| Interview by Ronnie |
'Storytellers' is our special interview series, in which we talk to creatives whom we admire and find out how they are each preserving their personal stories. Today's interview is with Jenna Park, a designer, a photographer, a blogger, and the co-owner of Whimsy & Spice. Jenna lives in New York City with her husband Mark and their two girls. I have been an avid and loyal reader of Jenna's blog, Sweet Fine Day, for more than four years now, and from the very beginning, Jenna had me captivated with her stunning photography and her authentic, down-to-earth writing style.
Can you tell us a bit about you and your family?
I’m a designer, a small business owner, a woman who works in tech, and a New Yorker. My husband and I own and run an online and wholesale bakery business, and we have two daughters who we’re raising in Brooklyn.
What do you enjoy the most about living in New York? How do you find raising children in the city?
When I moved away from New York in my early 20s, I had never intended on coming back, but after a few years, I realized that I missed the tension and the energy of the city. The pulse is what drives me and, while I acknowledge that it’s not for everyone, moving back confirmed that I needed that friction, the diversity, and the feeling that anything is possible. The city isn’t always an easy place to live, but when you hit a stride and you become synchronous with its rhythms, it charges you. In New York, we’re exposed to so many things – culture, art, food, and people – that it’s easy to find inspiration (as well as get over-stimulated). These are the reasons why we’re raising our girls here. They’re old enough now to identify why they like living in the city. They like how they can walk to their schools and and other places in the neighbourhood and, as they get older, they’re enjoying the independence that it affords them.
What is a typical day like for you these days?
Each day is a bit different, but there is an underlying structure to our days. These are governed by the girls’ school schedules and the seasonal peaks and lulls of our bakery business. In addition to running our business and maintaining a few freelance projects, I also work at a tech start-up and go into an office a few days a week. Each morning, I drop the girls off at school, and I either head into the office an hour later or work from home some days. Mark starts his day earlier at the kitchen and gets done most days in time to pick the kids up from school. This is definitely different to our routine a year ago, seeing as I was strictly a freelancer for twelve years. We still tag team and co-ordinate childcare, but it’s become more manageable since the girls are now older.
What has it been like watching your two girls grow up over the last ten years? Can you tell us about a few highlights and also share with us what has been hard?
As they enter their tween and teen years, I marvel at how they’re becoming their own people, and I can envision their life apart from us. Sometimes it’s challenging to think about letting go, but it’s also wonderful to see them feel empowered when they make their own decisions.
Is there any aspect of your girls’ childhood that you wish you could freeze in time?
I don’t think so, though I do admit to loving the baby years. But I wouldn’t want to freeze anything in time. The joys and challenges of parenting come from the constant growth and evolution of both kids and parents.
I’ve always admired the clean and natural look of your photography. What do you like to photograph the most, and what compels you to capture a particular frame?
Landscapes. I’m always seeking out new places to photograph – places that pull you out of your own reality and make you feel something in that image.
In addition to your iPhone, what other camera do you use? Can you tell us when you use your DSLR or your iPhone for photos?
I use a Fujifilm X-T100 most of the time now because it’s small and I can slip it inside a bag or even a coat pocket. Sometimes I can’t believe I used to lug around a heavy Canon DSLR everywhere I went – I reserve that now for product photos. Having the smaller and more compact Fuji has made me take more photos when I’m out in the city again.
Would you consider yourself a memory keeper? What sort of albums or photo books have you made over the years?
Yes, and no. We live in a city apartment, so we don’t have the space to save much. I’m an avid photo taker, and I’ll take hundreds of photos, but I admit to never having the time to organize or print it all. I suppose that’s why blogging was so important to me. It was a way for me to record memories as an archive of the last eight to nine years.
I’ve been reading your blog for more than four years now, and I know you’ve written many honest and heartfelt posts about your family life. Do you think you would ever collate and print your words in the form of a book for your family down the track?
Actually, I was in talks with a publisher and a book agent a few years ago, but I’m sort of glad that I didn’t pursue it – I don’t believe that blog content always translates into book form. I’m content with the blog existing only on this platform, and if I were to ever write a book, I think I would approach it from the perspective of writing a book and not a collection of blog entries.
What is your general approach to documenting your your daughters’ lives? Has this evolved over time?
I don’t really document their lives in any formal away, but I did enjoy jotting down some of the hilarious things that they would say when they were younger. I also make sure to collect certain artwork or writings so I can save it for them. And of course there are photos, but as they grow older, there are far less of them than when they were babies and toddlers. I think it’s important to respect their privacy, so I stopped posting photos and blogging about them many years ago. Their story is theirs to tell and they’re starting to do that with their own photos, scrapbooks, and writing.
What sort of keepsakes have you held onto from your own childhood?
I have very little – if anything at all – from my childhood, aside from photos of when I was younger. I brought very little with me when I left New York at the age of 21, and my parents moved from my childhood home while I was away, so I didn’t get the chance to salvage anything. I would have loved to have kept my high school yearbooks and my records! I do have some old letters and journals from the 90s that I can’t seem to part with. These are probably the oldest, most sentimental things that I have.
What are the stories that you want to preserve, for yourself and for your family?
I like documenting our life in New York through photographs. I wish I had photos of my high school and college years because NYC was an interesting place to live during those times – it was grittier, less gentrified, and full of art and craziness. The city has changed so much, and I’ve used the blog as a platform to record some of those memories in words since that is pretty much the only thing I have. It’s interesting raising kids in the same city you grew up in – there are some parallels, but there also deep differences between my childhood and theirs. It’s interesting to see the places you have so much history with through their eyes. These are the stories that I want to preserve.
* * *
You can read the other posts in this series here.