Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and in celebration of the yearly feast this month’s Beyond Design offers a tasty twist – sweets! We’re featuring Jen James, graphic designer, photographer, and self-taught culinary pastry expert. With a strong background in marketing she founded Jen James Design in the summer of 2008. She’s always been drawn to creativity and at age 24 decided to be her own boss doing what she loves most – being creative.
Meet Jen James
NDF: Do you have central themes running through your graphic design work?
Jen: The central themes that usually run though my work are often marketing related – What message am I trying to convey? Who is my target audience? Is my message clear? I think it’s important for a piece of graphic design to be aesthetically pleasing, but also effective in conveying the message of the company or client.
NDF: What are your primary areas of artistic expression outside of graphic design?
Jen: Photography and creating sweets. I have my own patisserie where I bake all kinds of sweets including, but not limited to cheesecakes, pies, tarts, cookies, and seasonal items. With photography I’m always trying to pick up new techniques and skills that will help me capture those beautiful images.
NDF: What drew you to photography?
Jen: I was drawn to photography because of its magical ability to stay with you long after the first encounter. I first became interested in photography when I began taking Photoshop classes. I bought a Canon DSLR and began shooting anything I could find – along the way learning the basic skills needed to capture amazing images. I live in a town where we are fortunate to have access to the ocean, redwood forest, and vineyards; I am very drawn towards taking pictures of landscapes. It’s great how a single visual shot can have so much complexity and visual intensity, as well as its power to provoke so many different thoughts and emotions among a wide variety of people. I love capturing beauty with my camera and taking away a simple moment in time.
NDF: Tell us about being a self-taught sweets chef.
Jen: I think I got into baking sweets because it reminds me of the festive holiday seasons of years gone by, when my mother and I would make all types of snowman cookies and tasty treats to celebrate the occasion. I enjoyed those happy memories and relive them every time I bake something sweet. I bake everything from flourless chocolate cakes to shortbread cookies.
NDF: Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere. I find my inspiration in my relationships, a piece of music, or a certain place that I’ve visited. For me, keeping an open heart and spirit helps foster that inspiration.
NDF: Tell us about some of your most recent sweet creations.
Jen: Recently I had a chance to put my baking skills to work. I made a sinfully delicious chocolate cheesecake and pumpkin cupcakes with an allspice cream cheese frosting to go along with the fall season. Yum.
NDF: What do you feel is the best picture you’ve ever taken?
Jen: I think the best picture that I’ve taken – the picture that has given me the most satisfaction – was a picture I took when I was in Mendocino, California. I was standing on the edge of a precipice near the main road looking out onto the ocean. The sun was finally starting to come out after a morning of dreary clouds and I saw two small boys on the beach below me chasing waves. The sun glistened off the water as the boy’s feet made trails along the sand and I just had to capture that shot.
Photographs by Jen James
Sweets by Jen James