“It doesn’t matter if you are a hobbyist or a full-time artist as long as you are making something and it is satisfying to you. Know what you are willing to sacrifice for your art (time, sweat, equity, money, etc.) and push that boundary– just find a way to continue until you can’t or won’t.”
Jenny Wong-Stanley- Art of Plants
Jenny Wong-Stanley is part sculptor, part scientist and founder of Art of Plants. Her bent wood sculptures, planters, and home decor reflect a reverence for nature as well as a keen artistic eye. Jenny learned how to be resourceful early, as she was raised in a family with humble means, and would often use recycled materials to create artwork and grow her budding creativity. That habit has continued into her current work, which frequently incorporates recycled or upcycled materials, scraps, and remnants.
Beginning her career as a Graphic Designer, Jenny has worked in the industry for ten years. After a decade of design, Jenny switched courses to pursue a disparate passion for science. She earned advanced degrees in Behavioral Neuroscience, Ecology, and Biology before returning to design. Her creations for Art of Plants incorporate her passions for science and nature into her work. Jenny creates her bent wood artwork out of a studio in Oakland, CA within a creative collective called Lost and Foundry.
Tell us about life as a designer, maker and sculptor and how you got started.
I started as an artist then trained as a designer before I lapsed into other fields such as science. Becoming a sculptor and in essence a designer again has been an amazing journey.
I was still officially a science teacher when I made the decision to go back to the arts, where I belong. It all started in my NYC apartment when I had my second daughter. In short, I began steaming and experimenting while my baby was taking her naps. I was hooked after I started my first bends and I haven’t stopped.
What has helped you in the process of following your dream?
My stubbornness and unrelenting persistence has definitely played a major role in any success I ever had. I tend to become slightly obsessed with my work (if I like it) and that usually sustains me for long periods of time. My husband has been a huge support in my pursuit to re-enter this field. He has always admired and believed in my talents. By far, he is my biggest fan.
What inspires you?
There is no one thing that inspires me. I am constantly inspired by nature and her cycle of life. However, other artists, designers, architects and people in general inspire me immensely by what they create and do everyday. It pushes me to make something bigger, better and it pushes me to do something… something else entirely.
What challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I find is time. I struggle with this all the time especially with having two young kids to care for. It is a difficult task to juggle work and family without sacrificing one or the other. Just when I think I have it figured it, I’m always thrown a curve ball.
I think that is why I tend to concentrate on smaller objects still. Larger sculptures take larger chucks of extended time. I see myself building bigger more “badass” sculptures as my children get older.
What keeps you going and stops you from giving up?
I absolutely LOVE what I do. I can’t seem to stop myself from stopping what I do because there is no end to it. No project I have is ever “done”. There is no finish and I have a habit of continuing to work on something until I have to deliver it or it literally gets ripped out of my hands (this has happened before). There is just always more to do.
I think about giving up sometimes when I’m stressed and frustrated. I’m sure everyone has these moments. Then I think about why I do it and how happy I am when I am immersed in my work and I reign myself in quickly.
What message are you trying to share with your work?
I just want to share my love of woodbending and nature. I want to show a cycle of life and beauty (growth, death, rebirth) through wood. More than anything I would like to convey that what you perceive could be manipulated to change that perception.
I want to provide the world with something I believe is asthetically beautiful.
How have you learn to deal with criticism?
This might sound weird but I actually take certain constructive criticisms very seriously in a good way. It makes me think about other possibilities, improvements and future experimentation. I only have one perspective so there is always something to learn from others. I appreciate any suggestions that would help me improve my skills.
What is it that you love about art?
Hmmm, I love art because it means different things to different people. Sometimes, art can change from second to second. Art invokes something primal and instinctive in me and I hope it brings some emotion to the surface for others as well.
What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
It doesn’t matter if you are a hobbyist or a full-time artist as long as you are making something and it is satisfying to you. Know what you are willing to sacrifice for your art (time, sweat equity, money, etc) and push that boundary– just find a way to continue until you can’t or won’t.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back?
I would tell myself that I should have tried harder to nurture better and longer relationships in the art field.
I would tell myself to not be afraid to try something new sooner than later.
What are you most excited for in the future?
This is a hard question to answer because there are so many things that I am excited about. I would say that I’m exited for all the amazing artists that I will be working with in the future and all the crazy projects that will come of these relationships.