Jen Smith, born and raised in the Sierra Foothills of California, grew up camping, swimming and constantly making. Feeling most at home outside, she ran around picking apples, petting lizards and taking in the smell of dry brush and pine. Nature was freedom. Her childhood love of foraging has become a lifelong journey of collecting new skills, the analogue to the digital and back again, with a studio filled with paper, plants and ash.
After a decade of working in corporate design and branding and running a letterpress studio, Jen wanted to return to her roots as a maker. Today, she finds inspiration in the smell of Cleveland Sage, the rolling hills and beaches that surround Los Angeles along with the indigenous plants and weeds in her garden.
With a range of materials Jen creates ink and art with plants. She works with different kinds of textured, smooth, watercolor, printmaking and handmade paper. The natural inks bring soft color to the surface of the paper. The colors are mostly monochromatic with a warm, earthy, muddiness to them. Browns like the soil and pinks like the berries in the trees. By working with layers the ink and paper work together to create a monochromatic palette filled with depth and variation. Jen embraces the natural drips and bleeds that come from working with ink on paper. There is a change that happens by responding instead of controlling. It’s about co-working with the natural elements through respect, compassion and nurturing. With this approach comes raw natural earthy beauty.
photo by Barbara Hashimoto
Los Angeles, California