Root and Branch is a wonderful new stationery & paper goods shop. Owned by Jessie Tyree Jenness, who designs and illustrates all of her products, I’ve been completely drawn in by her gorgeous, dense and dreamy illustrative style, and fresh use of colour. I know you will be too!
Sparkfold: Tell us a little about you & how you got started in this wonderful world of design
Jessie: I studied graphic design at university. I spent my entire freshman year as an undeclared major because I was so torn… should I study art or study something “practical” ?! After a year of waffling I realized that art-making is what I absolutely love to do, and to balance, majoring in graphic design felt like a strategic career move. I’ve never once regretted that decision! During school and in the years since, I’ve done quite a bit of freelance design and illustration in various forms. This past year I decided to focus my portfolio and produce some ready-made pieces. Lo and behold, Root & Branch Paper Co. was born!
What’s the background to Root & Branch, you had a business previously – what’s inspired the slight change in direction?
For the past few years I have been taking commissions and creating one-off custom projects for wonderful clients… it’s awesome when people come to me with thoughtful and meaningful ideas. I love that collaboration! The first product I sent to print without a commission was my ABC Coloring book, which was a personal piece that I made purely for fun. To my surprise, that book received an awesome response, and I sold way more copies than anticipated. That’s the project that got my wheels turning. I started dreaming up so many products, enough to fill several collections. Eventually I realized hey, I can do this!
Your illustration and pattern designs are really distinct and totally beautiful – obviously nature is a huge part of your work. What else inspires your style and your work?
Thank you so much! You’re right, the natural world is absolutely where I draw my inspiration. I grew up near the mountains and much of my childhood was spent outside- climbing trees, collecting leaves, pressing flowers. And honestly I still do all these things, haha! I can’t resist a good leaf! I have a huge collection.
I travel a lot and am lucky to have lived on three different continents. One of my greatest joys in traveling is discovering new and exotic plants and flowers. I am always inspired by what I see, even just while running errands… my phone is constantly filled with snaps of interesting flowers and leaves. Each of my illustrations is inspired by a specific plant, and they represent places all over the globe. There are water lilies from China, hibiscus from Thailand, and foxgloves from Norway. Each represents a different season of my life, where I’ve been and where I’m dreaming to go.
Additionally I am very inspired by Art Nouveau, traditional woodcuts, botanical prints, and folk art from all over the world. My floral drawing style and emphasis on heavy lines evolved over the years as an homage to these styles of work.
You must have a million product ideas! How have you managed to decide on your ranges & collections for your launch?
It’s true, I have more ideas than time, haha! I tend to just create and create until I have a huge stack of illustrations. My process is very casual, I carry a notebook with me wherever I go, and if I’m sitting in a cafe or if I’m stuck in a meeting, I draw flowers. I tend to be a kinesthetic learner, so I listen better when I’m drawing. Granted, getting some professors and speakers to understand this can be a challenge! I guess it’s a right-brain thing. Quite a few of the illustrations that made it onto my products were designed while I was “taking notes” in a lecture.
Once I have an overwhelming stack of drawings, I organize them in a three-ring binder. It becomes apparent which ones are the most intriguing designs. From there, the process turns entirely digital… scanning, touch-ups, and adding text and color. This is where my graphic designer side takes over, and it is one of the most fun parts of the process.
The last step in narrowing down my collection is sending screenshots to my mom and sisters… they have good taste and aren’t afraid to give real feedback!
Fun fact – tell us something that not many people know about you!
I live in China! When I’m not running Root & Branch, I’m studying Mandarin Chinese, and my husband Ben is currently studying architecture here. This shakes things up a bit, as Root & Branch is an online business but located primarily in the US, where all our products are manufactured and stored. My mom Ellen is my inventory manager, and she fills and ships all orders that we receive. I manage our web shop and take custom projects via email, and I have a network of printers and manufacturers in the US that I work with to make things come to life.
Apart from your new website, where else do you hang out online?
Pinterest is my favorite place on the internet. I have had an account since it was in beta (find me here!) and I often search there for reference photos, color palettes, and inspiring images.
I’m also a huge Instagram fan! I love the community of creatives there. You can find my feed here.
In addition to running my own web shop, I have an Etsy shop. Etsy is an awesome platform and have been selling my illustrations here even before launching Root & Branch. It’s a great place to meet and support other creative entrepreneurs, and one of my favorite places to look for gifts.
What’s the plan for the first year of Root & Branch? Any exciting new products we can look forward to?
I hope to get notepads and desk calendars in the shop soon. I’m very inspired by tropical plants lately, so expect to see some of those popping up this summer. I’m already thinking ahead about this year’s holiday season… botanical Christmas cards! And I hope to have a yearly calendar out for 2019!
Finally,I asked Jessie to talk about her personal favourite products. Here are Jessie’s picks! :
Personally I LOVE our notebooks. I am already using two of them myself: the Monja Blanca Orchid notebook is for my business, and the Water Lily & Lotus style is for my Chinese class notes. I am a huge notebook lover, and I designed these to suit my own taste for a perfect notebook.
Another favorite is our brand-new Garden botanical coloring book. It’s my second coloring book, made with gardeners, nature lovers and flower enthusiasts in mind. I had so much fun designing it and it’s a great gift for anyone who loves to color.
As far as greeting cards go, I designed our line with versatility in mind. Many of our styles can be used for a variety of occasions. Some of my favorites are the Hip Hip Hooray! card, which is suitable for any celebratory moment, along with the To My Dear Friend card, a sweet and simple friendship card for any occasion.
I had a super fun time creating the It’s Time to Party! card. I feel like Dahlias are the perfect party flower so they were a natural choice for this card.
And finally, one of my favorites from our gift wrap and wallpaper collection is the Coral Charm Peony design. It’s a pretty botanical design with a dash of funky.
Jessie, thank you so much for being on the blog, I really enjoyed learning more about your business and hoping Root and Branch has an amazing fledgling year!