Jennie Edgar is a freelance editorial and art director, book curator, and artist based in NYC and Hudson, NY. She is also the founder of So Textual, a self-described “community and online platform for bookish individuals who seek a smart conversation about literature, creative practice, and a considered lifestyle”, offering curated monthly newsletters, events, and more. Jennie has featured several Are Studio designs in editorials for So Textural, so it is a pleasure for us to grow upon this collaboration by featuring her for this latest installment of our Journal series.
How does choosing your bag for the day and its contents tie into your daily ritual?
As the founder of So Textual, I am always reading and I carry books with me wherever I go. I love a bag that can hold my essentials - keys, wallet, sunglasses, and lipstick, as well as my journal and the book of the week. Selecting a bag isn’t always a daily ritual (because once I find a great day bag, I stick with it for a long time), but everything else in my life is quite ritualized and accessories that fit right in - that become more like necessities - are never far from sight. What I look for: a simple silhouette with clean lines; a neutral, matte color; enough space, or just enough space, depending; exceptional craftsmanship; and a female-founded brand is always a plus!
What are the non-functional/meaningful things that you carry with you on a daily basis? (mementos, good luck charms, personal affects, etc.)
I’ve been keeping a journal since college. It’s not really a feelings journal, but rather it’s where I record notes, thoughts, words I don’t know, book recs, quotes, and anything else I want to remember. For instance, every week I read the New Yorker and I’ll write in my journal the points that piqued my interest. I carry this with me everywhere because being without my journal when I need it is just terrible. My son is also always giving me little rocks or bird feathers to hold onto for him. His teachers hide glass gems in the sandbox at school and he’s always thrilled to find one. When it sounds like I’m carrying a bag of marbles I know it’s time to empty them out.
What expressive function does your bag have for you?
I think effortlessness is so beautiful. The bag is sophisticated with its minimal and clean lines, but the way the bag drapes and folds makes it a perfectly casual everyday bag that feels good to carry. In my mind, it expresses ease. It’s a large bag, but it doesn’t look or feel cumbersome; instead, it sort of hugs my hip and makes it all look and feel easy.
How does your bag (read: shape, features, size, material, etc.) inform the way you carry yourself, the activities you choose to do, the way you engage with your surroundings?
I once read an interview with an interior designer who spoke of the importance of not being precious with your things. I think we all can relate to that - something we bought (and loved) at some point is still sitting in its box or bag because we don’t want to “ruin” it. So now I wear or use the things I cherish, being gentle with them of course, but not treating them as precious. I think leather is especially gorgeous when it’s worn in. There’s something about a good patina that speaks to the travels, experiences, moments, and gestures of the owner, and it carries a record in that way.
Choosing a bag can be an act of expansion or a pairing down to essentials. Which one of these do you gravitate toward (and why)? When thinking about this, do notions about security/agency/independence come to mind? If so, how?
I am definitely of a mind to pair down, to the extent that even music in my home or car can feel like too much - honestly, quiet is bliss! When we bought our house, it was finally an opportunity for me to go through my parent’s house, my storage, the boxes in the closet, and donate 99% of what was there. Living with less is actually very expansive, so anything I bring into my life is well thought out. I do find a correlation between the order of my physical space and the sharpness of my mind, so clutter is a no-no. A good friend once told me why he had white walls: it lets the eye see beyond, into thoughts of the mind. I love that. Anything that doesn’t have a function (and beauty is absolutely a function) doesn’t really have a place in my life, let alone my bag.
What shapes, features, materials, textures, and/or functions are inspiring your creative process currently?
I’m a visual artist and I work with the most simple materials - white papers and silk thread. The papers are exceptional - mostly handmade in Japan and Korea. Part of what makes my finished pieces special, I think, are the ways the works play with light, with shadow, with vagueness, and with potentiality. There is so much being thrown at us every moment of the day, and so I like to think of my pieces as a temporary respite. The works are like portals, and I love that each person finds something different there.
How did So Textual come to be? How do you balance your work as a creative strategist and art director with your personal art practice?
So Textual is a place where I wed my interests in design, lifestyle, fashion, and literature and the arts. Before I was a mother I was an academic, with a very specific lexicon and community and, honestly, way of life. I loved it! And I couldn’t imagine being in the world without the resources of professors, libraries, archives, and a community dedicated to inquiry. My husband also pointed out to me how much I love books - not just to read, but to collect, arrange, rearrange, write in, recommend, and gift. I wanted to create a brand that incorporated no less than everything I love. Balancing it all isn’t easy, but I’ve always put a lot on my plate because that’s when life is exciting. I moonlight So Textual before and after my day job. I also wake up at 5am so I can do things I know are good for me, like meditation and exercise. To someone else, this might seem crazy, but I know how I work and this rhythm is really conducive to my creative practice. I definitely fall into bed at night, but I do wake up so excited for a new day.
The act of reading can become a ritual in and of itself - what does this look like to you and what are you currently reading?
Reading is a simple pleasure, as well as a luxury. Many people I know tell me they don’t have time to read. I get it; it’s very hard - nigh impossible - to multitask while reading. Reading demands attention and a turning inward to the extent that our real world, our to-do lists, our obligations, and notifications fade away. But what a gift to give to yourself, no? Personally, I allot time for reading into my schedule so that I know I won’t push it to the backburner; that time is sacred! Although I love to read before bed, I often wake up with no recollection of what I’ve read. So now I try to read first thing in the morning. Right now I’m reading The Constance DeJong Reader and Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky. I also just picked up A Long and Happy Life by Reynolds Price because a dear friend recommended it. Price is lesser known than he should be. He writes the sentences and sentiments I think are worth our precious time.
NYC and Hudson, are vastly different social & physical landscapes - how do each inform your creative practices?
My soul is in rural landscapes and communities. I grew up in Vermont and had a quiet childhood spent reading, playing outdoors, and riding horses. Now when I drive Upstate, there is no traffic - I roll my window down, turn my music up, and just go. It’s so freeing, and it's a great time to think. In the Hudson Valley, there’s so much opportunity for me to be present and feel the immediacy of life, moment by moment. With that said, nothing invigorates me like a weekend trip to the city. My family has an apartment in Manhattan and we take the train or drive down about once a month. Of course there’s so much to do, but walking the streets in the East Village or LES, on my way to and from my favorite bookstores, is like being confronted with characters from all my favorite books; it’s the best inspiration.
Share an image, a taste, and a sound that are on your mind.
An image is any one of the scenes from Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire” (my favorite film); a sound is Van Morrison’s hypnotic Take Me Back; and the taste of champagne is always on my mind.
Jennie wears her Buoy bag in Dust.
Photographs by Nicole Steriovski and Emma McCann.