Autumn's chill had only recently deepened when we settled in to our chairs at Cafe Barbette to meet the lovely Jen Bouchard: local designer of Litany, a one-of-a-kind jewelry line inspired by her travels around the globe. As we settled into a glass or two of red wine, we realized Barbette was a fitting scene for a francophile like Bouchard, who credits her trips to France as a large source of artistic inspiration. She was kind enough to answer our questions and let us take a peek at her litany of adornments--crafted with everything from serene Buddhas to colorful tassels, vintage medals and glimmering stones, each one lovelier than the last.
S&TF: When did you start Litany? Did you always know you wanted to be a jewelry designer?
I have an academic background in culture(s) and aesthetics, but I never knew I wanted to be a jewelry designer until it happened. Litany was born out of my love of travel and learning about how people around the world adorn themselves. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to multiple countries across four continents in my twenties. At each location, I collected jewelry, embellishments and various medals and adornments. I never knew what I was going to use all of these elements for, but I knew I needed to have them. All of these experiences and objects percolated for years, until I started Litany in the summer of 2012.
S&TF: What made you choose the name?
The word “litany” means “list.” I’m a notorious list-maker – my travel journals are full of lists of words that reflect my aesthetic and cultural observations. My collections are comprised of one-of-a-kind pieces that revolve around a certain location or theme. I am attracted to the idea of creating a catalog or “litany” of collections that is ongoing and inspired by my past, current and future travels and observations.
S&TF: If you could describe yourself in five words, what would they be?
Curious, evolving, resourceful, open, grateful
S&TF: What has the journey been like to own your own business? What are some of the challenges and advantages?
Fortunately, being a small business owner isn’t entirely new to me – I’ve owned my writing, editing and French translation agency, Lucidité Writing, LLC for the past decade. However, moving from a creative services business to a creative product business has involved a steep learning curve. One challenge has been managing the flow of inventory and my design schedule. I want each piece to be special and representative of my best possible work. I’ve learned that if I’m not feeling inspired on a particular day, it’s better if I work on administrative tasks or PR instead--I’m never bored! It’s wonderful to be able to work in a field that I love, and interface with other artists and creative businesspeople so frequently.
S&TF: On your site it says your pieces have been inspired by your travels. What has been a favorite trip you've taken and can you tell us a little about what it inspired?
I’ve lived in France twice, so I often find myself coming back to the aesthetics I observed during my time there. The folk art and primary palette of Bretagne, the modern take on centuries-old geometric patterns in Jean Nouvel’s Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, the dazzling red and gold of the bullfighters suits in Nimes, the contrast of the crumbling Roman ruins against the perpetual lavender fields of Provence – all of these visual memories inform the choices I make in the studio.
S&TF: If you were president for a day, what's the first thing you'd change?
I would make quality education and training programs accessible to all members of our society. As individuals, we need to feel empowered to live fulfilling and sustainable lives. As a country, we need innovative thinkers and effective communicators as we move further into the 21st century.
S&TF: What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?
Be present and take it all in. All of this will make sense eventually.
S&TF: What do you hope the future holds for Litany?
I’ve been so fortunate to create collections for boutiques in the Twin Cities, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. I look forward to more of these exciting and fulfilling collaborations in the years to come.
S&TF: What is your drink of choice, and why?
Nothing beats a classic G&T made with great gin (my current favorite is Solveig by Far North Spirits)