meet our muse : creative + designer, Jennings Ross


I've had the pleasure of knowing Jennings since we were a couple of awkward 5th graders, quoting "Clueless" and embracing our love for fashion, even if it meant withstanding the less-than-positive feedback of our peers. ;) I've always known she was fabulous - a truly talented creative with such a drive to bring beauty into the world through art, food, home design, and more. But over the years she's really embraced this, building upon her talents and experience, following a creative career path and living such a rich life. We want to dig in and learn a bit about her, how she got to where she is, and where she hopes to take this passion for design.
  
Below we share a peek into her background and daily life – Meet our Muse: Jennings Ross
  
 
 

Can you share your educational + professional background with us? School years, college, post-college jobs.

I grew up in Mississippi, went to high school there, and then continued on to my college years at Mississippi State University. I majored in Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising with the hopes of becoming a fashion designer. At the end of my senior year, I had the opportunity to be a design intern for Betsey Johnson in NYC. It was a wonderful experience and I learned so, so much, but I realized that what I had dreamed of being may not actually be what I wanted for my future. I moved back to Mississippi and worked as the Visual Merchandising Manager for J.Crew for about four years. I absolutely loved arranging the fixtures and furniture, dressing the mannequins and installing beautiful displays. I did not, however, enjoy being in retail. I left J.Crew and took a position as Director of Operations for a financial services company. Less than a year later, I decided to move to Dallas! Upon arriving in Texas, I took a job as Creative Manager for a stationery and gift company, which is where I am currently. My job is different every day. I am able to merchandise our retail store, shoot all our product photography, design our wholesale catalogs, do some hand lettering, and everything in between. I work with a small team filled with other creative people who I love dearly and am constantly inspired by.

What has shaped your design perspective? Where have you found inspiration over the years?

I’ve always been a very observant person, constantly looking around and paying close attention to my surroundings. I tend to look for beauty wherever I am, so I find inspiration everywhere. I guess you could say I’m quite romantic about it because something I find truly beautiful can instantly draw tears to my eyes - whether it’s a song, a place, an experience or a painting. I love to look at magazines, peruse Pinterest and Instagram, watch movies (both old and new), travel and window shop.

Your favorite place(s) you've traveled and why?

Florence and Siena, Italy. I went with my mom for my 30th birthday and it was just the best trip! We both still talk about it all three years later! I love the way the city feels frozen in time. There aren’t any skyscrapers, neon lights, or billboards. It still feels as charming as I imagine it did a few hundred years ago. The pace is slower and people just know how to enjoy life and not worry too much. We had very few things planned on our trip, so that we could just explore, have leisurely meals and enjoy our gorgeous surroundings. *Also, I’m a bit of a history nerd, so I love going to old cities and seeing the places I’ve read about and learned about in school!

You are such a multi talented creative. You cook unbelievable meals that are as perfectly beautiful as they are delicious. You paint. You have a custom calligraphy business. You are the creative manager for a small paper + gifts brand. Your apartment is like a page from a fancy home magazine, but it's cozy and warm and inviting. And, of course, you created our beautiful "be the belle" script. Do you find that these multiple interests support and inspire each other? Do you find yourself prioritizing some at times over others, or are all of these aspects of living a good life in your opinion?

Well, now I’m blushing! :) Definitely! I think I’ve always had a hard time knowing “what I want to be when I grow up” because I enjoy doing so many different things – but don’t want to do any one of those things all the time. My creativity totally depends on my mood. I haven’t painted or done any calligraphy in quite some time, but I’ve done lots more photography and interior design projects instead. Those seem to be the areas that I’m most passionate about right now. I do think that my interests support and inspire each other. A good movie can inspire me to make a nice meal. A challenging space can inspire me to organize, reconfigure or decorate. Travel and nature inspire me to take better photos. For me, those are aspects of living a good life because those are the things that make me happy.

You've really continued to train and improve in your areas of interest over the years, attending cooking classes in Paris and local painting workshops. What drives you to keep learning?

Honestly, I genuinely enjoy learning and I hate not knowing how to do something! I’ll always try to figure things out myself before asking someone to teach me. It may take me a little longer at first, but I always learn a new skill in the process and retain that knowledge much longer. Maybe that just makes me stubborn, but I feel like it drives me to be better and not settle for “not knowing how”. Learning new things is fun if you’re doing it because you genuinely want to learn. That makes all the difference!

 

What are your creative + career goals in the future? Is there another skill you'd like to master? Do you hope to put more emphasis on any of these moving forward?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m really passionate about interior design and photography right now. I’ve worked on a few small residential projects and have had the opportunity to help a lot with the design and construction of my company’s second retail store. It’s so fun to see a space turn into an environment that makes people say “wow!” or “my house feels like a home now!” That is so rewarding for me. I love a good before and after! With photography, I have learned so much but feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface. I’d love to take a few classes to get better on working with different types of lighting.

Give us all the recommendations! Classes, cookbooks, recipes, resources. How can we inject a little bit of your creative magic into our lives?

For classes, I would just recommend doing a little online research of what’s in your area. If you’re into cooking, there are places like Sur La Table and Viking Cooking School that do classes all the time. I also learned a ton of what I know just by watching the Food Network!

I learned calligraphy by taking two semesters of classes at a local college. They offer what are called “enrichment classes”. They’re typically taught at night time, so they’re ideal for people who work full time jobs and want to learn new skills.

Cookbooks: Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa) Foolproof and Chrissy Tiegen’s Cravings are my two go-to’s!

 Some tips for “injecting some creative magic”:

Want to try a new recipe? Give yourself plenty of time. Turn off the tv. Pour yourself a drink, light a candle and put on a nice, relaxing playlist. Plate your food as if you were serving it at a dinner party. Toss a little garnish on there. Make it pretty. Even if it’s just for you!

Trying to spruce up your space? Try a house plant. You’d be surprised what a little bit of green can do you to liven up the place. 

Another tip: buy things you love. Do you ever see a little object or decorative thing that you just love, but don’t know where you’d put it, or what you’d do with it? Buy it. You’ll find the perfect home for it later, and every time it catches your eye, you’ll be so glad you have it. I always look for little trinkets or pieces of art when I travel. So many things in my apartment have a story and that’s what makes it feel special to me. These are the things that make a house a home. Make it uniquely you and you’ll always love it.

 

We share an appreciation for embracing our feminine fortitude and encouraging that in other women! We like to use the motto “be the belle” as a reminder to be the very best version of ourselves that we can each day.  (You, in fact, created our beautiful "be the belle" artwork!) What does “be the belle” mean to you?

To me, “be the belle” means to be yourself. Tune out the noise, comparisons, judgements and expectations and strive to be the best version of you - not the version you think people want you to be. Life can be really hard sometimes. Be gracious with yourself and with others. We are all beautiful and strong and capable.

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follow Jennings and her creative ventures | @jenningsross | jenningsross.com