A Crafy Questionnaire: Jenny Topolski

Brooklyn-based designer & artist, Jennifer Topolski is multi-disciplined, with an eye for the unusual. Taking natural forms -- octopi, bees, bones, brains, germs -- she transforms the macabre into beautifully strange objects. From bee rings, to cephalopod sconces, to vintage and nature-inspired jewelry, her work feels introspective and compelling. Jennifer's website has full portfolios of all of her varied mediums -- jewelry, ceramics, paintings, textiles -- and you can also find her at Governor's Island this summer as part of the {NewNew} Treasure Chest of Handmade Gifts.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Not having a day job, not having to worry about rent and bills, and getting to take an international vacation every year. And all of this would take place somewhere that is 85 degrees and sunny year-round.

What is your greatest fear?
Well, this isn't starting off well -- dying in a violent manner.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I don't know about identifying with, but admiring, respecting, being interested in: I'll say Buckminster Fuller. My friend and I even say 'What would Buckminster do?' when we're trying to solve a problem. We're both dorks, obviously.

Which living person do you most admire?
I really have a thing for Bjork.

Do you have a theme song, and what is it?
Depends what I need the theme to be: Whisper by Chaz Jankel and Laura Weymouth; Earth Intruders by Bjork; Chop 'n Quench by Fela Kuti; Girlfriend is Better by Talking Heads

What is the trait you most like in yourself?
I'm usually good in a real emergency. Also I am very self-sufficient and resourceful.

What is the trait you most like in others?

What is your greatest extravagance?
Good food and art supplies.

When and where were you happiest?
I lived in Paris for a while, and I remember the first day I arrived with my gigantic bags at my tiny little hotel room, having no idea what was going to become of me, and having just met someone in the stairwell who was to become one of my best friends. I threw open those big French windows and leaned into the street with a feeling that I just might burst with excitement.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I could manage stress a lot better.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Supporting myself since college, keeping good credit, and all without ever having a full-time job.

If you were to be reincarnated as a person, animal, or thing, what do you think you would be?
I would like to be an owl or another raptor, but I feel like I'd more likely end up as some sort of shivering chihuahua.

What is your most treasured possession?
My Dremel tool, although it is replaceable I guess.… Maybe my lucky green floral vintage dress? It's amazing, and I wear it to every job interview I've ever had. However, my most treasured possession is probably actually my laptop.

Which talent or skill would you most like to have?
I wish I had better attention to detail. I'd also like to be an optimist. Is that a talent or a skill?

Who are your heroes in real life?
Doctors without Borders workers, protestors in Iran, jailed journalists and artists everywhere, civil rights leaders….people who do the things that I fear I might not be able to do in their shoes,
even though I like to believe I would.

What is it the one thing you dislike the most?

What is your motto?
I heard an interview a few weeks ago where someone said "Everyone dies, but not everyone lives." I'm into that right now.

Who are your favorite artists?
I don't even know how to answer this. There are so many, and I see amazing art practically every day. It fluctuates depending on my mood, and what I've seen recently. Since her recent death, I'm really revisiting Louise Bourgeois. She was just brilliant and I'm so glad I saw her retrospective at the Guggenheim a couple of years ago. And I'm a giant fan of Tim Hawkinson -- his work always blows me away. Also, I have loved Martha Graham since I was a kid- she was a real visionary, and her autobiography made quite an impression on me when I was 13.

Is there any invention you wish you had thought of?
The telescope comes to mind...

What's the first thing you remember making?
I was a 'junior ranger' at a state park when I was little and I remember we had a contest to make a poster against water pollution. I made this awesome drawing of all these fish using snorkels to breathe because the water was so dirty. To this day, I cannot believe I didn't win. I was robbed.

Check out Jennifer's designs online at www.etsy.com/shop/jtopolski.

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