in studio - a little bit about a lot of nothing

May 2024
« Nov    
I feel hopeful…
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 6:29 pm

I like to take moments in my life and turn them into stories that relate to others and give us all an opportunity to learn about appreciating our lives and all that other crap. I’m not sure if that’s what this blog is about, but one day soon I’ll figure it out.

comments (0)
My Muse
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 10:56 pm

She died on July 1, 2010.  I’ve been struggling to find her inspiration in myself these past months. I’ve known it’s there. She planted it. And everything she plants… grows. But I needed time. Now, the seasons are changing, the world around me is slow dancing toward a more dormant phase, preparing for the coming winter, and me, oddly enough, I feel like I’m coming to life again.  I just celebrated a birthday. That may have something to do with it. Just over 50 years ago, she gave birth to me. And now, after she’s gone, I’m rebirthing the me that lives in a world without her.

I miss her every day, every moment. It doesn’t seem right or fair to be a daughter without a mother, no matter what age. People die. I know. But, that void in your heart and life that comes out of losing someone you love so dearly is tough getting used to. And “tough” isn’t nearly a strong enough a word for how it really feels.

I credit both my parents with my desire to make things, but Mom’s favorite things had a way of finding their way into my creative work. She had this connection with the natural world that made her magical to me — and an appreciation for the simple joys — it was just the way she lived, who she was. Too, she had a gentleness about her that I’ve known in no other person I have ever met. She was soft and comforting and smelled of love, like the pillow you sleep on.

With her quiet and unassuming ways, you wouldn’t think she would have the capacity for such strength, but she was a warrior fighting her cancer. Everyday, in her simple, accepting, matter of fact way, she never gave up. It was just something she had to do — another weed in her garden to tend to. In the end, she beat it. Don’t get me wrong, she still had cancer when she died, and it was very close to taking her, but it didn’t. Mom’s death had more to do with her strong will and independent nature. I’ve had a difficult time accepting that, because I was there when she fell. I was there when she hit her head. I was there, and I couldn’t save her.

Those early days of July 2010 will be part of me forever. I’ve searched for answers and found there are none that give me any more peace than what I already know. Death is part of life, and life is what it is, and that we get to experience it, with all its wonder and love and joy and amazingness, is pretty cool. Faith? Yes, I have faith. I look at our beautiful world as a gift from God, and it was Mom that made me able to see it. I believe she’s in heaven, whatever that is, but I also believe that God gives us glimpses of heaven every moment on this very earth, and too many of us are blind to it. Whatever awaits after this life, we need not worry over. More time should be spent in appreciation of now.

It don’t want to mourn her loss. I want to celebrate her gifts. I’m finally ready to go forward, carrying her in my heart, being great at being not so great, and doing what I do — painting and writing, simple happy things that give people maybe one moment to share a smile with someone else. Those moments are important, and I’m going to keep making them, because in those moments, angels are at work and one of them is my Mom.

In memory of June Hedberg, June 2, 1935 - July 1, 2010

comments (0)
Things You Knew When You Were A Baby But May Have Forgotten
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 10:53 am

1.  Everybody should have a favorite blanket.
2.  Fingers and toes are works of art.
3.  Sometimes you should scream just because you can.
4.  Sometimes you just need to roll around on the floor and look at the ceiling.
5.  Never take your next meal for granted.
6.  Every person you meet deserves to be treated with your smile.
7.  It doesn’t matter what your hair looks like, or even if you don’t have any, you’re still cute.
8.  Music is essential to your well being.
9.  Naps work wonders.
10. Days are better if they’re filled with things that sparkle.

comments (0)
Thursday’s Child
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 5:37 pm

I’ve got a birthday coming up, and those birthdays, they always get me thinking kinda wonky.  So, in my effort to get back in the swing of things and become a full-fledged member of the 21st century, this odd little idea dawned on me — collective poetry. 

Not something that comes to mind for most folks, but when I started “tweeting” and “facebooking”, it felt a bit pointless to me.  Why is all this garbage circulating and why are so many people interested in it?  I felt a need to make something more out of this coming together of different people — something other than the usual “blah, blah, blah.”

It got me thinking about the very first chapter in the book from my ART101 class at Iowa State University oh those many years ago.  I can’t believe I don’t have the book.  I keep everything.  At any rate, the first chapter was on “happenings.”  “Happenings” were a kind of 60s thing when a bunch of people got together to create some kind of art/art event simply by doing it.

What I propose is a happening for this day and age.  I don’t know if people today are much interested in art and poetry or not, but I see the poetry in the way we live.  It’s as beautiful and compelling as it ever was.  Thus, ”Thursday’s Child.”  I was born on a Thursday, and I still have “far to go.”

Come Friday, I will provide the theme and the first line of the poem we will collectively write.  After that, you can submit one line via my blog, email, twitter, facebook, whatever way you have to communicate to  me.  I will update our poem as your lines are submitted.  I have complete discretion over what I use and what I don’t.  Absolutely, do not use any copyrighted materials unless you hold the copyright.  You will be credited with your line and whatever contact information you provide.

On Thursdays, our poet child will come to be.

Come make a little poetry with me.




comments (0)
Support Central Iowa Artists
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 6:00 pm

If you’ve not yet been in to the new Central Iowa Artist Coop Gallery in Merle Hay Mall, be sure to make a point to stop by soon.  This is a new venture that several area artists have come together to make happen — with two very hard working artists as gallery directors — Monika Agic and Dana Barrer.

comments (0)
Coming Soon! The new
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 9:17 am

Just in case you’ve been thinking that Spring is eternal at and that bunnies are my primary subject matter, the long awaited update to is soon to come.  Hopefully you’ll find it a fun site to visit and easy to use.

comments (0)
I’m not THAT Jennifer Mally!
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 1:21 pm

I’m 20 years older, much more attractive (at least in my own mind) and have never done anything quite so awful as the Jennifer Mally in Paradise Valley, Arizona.  They say that any publicity is good publicity, though I’m not quite so sure.  My life’s work is about creating happy and whimsical art — and in a small way trying to promote a little goodness in the world with my greeting card line Have A Heart Creations.  And then someone with my name comes along and does something no adult, woman or man, should ever do.  It makes me sad.

I’ve gotten all sorts or traffic at my website, and under any other circumstances, that would be quite exciting.  Except that all these people Googling “Jennifer Mally” and finding my website aren’t looking for me — they’re looking for dirt.  How ironic, to spend a decade working at trying to get publicity for your company and website, along with your efforts at promoting positive and good and happy human connections (not to mention, sell a card or two) – with slow, slow progress — and then another Jennifer Mally does something bad and it takes off like wild fire.

What kind of twisted sort of people are we?  We seek out the distasteful and sad stories about people who are hurt, adults who are damaged, children who are taken advantage of, and worse.  Is that news?  Is that entertainment?  What does that say about us?

I guess what this Jennifer Mally, in Des Moines, Iowa, does is really pretty boring.  But someone’s got to do it, because we need exposure to the “good stuff” in the world too.  Even if it means I only make one person feel better for one short moment, then I’ve done something to help make this a more positive world to live in.  What have you done lately?

The back of every card I make says it all…

“What I make and sell and give are moments.  Moments that conveniently and snuggly fit inside an envelope.  These aren’t moments of any earth-shaking proportions.  They are quiet and simple.  You may smile.  You may sigh.  You may not.  But in these moments, something, I think, quite profound happens — our lives touch.  And if you choose to share that moment with someone else, then another life comes into the fold.  I put every good thing I know into every card I make so that every person, every life, that I touch feels better — if only for just a moment.”

I challenge you to do something good with this moment — to extend a hand and help someone else, to find a way to make something right out of a wrong, to give a reason for someone to smile, to make this world a better place — one moment, one person at a time.

You may not make the 6:00 news, but you may just make a positive difference in someone’s life for one single, solitary moment.  And that’s enough…for now.

If you don’t have eyes on the back of your head, don’t cut your own hair.
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 5:36 pm

I don’t think I can add anything to that. It says it all. And it is such a great metaphor for so many other things in life. I’ve been learning them all, mostly by blindly hacking away.  (Which, by the way, I did at my own hair the other day, among other things.)

comments (0)
I’m thinking about starting a new movement called WACTD (pronounced whacked)
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 10:30 am

What does WACTD (whacked!) stand for you ask?

W - Walkers

A - Against

C - Cell-phone

T - Talkers

D - Driving

It don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in Des Moines, Iowa, it seems like at least two-thirds of the people out and about in their cars are also talking on the phone.  When you’re standing on a corner with your young child holding your hand and waiting for an opportunity to cross the street, it’s down-right scarey.  I can’t fathom what would be so important that drivers are willing to risk hurting someone to talk on the phone.  I’m sure they think they’re perfectly capable of doing both, but I’ve watch from the sidewalk as these people pass by — and they’re in some other zone.

It needs to stop.  Are you with me?  If you have a cell phone and would like to make a call while you’re driving your car, I ask you to first ask yourself whether it’s worth the risk or whether it can wait a minute or two until you have an opportunity to pull over.

I don’t want to get whacked. 

comments (0)
Holiday Card Sale Ends Sunday, October 29, 2006!
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 9:59 am

Sunday, October 29, 2006, is your last chance to take advantage of special pricing on my whimsical holiday cards.  Currently, these colorful and thoughtful cards are offered at 15 and 10 percent off. Go to to get a look at them all!  Be sure to select the sale price from the drop down list when ordering.




comments (0)
I cheated in English in college
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 2:25 pm

I admit it.  It’s true.  I cheated.

It was English — whether it was Freshman English or a later Creative Writing course, I can’t  remember.  I do remember we were supposed to journal, because, afterall, writers write.

So, you know how it goes.  Our assignment was to write something in a notebook regularly.  Easy enough.  We could share our deep dark secrets, write delicious prose about the happenings in our young lives (or was it write prose about the delicious happenings in our young lives — hmmm…was this a voyeristic exercise on the part of the professor?) or, a little bit about a lot of nothing — whatever came to mind.  The important thing was to practice writing.  And more important than that, we would submit our journals at the end of the term and they would be part of our grade.

I’ve never been a journaler.  I didn’t keep a diary as a kid.  Even when I was a child, if I wrote something, I always thought of it as more than just for me — I guess to provide some kind of entertainment or insight for other people.  I’m certain I was quite egotistical, as a lot of kids are.  I may (or may not) have humbled some with age, but I still have a hard time writing just for me.  Plus, there’s the confining aspect of having to write in a specific book and doing it regularly.

Today, it’s pretty clear to me why I had such difficulty with this assignment.  I tried then, and have many times since, to keep a book… a journal.  I’ve always failed.  I can’t do it.  I’m passionate about my writing, but only when I’m passionate about my writing.  (Does that make sense?)  I’m much more comfortable writing on the back of a grocery receipt or bar napkin or business card or whatever is handy when I am moved — which is most certainly irregularly rather than regularly.

So, I was forced to cheat for that English class.  I tried.  I kept an intermittent official “journal”.  For the days I didn’t have official entries, I siphoned through my napkins and paper scraps and filled in and made up.  I used different colored pens to try to make it look like I wrote on different dates but the reality was I wrote most of it the night before it was due. 

I got an “A”.  I guess it didn’t matter so much when or where that I wrote, but that I did write. My professor had to have known.  I like to think he was teaching me more about how writing would fit in my life than about journaling.

Or maybe he just liked what he read.

comments (0)
who’s that suspicious-looking woman?
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 6:47 pm

I’m working on a new project for Jordan Creek Town Center — a fabulously wonderful shopping center/happening place in West Des Moines, Iowa.  It’s a greeting card for new mothers at Mercy Medical Center’s new maternity facility.  It’s a project right up my alley.  I’m doing a variation of my “Hey Diddle Diddle” card that will include a whimsical view of a section of Jordan Creek.  They sent me some great pictures to work with, but when I was working on the sketch, I struggled with the positioning, proportion and placement (oh my, that’s a hefty batch of illiteration) of the buildings.  I had to go out there and get a better “feel” for the place.  I don’t have a digitial camera.  I don’t have a cell phone that takes pictures (wait a minute, I don’t have a cell phone).  I’m not good at on-site sketching.  So, I brought along our video camera.

It wasn’t until I was walking around videotaping that I realized it’s somewhat odd for people to tape buildings and locations — in this day and age, it can be down-right scarey for someone to be video-taping buildings.  I felt very conspicuous and was sure security was going to pounce on me and throw me to the ground at any moment.  Didn’t happen.  I got out of there in one piece, and even managed to keep myself from going inside and doing some very unnecessary shopping.

Most of my time is spent conjuring up stuff that only exists inside my head, so it’s fun to dabble in real things from time to time.  The next time around, I’ll have to wear some kind of “artist at work” badge, so no one thinks I’m up to no good.  Or maybe a goatee and beret.  Who’s that suspicious-looking woman in the goatee and beret with the video camera?  Yea.  That’ll do the trick.

comments (0)
makeover artist at the Mally’s
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 4:41 pm

The last couple of afternoons our 5-year-old (excuse me 5 1/2-year-old) daughter has gathered her make-up kit and dug into mine to give me a fresh face and a new hairdo.  Yesterday, she spent a considerable amount of time dabbing concealer on every obvious and not so obvious facial flaw that I have.  (I’ll need to get a new tube.)  She used every color of eyeshadow we have on my eyes, blackened my eyebrows, colored my cheeks lavender, lip-lined my lips well outside their lip lines and put sparkling stuff on the sides of my face as well as on my most gloriously prominent feature, my nose.  She bobby-pined my bangs back and put a rather cock-eyed ponytail in the rest of my hair.  Then, she stood back and pronounced me beautiful.  And you know what?  I felt beautiful.  There is something quite magical in the soft touch of my child’s hands on my face, along with the intense, concentrated attention she gave just to me.  I wish I could box that up.  No, not to sell and make a million.  Just to take out and wallow in for a bit when she’s 15.


comments (0)
the fun and the not so fun
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 2:54 pm

You’d think that when you make your living at something you learned to do in kindergarten (color, cut and paste), that days are generally happy-go-lucky-skip-down-the-sidewalk days.  Yea, there’s skippin’, but unfortunately, in addition to the fun stuff (color, cut and paste — and skipping), there’s a lot that’s not so fun.

not so fun:  I spent over 6 hours last weekend stuffing and labeling.  You see, my precious little art pieces/greeting cards need to be protected from the elements (your grubby, greasy hands), so each one needs to be inserted into a cellophane sleeve before it can be shipped or displayed in a store.  In addition to that, if it is going into a store, I like to sticker it with it’s “inside message” information.  It takes time and it’s tedious work.  But when you’re the only cook and there’s no one else in the kitchen, you gotta wash the bottles too.  So, when many of you were out gallivanting (an adult form of skipping) last weekend, I was “in studio” stuffing and sticking.

fun:  One of those “precious little art pieces/greeting cards” was brand new.  It’s called “Life is Better with Chocolate” and was inspired by the great support I’ve gotten from the Chocolaterie Stam stores here in Des Moines, Iowa — along with my not so secret love affair with chocolate.  Here’s a pic…

not so fun:  Sweating it out with a new custom project is not fun.  Worked on a project this past week for a quilt shop in Indiana — just a simple black and white illustration, but ya never know in these situations if you’re hitting the mark or not.  So, every time I e-mail a rough sketch, I’m insecure and anxious, and if it takes longer than 5 minutes for the client to get back to me (which, of course, it always does), I’m sweating and nervous and convinced they think my work is crap.  It happens every time.  I have this flash back to me, at 17.  I’m a freshman in college and my art professor is looking back and forth between me and this hideous cardboard sculpture I had stayed up all night to produce.  He said, “you really missed the boat didn’t you.”  I started to cry.  So he called me a baby and said I better toughen up if this is what I want to do.  It was a rude and insensitive awakening to the “art world”.  It marked me for life.  Whether it helped me or not, who knows.

fun:  Back to the present.  The client loved the sketch.  I’ve completed the job, and here’s a look…

comments (0)
Thursday’s child
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 2:05 pm

Well, a week has gone by since I started this darn blog thing, and, of course, I haven’t felt like writing a darn thing since then.  Lesson for today:  don’t start a blog until you’re ready to blog.

I’ll come around.  I’ll get in the swing.  I’m a little slow to start, but I catch on.  I think I was the last person in America to use an ATM card.  I complained grievously to the clerk at our local movie rental store when it became impossible to rent a decent VHS.  (Why, oh why, when we all had perfectly good VCRs did it become necessary for everyone in the country to purchase DVD players — thanks to the techno-gods, there’s always a reason to buy a new machine.  This has nothing to do with the 8-tracks I bought for my boyfriend for his birthday in 1976.)  And, believe it or not, we don’t have a cell phone.  I’d rather sit in a tree and chat with the birds, but they’re not really interested in chatting with me.  Squirrels, on the other hand…

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that my higher goal of focus and direction for this little blog of mine didn’t take into consideration that that would take, you know, extra time.  I do learn many lessons, but writing about them in an interesting way, takes some thought processing.  I’m going to leave the big lessons to my Notes from Jen and you can read them at my website.  I’ve got a collection of musings there that you might just relate to.

So what’s to become of Jen’s Blog?  Well, from this moment on it will be called “In Studio,” and I will write about my current projects as an artist and writer and how that meshes with my life as a middle-aged white chick, mother, wife, daughter, sister, taco lover and all-around handy-person.  Quite simply, I will journal.  I think I learn something most every day, so techinically I’m not giving up my ultimate ideal — I’m just being realistic.

If you’ve got a project on my list, this will be a good place to check to make sure I’m working on it.  You can also find out how I feel about it.  Above all, I intend my journaling to be honest.  In addition, I wish it to be heartwarming as well as compelling and even inspiring.

We’ll see.



comments (0)
our destination
Filed under: General
Posted by: Jen @ 2:27 pm

I walk a lot, but I’m not one of those folks who walks just for the sake of walking. No matter how good it may be for my health, I can’t work myself up to walk a couple miles just to walk a couple miles. I need a place to go, a destination. I’m the same way with shopping. I only shop with a list or for a specific item. I find window shopping quite difficult, if not painful, so I avoid it at all costs. And, I certainly never call anyone “just to chat.” For me, I need a defined purpose for such endeavors. It makes me sound a bit anal and even unfriendly, but quite honestly, I lean more toward the boob-headed end of things (and I mean that as an affectionate description of myself). Frankly, I’m probably (not probably, but most likely - wait a minute, what’s the difference between probably and most likely?) more complex than I give myself credit for, so I guess I can be boob-headed with a purpose.

The same approach goes when I’m writing. I need to “go somewhere” with it. I’ve discovered after years of writing short essays about everyday life things that where I go with it, my destination, always seems to be a lesson I’ve learned. Some are easy, some are humorous, some are painful, some I have to learn over and over again. It never fails though, every time I sit down to write, by the time I’m finished, I’ve realized I’ve learned something. So, that’s why this blog o’ mine is called “lessons learned.”

We all have our share of tough lessons — those we’d rather not have to learn, but are faced with anyway. We can talk about them here. But I really would like to focus on the joy we find in each day, rather than the sadness we are sometimes faced with. Let’s look for the good. Let’s strive to be better. Let’s be friends. Let’s protect, promote and preserve those simple, happy, silly parts of our lives. And, most importantly, let’s hold hands when we cross the street.

I look forward to what you have to say…


comments (0)