Wednesday, January 16, 2008

littlest bean - jen menkhaus

hi! i’m jen! i’ve been around craft and baltimore most of my life. i did my first craft show with my mom at about eight years old, but it wasn’t until i was 18 that i got my first real experience with CRAFT. i took a job working at a small but very well stocked craft store, which sold mostly hand-crafted jewelry, and i was completely amazed by the fact that someone made all of those things. i mean, most of us have grown up in a world where everything is either made by a machine, or made by several people, who only touch it for a minute. anyway, that’s where it started.

the last year of school, i worked for what was then a teeny tiny company called anthropologie, and when i graduated and discovered there were no jobs in the paper for english majors or artists, i decided to continue at anthro, having been offered the coveted display job there. i learned so much from that job, and it was such a creative and free atmosphere. i stayed there until i moved back to baltimore and took a job as a merchandiser / decorator for an independently owned lifestyle store here. i ended up doing buying, bookkeeping, and inventory analysis there as well, and learned tons about running a small business.

after that, i took a job with the Buyers Market of American Craft, and it was funny, because all of these retail jobs finally meant something to someone else but me! i worked there as the Exhibitor Services Director, and aside from organizing a huge trade show hosting close to 1600 wholesale craft exhibitors, i was able to use my experience to help artists. i advised them on things like product line development, pricing structures, business basics, working with galleries, displays and other things nobody learns in art school. i loved that job, but a year after my daughter was born, i gave it up to stay home more with her. i now work part time for Maryland Citizens for the Arts, an agency that advocates for money for the arts, doing development work.

i’m still a major craft addict, and even when we travel i scope out the galleries beforehand. when we used to travel abroad, i always learned the words for “art,” “craft,” and “jewelry.” (beer, too, but that’s another story.)

whew. and i didn’t think i’d be able to write enough. well, aside from being a mom, and working part time, i’ve been selling on etsy for about four months, as well as developing another business with a friend… my etsy shop, littlest bean, is mostly the work that i am able to do now. i used to like to make pieces that would require a large pot of coffee and half a night, but now i make more portable work. i chose felt because it’s beautiful, versatile, and safe to be around. (when i think of how many hours of my life i spent holding turpentine-soaked rags in my hands, or in my MOUTH!) now my work mingles peacefully in our home, where i live with my husband, daughter, two cats, and one really weird little weiner dog. i’m really proud that my 2 ½ year old now asks “who made that?” instead of “where did you buy that?”

i’m really happy to be a part of b.e.s.t., and looking forward to the good things to come!

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