Jen Sievers X FRANK Stationery donate 25,000 schoolbooks to kiwi kids in need.
After spotting the amazing work of Jen Sievers, we asked her to design the cover of our 1B5 schoolbooks for Kiwi kids in need! And this week have donated over 25,000 of those schoolbooks to 250 schools across the North Island.
Our hearts are beaming! We thought you might like to know a little more about Jen and her amazing paintings, so we asked here a few questions below.
Jen Sievers paints joy. She uses acrylic paints with fresh colours, distinctive marks, and a contemporary edge. She has a passion for the abstract but doesn't let that define her. Her varying and constantly evolving style offers something for most artistic tastes. She paints obsessively in her home studio in the foothills of the Waitakeres, New Zealand. Jen is also obsessed with the idea of joy and finding ways to help people find it. This is why she's written a book, encouraging young children to practice mindfulness.
How long have you been painting for?
I’ve been painting and creating for my whole life - although when I was a young child I preferred drawing as my expression of choice. I did take a very long break after dropping out of art school and becoming a graphic designer. Every now and then I would paint one random piece then forget about painting for a few years. I started again in FULL force one sunny Friday afternoon about 3 and a half years ago. Now I can’t seem to stop.
Why did you want to be involved in a collab with us at FRANK? And can you tell us your inspiration behind the schoolbooks you designed?
I’ve been secretly admiring FRANK. for ages. They appeal to so many parts of my brain: their beautiful designs, the fact that they encourage positive thinking and actually add to people’s daily lives in a powerful way. But most importantly, they are good people, doing good, helping out. What’s not to love? I knew I had to work with them somehow.
I must admit, as soon as I started on the schoolbooks, I froze with fear - which is unlike me! I so desperately want to make a positive impact on as many young people as I can, and this felt like the perfect opportunity to do so. I wanted to get it right. In the end, after doing a few failed designs, I sat down and let myself paint, scribble and play on the page, and I loved the result. I hope that the joy I felt creating it is felt by the children that use the books. I also thought it was a good idea to remind them to look for the good in things, with “Today Will Be Great”.
Part of your process is to ‘do what feels good’ in terms of the marks you make on your canvas, do you have the same belief in life? How do you continue to paint joy?
What a lovely question! More and more I’m leaning towards trusting my intuition, and that usually means doing what feels good. I think our subconscious has a magical way of communicating with our bodies - and if you tune in to how things make you feel, it’s usually a really good indication tof whether the situation is right for you. I wish I could apply this to the boring stuff, like laundry and getting my child to brush her teeth, but adding a mindful outlook to any of those does make them a lot more pleasant to deal with. The incredible Joseph Campbell suggests to always “Follow your bliss” to find your true life’s purpose - and I believe that in my art, books, and mindfulness, I’m following a truly blissful path.
How do I continue to paint joy?
Colour and paint make me happy. Just thinking about them gets me grinning and lights a spark in my heart chakra! Playing with colour combinations, and marveling at how every single brush stroke is one of a kind, impossible to do again - it’s a joy I can’t explain.
What keeps you coming back to the canvas? Why do you continue to paint? And how do you generate so many beautiful ideas!?
I’ve learned that the less I think, the more I feel my way through my work, the better. When I get into the mode of trying to plan things out or come up with ideas in advance, it sometimes stunts my creativity. Sometimes an idea comes, and I paint it, and it works. Other times it comes out so completely differently to what it felt like in my mind… but that’s when the fun starts! When a painting is going badly I have nothing to lose, I brutally edit and change without worrying or being precious, and that’s when most of my best paintings are born. My problem is never a lack of ideas, more a lack of time.
Who is the most influential person in your life?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Every stage of my life has had a different answer to that question. Currently, I think it’s probably my daughter. She’s five and a half, and her free spirit and fiery temper keep me constantly learning and evolving. It’s hard not to be deeply moved and affected by a person that you spend so much important time with. She pushes me to my highest highs, but also pushes my buttons like no one else can! Probably cos she’s a small version of me - determined, stubborn and never going to fit into anyone else's mould. She also inspires me creatively - I’ve been known to use her whimsical marks and unplanned compositions as a reference for my own work.
What do you love about New Zealand?
I grew up in South Africa, which was such a vibrant, wonderful place to be introduced to the world. It taught me how to understand so many type of people and contexts, and gave me my love for colour. Moving to New Zealand was a big change, but interestingly just at the right time for me. I moved here as I was about to turn 30 (ten years ago this month!), and I found myself in a place that taught me to value the wild stillness of the outdoors, to slow down and notice small things around me. I love the green here, and the freshness of everything. I love its quiet, understated soul. I love that I can go for a walk, or leave my front door open and feel completely safe. I love the West coast beaches and the Kererus that whoosh past my head in my garden. I’ve embraced New Zealand as my home now, and can’t imagine not living in my little slice of the Waitakeres.
We have been so inspired by your art, you invoke such a sense of joy in your work. What’s been one of the most joyful moments in your life?
It’s a bit of a cliche, but I’d have to say my wedding. I just couldn’t believe that SO many of my favourite people from all over the world were all in one place. I had never experienced so much love before. My husband and I, and all of our people, dancing all night with 6 foot grins across our cheeks, feeling like the luckiest people alive.
One thing we are very passionate about at FRANK is the idea that we are connected to those around us in deep ways and that’s why it really matters that we take care of our community. What role does art have to play in impacting communities? Why do beautiful things matter?
I think that art elevates people’s spirits. A piece of art that really touches you pulls you out of your head and directly connects you to the person that created it, and even more important to the magic that lives inside all of us. I’m a bit of a hippy, and I believe that inspiration comes from somewhere other than our own heads. There’s a field, or force, or energy out there, and in all of us, that we all have access to. Being able to make, or appreciate art wakes up the feeling of magic and possibility that keeps us alive and inspired. Art is wonder, and wonder gives people hope.
We’re so excited for the schoolbooks to be in the hands of kiwis kids very soon! What did you want to do when you “grew up”? And what was your favourite thing about school?
I wanted to be an artist! It took me a while to get there, with a few more sensible detours along the way, but it was always my plan. I loved art class and music class. I loved writing and English, I was also a debating nerd and did impromptu public speaking. You wouldn’t find me on the sports field - to this day the idea of any sports puts me in a cold sweat!
And finally, what’s your favourite piece of stationery? One you can’t live without!
I have piles of notebooks and diaries. For some reason every time I start a new thing, a new way of thinking, a new project, it deserves a new book. Not the most sensible way to do it, I know. With that, I have to have a super fine tipped black pen. No smudgy ballpoints for me.
Thanks to Jen Sievers & School Kit for making it possible to give some beautiful schoolbooks to kiwi kids in need.