25 May jenny williams.
brooklyn, new york. | artist. wife. mother.
I first learned about Jenny Williams and her creative ways as I perused the digital pages of Vogue. Not having an artistic bone in my body, I am drawn to those who possess such foreign talents. When you catch a glimpse of Jenny’s bright drawings, you can’t help but imagine the energy and conversations that swirl around their home as she works to bring us a glimpse of life in New York.
Jenny Williams has been documenting her children’s growth for years by drawing beautiful images. Eventually, she started a blog to begin cataloging her creations. And then, this talented artist published her first book entitled What My Daughter Wore. The book depicts the fashion choices of her only daughter, Clementine, along with her friends.
I follow Jenny on Instagram and odds are … so do you.
How did you choose the life you lead and was it a conscious decision?
I am generally someone who lives in the moment, which is why I am lucky to be married to a list-maker and a planner. Having said that, as a Generation X-er overcompensating for having been a latchkey kid, I made the decision when I had my first child right out of college that I would be as full time a parent as possible, and put larger career plans on hold. My rationalization was that there is no typical arc for an artist’s career in any case. I started What My Daughter Wore when my youngest kids were in middle school. Its success has been a huge surprise and joy.
I’ve always liked to say that I’m pathologically unambitious, or that I’m whatever the opposite of Type A is (I’m the type that practiced attachment parenting out of sheer laziness, not ideology), but that’s probably both letting myself off the hook and not giving myself enough credit. Chance has certainly played a large role, but so has conscious decision-making and follow- through.
Your blog and book —both titled What My Daughter Wore— are wildy successful. Are you surprised that your projects garnered such an interest? And what do you attribute to the success?
The success of What My Daughter Wore was definitely a surprise, although it didn’t happen overnight. It began as a labor of love that probably had three people looking at it on a regular basis for the first year. “Promoting” it meant telling the 10 cousins that comprise my Facebook friend list about it. It began to be seen by more people and gain traction organically when I started the Instagram version, and it out of the blue made Time Magazine’s list of the 25 Best Blogs of 2013.
I started the project with the idea that it was the kind of thing that I would enjoy myself, were I to come across someone else doing it. The idea was to combine the straightforward, documentary quality of a street style blog with the intimacy of my sketchbook (I have drawn all of my kids compulsively since they were born.) A lot of people are drawn to the style piece of the project, but what I love most is the poignant, real-time aspect of drawing the same kids, nearly every day, over what has now been years. The book, on the other hand, is a time capsule to the blog’s time line, capturing a very specific zeitgeist and era in a girl’s life.
What has influenced you the most as an artist?
I have been very inspired lately by the young adult artists of my oldest son’s generation (Olivia Bee, who wrote the foreword to my book, is a good example.) Despite their reputation for hipster irony and shallowness, I find them incredibly authentic, hardworking, and intellectually curious. I love their DIY, “Let’s put on a show” sensibility, and the way that they use social media in productive ways to build real-life community.
What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?
I read an article recently that described a scientific study to determine what happy people have in common. The largest common denominator was lack of schadenfreude, or the ability to feel truly happy for others. I think that that ability probably correlates with a real sense of gratitude for the gifts and achievements of one’s own life, which is a good enough definition of grace for me.
j. jane side notes:
Thanks to Vogue, I fell in love with Jenny’s work! You may purchase Jenny’s book here. And if you have not done so already—you should follow her on Instagram and check out the What My Daughter Wore blog.