I was lucky enough to meet my next Creative Life interviewee at Squam Art Workshops last September; Jenny Doh and I shared a class and I was immediately struck by her fabulous personal style, and the way she tackled our Book in a Day class with such expertise (I, on the other hand, did not.) A passionate knitter and musician, Jenny is the former Editor-in-Chief & Director of Publishing for Somerset Studio and its many sister publications; now, in her new role as Founder & President of CRESCENDOh (launching March 1st), she'll be seeding even more creativity and inspiration into the world.
Ladies & gentlemen, Ms Jenny Doh…
SC: Could you tell us about your path from social work to publishing (and beyond)? How has your passion for art and craft fuelled your journey?
JD: When I was a social worker, I knew that that was my calling. But after 7 years I think I was burned out. So many difficult cases, so many gnarly stories. I was thirsty to find a professional path that might recharge and refresh me in new ways. And given that I was an avid crafter all my life, I dreamed of an opportunity to potentially find professional recharge within the creative arena. So that’s when I decided to explore the opportunity of entering the world of art and craft publications.
Don’t get me wrong, publishing is a tough industry. It’s about recruiting quality, tending to details, and always meeting deadlines. And sometimes it gets rather gnarly in this creative arena as well. And though the last six years have been very intense, my passion and ability for creating has fueled my drive to succeed and never give up and always reach for the next level of excellence. It is what fuels me now as I embark on the most audacious move of my life to date … Leaving a position that offered me comfort and success … To pursue the unknown … As I build a plan based on my values, and my goal to bring all of my passions and training together.
These days, I drop off the kids and then come back home to get straight onto the computer. My focus is on ad sales, book development, product development, community outreach, and of course networking with all stakeholders. I am in touch with my freelance and volunteer staff remotely and communicate with them throughout the day. The two most important staff are my two silky terriers, Toby and Scout. They are with me all day long and I couldn’t do it without them. They are cute, smart, and fiercely loyal. They also cajole me into taking breaks now and then to play with them. And before you know it, I’m off to pick up the kids, and then back home to help them with homework as my husband cooks really good food that we all enjoy together.
In your recent Editor’s Letter in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue of Somerset Studio, you wrote: ‘It's a new year. It's a new decade. Let us make a commitment to investing ourselves in the hard work of readying ourselves for a dream that may already be here — just waiting for our disciplined selves to take it all the way…’ I love this so much! How do you personally nurture discipline in your creative life?
Great question. You know … When I was in college, I remember there was a category of students who never could meet a deadline. They’d constantly be getting extensions from their professors on papers and what I observed was that extensions on deadlines led to bigger problems. Because one extension leads to the inevitable need for an extension on another class, and so on, until everything bottlenecks and you end up constantly living on borrowed time. I simply could never dream of living that way. Thinking about that sort of existence makes me hyperventilate. Life is so much easier when you set deadlines and meet them. So how do I nurture discipline? I simply force myself to do the hard thing first and then do the fun thing second. It’s that simple, really. If I have a book proposal due by Tuesday and a desire to make an art quilt, I tell myself that once I finish the proposal, I can reward myself with the quilt. It’s a way to discipline oneself to delay gratification and to mentally position the gratification as a reward for the hard work that needs to come first.
Please tell us more about your plans for CRESCENDOh…
CRESCENDOh.com will be a special place where we get to see what our favorite artists are creating and also their sources for creative inspiration. Each week, four artists will join me as Guest Curators as they shine light on their projects and projects of others. But the best part is that each curator will also be telling their ART SAVES story … About how art made a difference in their lives or the lives of others. Like a good magazine, CRESCENDOh.com will also invite readers to share their ART SAVES stories. Many powerful stories have already come in. We will also have a shop where art kits, books, and cool products will be available. Within this shop, there will be special ART SAVES merchandise that is developed with 100 percent of proceeds going to our charities of choice.
How does motherhood inform your life as a creative person?
When I got married, my world changed. When I became a mother, my universe changed. Motherhood is ultimately how I learned that the world does not revolve around me. Motherhood is how I found out how strong I really am — from giving birth, to raising the babies — there is nothing harder. Now that my kids are a bit older, I get to have a lot of fun with them. We are cracking each other up all the time. They help bring out facets of my creativity in very unique ways.
What books/websites/artists do you love? Could you share some recommendations?
The best book that I’ve recently read is What Would Google Do? By Jeff Jarvis. Anyone who wants to conduct business in today’s world needs to read it. It’s fascinating.
Other than your family, what achievement are you most proud of?
I think I’m most proud of having made the decision to leave my comfort zone and launch CRESCENDOh. Because you know, it’s about to happen, but there’s no guarantee that it will succeed. It’s a risky journey but it’s my destiny.
Aside from that, I think I’m most proud of having lived a life where I don’t cower away from doing or saying or standing up for what’s right.
How do you maintain a good work/life balance?
Without the support of my husband, I’d suffer greatly. He’s such a constant support with parenting duties, and with duties around the house. That’s how I get balance. By having a really good man who knows how to support and love me.
What is the message you want to share with the world? (in other words, what do you consider to be your life’s work?)
Don’t be self-absorbed. Because self-absorption makes you boring, ineffective, and completely unsexy. Be aware of other realities and perspectives. Be thankful. And use your imagination to be helpful for those who are in need.
What does happiness look like for you?
Happiness looks like an endless journey of rewarding work and projects. An endless possibility of ideas that I get to give birth to and participate in as a hard-working contributor.
You're having a dinner party and can invite six famous people from the past or present – who would you choose and why?
Bono: Incredible all around. Totally hot. Tremendous ability to affect positive global change.
Johnny Cash: His passion, his voice, and his demeanor would add a layer of intrigue to the party.
kd lang: I’ve always loved her music. I think she’s interesting. I think she’d enjoy hanging with the gang.
Ellen: Such a funny and caring person. She’d help liven things up.
Matt Damon: I like him a lot. I sort of have a crush on his character Jason Bourne. I also think he’s doing good things with efforts to bring clean water to third world countries.
Steve Martin: So funny and so thoughtful and talented.
This group would be one that made me laugh out loud, think out loud, and potentially start a new collaborative project to do something amazing.
Well, that is one dinner party I would pay good money to attend! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Jenny!
[Photo of Toby & Scout by Johanna Love; all other photos by Jenny Doh]