music lover and a professional crafter) it is a perfect place to raise a family. No matter my age or interest, Austin has been the perfect place to live.
LiveMom: When did you start crafting and creating?
Jennifer: I got really into crafts in my mid 20s. I come from a long line of crafters, and my sister is an artist, but it was not until my 20s when I started my jewelry company, Naughty Secretary Club, that things really got started.
LiveMom: Where do you go locally to find inspiration?
Jennifer: I visit a thrift store (or two) almost daily. I always find inspiration there – the pattern on an 80s dress, the colors of a rug, the stitches in an afghan. There is always something waiting for me at the thrift store. I love Paper Place and could spend hours there touching paper. Stitch Lab is one of my favorite places in all of Austin. That reminds me; I need to sign up for my annual Christmas craft class. There is a craft show almost every weekend in Austin waiting to inspire. During the holidays I am especially fond of the Blue Genie Art Bazaar.
LiveMom: What is your idea of a perfect day spent in Austin with the family?
Jennifer: My kids’ favorite spot in Austin is the Austin Nature & Science Center. I’d love to spend a day there, walking along the lake, riding the train at Zilker, maybe renting a canoe (making my husband row of course) and top it off with dinner at Chuy’s. They have a peanut-free menu which I always appreciate as a parent of a child with food allergies.
LiveMom: What would you do if you had 24 hours in Austin completely to yourself (with no financial limitations)?
Jennifer: I’d get a room at the W and take full advantage of their spa services, pool and frozen mojitos. The JW Marriott is also pretty swanky looking. Then again those beds at The Hotel Saint Cecilia are supposed to be really comfy. A day alone with just my thoughts sounds pretty amazing. I have a couple of book proposals I’d hammer out in a bathrobe with room service and Law and Order on the TV.
LiveMom: What advice would you give to moms to make time for creative pursuits for yourself and your kids?
Jennifer: My grandmother used to say “you gotta let it out or you’ll get sick”. Now she was referring to bodily issues, but I always think of her when it comes to crafting and creativity. For me if I’m not creating, it starts to make me twitch. Crafting can be like yoga or meditating if you get to that spot where you are creating just to create and not thinking in the back of your mind: “this has to be good enough to post on Instagram or this has to look like what I saw on Pinterest”. Take the limitations and expectations off of crafting and just do it. As for kids, especially young kids, I think it is just as important to foster their creativity as it is to practice reading. I’m a big fan of play-based learning and craft-based learning. I always say if my kids are not covered in dirt and paint at the end of the day then I have not done my job right.
LiveMom: What is your favorite holiday? Do you have a favorite craft?
Jennifer: That is like making me pick a favorite child. I collect vintage goodies from most holidays, this way I can rotate my collections in and out all year long. I love Christmas because there is so much kitsch and it just brings out the crafty in people. The challenge of finding vintage Halloween collectibles always keeps me on my toes. Plus, since I have a giant annual Halloween party this is the holiday I bake for, which I love. Truly though, I think my vintage Easter collection is my favorite. Vintage Easter is just so tacky, but I mean that in the best possible way. As far as a favorite craft, it depends on the day of the week. I have crafty ADD so one day I’m embroidering, the next day I’m quilling. I love trying new crafts, mediums and projects. Just this past week I worked with clay, made dioramas with my kids and filled a mini scrap-book. Paper crafting, scrapbooking and art journaling is my happy place. I love doing this with my kids. The three of us will get into bed with my paper, pens, scissors and glue sticks and just go crazy in our family art journal.
LiveMom: What’s something you’ve worked on recently that you are really excited about (or, what’s coming up that you are really jazzed about)?
Jennifer: I’ve recently started working with the DIY Network. I hosted for them a million years ago, but now I am creating content for their website and it has been so much fun. Finally someone else appreciates my holiday obsession!
LiveMom: What might we be surprised to learn about you?
Jennifer: I’m not very surprising. How about fun facts?! I have a 150-pound English Mastiff, I’m a Daisy Scout leader, I used to co-own a record label, I lived in London for a semester in college and I grew up in a pink Victorian house.
LiveMom: What’s the best way to keep up with what you are up to?
Jennifer: I’m trying to do better on my blog. I spent so much time blogging for other people and companies that I kinda let my own go for a long time. My Facebook page always has something fun. I use my gut when it comes to Pinterest. In other words, I pin what I like and want to see. Instagram is where you can find me the most often.