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About: Jenny Johns

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I’m Jenny Johns, traveling artist. This blog is a diary of my travels around the country making and selling my art to small gift and home decor shops in quaint historic districts. I am now retired as a former remodeling designer, and have resurrected J. Johns Designs. This is a company I started in 1999 in my father’s garage. I had gone back home to the middle of nowhere Nebraska where I grew up to take care of my aging father and mother in their last years. My mother had a stroke and only lasted a couple months after I came there and I stayed on to take care of my Dad for another 5 years. We lived on a beautiful lake but there were no jobs available to speak of. I started helping out a concrete company part time in the office and began painting some of their concrete benches and stepping stones. I started selling those to stores around the state and going to shows. I learned how to make molds there and eventually when I couldn’t leave Dad home alone any more I started my own business in the garage. I had never sculpted before but thought I would like to try it. The art I started with was doing portraits when I was young and I had been fairly successful with that, beginning in oils and moving on to pastels when my kids were little. Once I began my career in architecture and remodeling design the only art I created was architectural renderings. So I started sculpting with a small pear coaster and worked my way up to sculpting an old world angel. I eventually created a whole line of products from coasters to wall hangings on up to my own concrete bench design. I dragged these things to a lot of shows and built my business up to about 18 stores around Nebraska. When my father passed away early in 2002, I had to sell the wonderful lake house we had owned for over 50 years. I packed up my molds, closed my business and moved to Omaha for a few years and then back to the East Coast where I had raised my kids and settled in Fredericksburg, VA. It has a lovely little historic district and downtown and George Washington had even lived there and chopped down a cherry tree. I made a lot of friends here and one day about a year ago when a group of my women friends were at my house for a get together, one of them noticed the angel on the wall and asked if she could buy one. Then everyone wanted one and word spread and I sold 20 of them that month. I set up shop in the kitchen and cranked them out along with several other products the friends wanted and I was back in business again. I eventually signed on 3 local stores as clients before Christmas and began to become a wholesale operation again. Shortly after Christmas my oldest daughter became an empty nester and decided she would do what I had always told her to do before she had kids – travel. She decided to become a van dweller, yes there is a nationwide community of van dwellers, and travel the country in a van. At first I was telling her to visit all my relatives around the country and stay with them and maybe do a video history of my family. Then I realized that it sounded like so much fun I wanted to do it myself. Since I am retired, except for my art I can really do as I please now. We knew we couldn’t co-exist in such tight quarters for long so we agreed to have 2 separate vans. I already had a minivan and she would buy one. So off we went on our Grand Adventure trial period for 2 weeks down to Asheville NC where I get the Hydrostone to make my products. This blog is the story of that adventure and will continue on to chronicle more of our travels. When I was young there was a song that said ” Jenny Jenny Jenny won’t you take a ride with me, Jenny Jenny Oh Jenny Jenny” at least that’s the way I remember the words. I hope you enjoy the ride.

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