T.E.S.T. Interview: Jennifer Rong Designs

We hope to introduce you to all the great Etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 57th in our series with Jennifer of Jennifer Rong Designs.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What inspired your to start working with reclaimed wood?

I love the look and feel of reclaimed wood. I prefer it to new wood, and also believe in upcycling old material in order to keep production sustainable.

Is this your day job? What do you do when you’re not crafting?

I would like this to be my day job, but I do try to work a bit here and there, freelancing in the area of graphic/web design. When I'm not crafting, I'm thinking about it! My brain never stops thinking about my projects (and I have many on the go).

How do you source and choose your materials?

My materials come from a variety of places: parks, beaches, the scrap bin at the workshop, found objects at the side of the road, in the garbage room of my buidling, etc. Often friends will give me wood they have or random objects they don't need. My parents are also a great source; they help me find material as well. I choose wood based on character, type and quality. Everything else is usually based on need, type of material (I prefer metal and glass), and style/overall look and feel.

What inspires you when designing a new product?

A lot of the time the inspiration comes from a piece of wood, or an object and then just grows from there. Sometimes when I look at a piece of say driftwood, I can see what it will become. I fulfill their destiny. Other times in comes from out of need, to make something to serve a certain purpose. Design out of necessity, but never forgetting about aesthetics. Asthetics, function, and sustainable production are the core pillars of my business.

What is your creative process? What are your favourite and least favourite parts of that process?

My creative process is very random and quite ADD. I have at least 10 projects on the go, and often new ones being started. Sometimes I have to stop myself from starting new projects so I can finish up old ones. My favourite part is that I enjoy the spontaneity of it. I often don't know exactly what the end result will be (though I have an idea) and the piece may transform during production as the design stage is never quite complete. They often are in tandem with each other. I enjoy this approach, but sometimes than can lead to writers block that may halt the production of one piece for weeks or even months.

How long does it take you to create a piece?

It varies. Small projects can be done in a day, others could take months. There are still projects I started over a year ago that I have yet to finish.

Do you listen to music while crafting? What kinds of music help make the magic happen?

Sometimes I listen to the radio, often I'm in a woodshop where it's loud and that's not possible.

What are the most important things you’ve learned about business, your craft, and yourself through Jennifer Rong Designs?

It takes faith, determination and dedication. You have to believe in what you do before you can expect anyone else to.

What one item or design are you most proud of? What piece caused you the most agony (creative or otherwise)?

I grow very attached to every piece I create. it's hard to choose one but one of my favourites is my 3 tiered shelf/stand that's made from an apple wood branch and maple cookies.

A piece that has caused me a lot of agony is an unfinished ottoman which also turns into a coffee table. it's almost complete but has been in the works for a year now due to writers block.

Do you think living in Toronto has influenced your work in any way?

I think most of my life has led me to where I am today. I've always had a love for wood, I just didn't realize it until recently.

What future plans do you have for Rong Designs?

Hoping to become the next Eames or Miles van der Rohe (I believe in dreaming big).

Are there any resources you’d like to share with those starting out?

The internet! Ask it anything and it has answers. Also try to get out to as many craft/flea events as possible and network, network, network. Your peers are the best resources.

Do you sell anywhere other than Etsy, either online or in retail stores?

A number of my pieces are currently on consignment in a shop in kensington called A HOMERUN (165 Augusta ave). I've also been asked to sell on a French e-shop and to expand into the retail stores in France. I also sell at various festivals and craft markets.

What’s your theme song?

Work by Iggy Azalea (motivates me to work!)

Check out the other items available from Jennifer in her Etsy shop! You can find more of her work on her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Interviewed by Maggie of GiroofasaurusVexed in October 2013 in Toronto.

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