About Jennifer Doheny
While I’ve accomplished a lot in my life, I can’t measure my experience and professional body of work by the usual markers and milestones found on a resume. So for the sake of brevity, I’ve distilled the essence into a time-line.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1970 – 1994
I was born and raised in Milwaukee. When people asked me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said “an artist.” Miraculously, nobody ever told me that I couldn't. I had a good, but not overwhelming amount of encouragement and I had some awareness that it was an unusual and challenging path. Somehow there was the perfect alchemy of belief systems around me to allow the creative seeds in me to sprout.
THANK GOD for my high school art teacher, Mr. Pinaro. Somehow he knew that my teenage anxieties and angst were being funneled through my art and that it was saving my life. He often let me skip other classes to hang out in the art room creating my own world. He held a safe space for me as life crammed my expanding self through the systems and social structures expected during that time. I am forever grateful to Mr. Pinaro.
In my early twenties I channeled my creative energies into winged sculptures made of wire, fiber and beads. I called them Fairies, and I spent many hours, days and weeks, and eventually years making them. I sold Fairies to contemporary American craft galleries around the country. Making Fairies satisfied my love of working with my hands as it simultaneously launched me into entrepreneurship. Besides feeding my artistic side and sharpening my business sense, the process of making and selling Fairies also connected me to the realm of spirit that gave meaning to my work. Each Fairy came with a card that read, “This Fairy is created to strike the tones that guide us to our inner truth. With this truth we can concentrate our positive intentions and become enlightened together.” This intention has informed everything I have done since and will ever do in the future.
Portland, Oregon 1994 – 2010
West I went, into the unknown. This was a prolific time, as I was always making something – art, of course, and a new life.
During the early Portland years I worked with autistic children in a group home. I had a Fairy booth at Portland's Saturday Market for a year. I also worked at a summer camp and after-school program at a community center for several years. I attended college for a couple years, and was an art coordinator for an Earth Day parade for a few years. I did sales at a fine art gallery for about five years – all the stuff one does in early adulthood.
In 1999 my creative ambitions shape-shifted into my greeting card business, Urban Bird Designs. I wore all the hats, illustrating, manufacturing and distributing the line of cards, as I still do today. Over several years I grew the business – from the first account at Oblation Papers in Portland's Pearl District, to hundreds of accounts throughout the United States and Canada – by managing a team of sales reps and by doing my own sales. In 2001 and 2004 I roamed the country by travel trailer, going from city to town selling cards and printing and fulfilling the orders as I went along. It was an awesome adventure and gas was much cheaper then!
I spent the later Portland years exploring my love of batik (usually done on fabric) and applying it to Kraft paper, resulting in illuminated works such as light boxes, lampshades and curtain panels. This would come in handy later...
I was fortunate at that time to be volunteering with several organizations in Portland, including a five-year stint on the procurement committee for the Cascade AIDS Project’s annual art auction. I also put the big truck used to haul my trailer to good use by delivering food and supplies to regional migrant workers through a local labor organization. And every week for the last few years I lived in Portland, I visited a feisty centenarian named Cynthia who had outlived every single damned person she knew.
As Portland grew up, so did I. My stint in the Pacific Northwest ended with a feature story about me and my art on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s popular program Oregon Art Beat. When I packed up and headed back to the Midwest, I left a lot of my art and a piece of my heart in that weird city.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2010 – the Present
Home. Like a salmon, I swam upstream to the place I was spawned, fully formed and ever wiser. The first thing I did when I moved back to Milwaukee was to open my own shop, eco-batik, in the lakeside community of Bay View. I created the front as retail space and the back as my studio, where I fulfilled Urban Bird orders and created custom illuminated batik works. I organized shop events, created a new line of cards, and hosted interns from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD). I also developed a line of home furnishings called THE SKy COLLECTION, which included pillows and ceramics. I taught a greeting card seminar to senior illustrators at MIAD for several terms. I was busy and yet the ultimate creative expression called me. I closed the shop after two years so I could have a baby one week before I turned forty-three. (Insert lullaby music...oh wait, that might imply sleep. Insert a blur…)
Although my life had changed unalterably with the birth of my son, I still found the time and energy to create art. In 2014 I again received notoriety with a really great Mother’s Day segment aired on Milwaukee news channel Fox6.
Jennifer’s Spiritual Biography
Throughout my life, I have studied all things New Age, determined to create the world that I imagine. There is an undercurrent to my journey, shaping and informing every aspect of my being. I call it “spiritual enthusiasm.” One aspect of spiritual enthusiasm is living with an open heart, no matter what.
The word “pronoia” is the opposite of “paranoia.” It is the belief that there is a conspiracy of goodness at work on our behalf. That. That is what I believe. And it not only requires an open heart at all times, but also an almost delusional amount of faith. And the universe has given me extraordinary opportunities to practice that faith. My personal life has been full of your run-of-the-mill ups and downs and some stuff that you just wouldn’t believe if I told you. I would be a very different person today had I closed my heart through any of it.
Other facets of spiritual enthusiasm include my study of the Law of Attraction and listening to my inner guidance system, which has led me to where I am today. I feel as though my spiritual and creative selves were always going in the same direction but were on different tracks until I serendipitously discovered animal medicine while creating my greeting cards.
I started my greeting card business thinking like a lot of artists, “Oh, I'll put my artwork on cards and people will buy them!” Well, a few people will buy them, but MORE people will buy them if they say something heartfelt. And WAAAAAY more people will buy them if they say, “Happy Birthday.” To sell greeting cards you have to ask yourself, “Why is someone going to send this card?” It turns out that greeting cards are given at the most important and sacred times in our lives: birth, death, celebration and congratulations, beginnings and endings. Over the years I started to take my job as a greeting card designer seriously and took great care in crafting each one from the heart listening to the guidance I received.
My favorite thing to draw is animals and the natural world. Animals are manifestations of the spirit world that I can actually see in my reality and make tangible through art. As I would draw an animal for a greeting card I would ask myself, “What sentiment is this animal expressing? What is it saying? What makes sense for this card?” To do that, I would have to get into the energy of that animal. Boom! There it was! As I shifted into the energy of the animals, my creative and spiritual worlds collided resulting in Urban Bird greeting cards and totem cards.
Totem cards are a work in progress as I illustrate 72 cards for the collection. Follow my progress and stay connected on facebook!
With an open heart,
Learn more about Jennifer's batik process