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12/13/2012 10:58:00 AM
Life After Graduation: Hannah Jensen

by Connie Bickman

Note: This column features "hometown folks," specifically Cannon Falls and Randolph High School graduates - of any year - and their unique or interesting careers. If you know of anyone you feel would make an interesting feature, email cbickman@gmail.com - their email address must also be included.

Hannah Jensen grew up in South Minneapolis and moved to Cannon Falls when she was 12-years-old. Growing up in a very creatively supportive family, she said she learned early on to embrace her creative interests and talents and find a way to integrate them into her future work and personal life.

"I have vivid memories of being welcomed on the first day of seventh grade, despite being the 'new girl,'" she said. "Starting at a new school and making new friends really helped me open up after many years of being very quiet and shy. The Cannon Falls music and musical theater departments continued to help in that development throughout my school years, while also providing a great creative outlet."

Outside of school, Hannah says that growing up in Cannon Falls gave her the time and space to learn to appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the country.

A 2004 CFHS graduate, Hannah traveled, through the Humanities program, to Italy, France and England. After high school she attended University of Wisconsin - Madison, and in 2008 graduated with a BSA in art, focusing on graphic design.

"I studied abroad at Central Saint Martins in London my junior year, which was an amazing and challenging experience as a design student. It made me realize that I was only going to get as much out of school as I put in, and I needed to start challenging and pushing myself further."

After graduating, Hannah had a graphic design internship in Minneapolis and then moved to New York with the intention of working for a graphic design firm or advertising agency.

"My parents [Wendy Lewis and Brent Sigmeth, Cannon Falls and Harry Jensen and Angela Fogel, Minneapolis], were supportive of me becoming a graphic designer and have also been supportive of my other personal and professional endeavors."

Hannah stresses that she is lucky to have such creative and inspiring parents. Her mother, Wendy, has been a photo stylist in Minneapolis for many years and Hannah went to work with her on occasion. Hannah was also inspired and influenced by her mom's talents as a vocalist and songwriter.

"My focus was on graphic design. I never intended to become a stylist or a member of a band," Hannah admits. "My father is a wood worker and contractor, with a great eye and appreciation for strong, functional design. My sister Kitty (24) is an incredible singer and songwriter (not to mention a great writer, actress, painter, etc.) who continues to inspire me."

After leaving a graphic design job at Tiffany's, Hannah got her first assistant styling job in New York, assisting a fashion stylist on a catalog shoot...for free. However, the stylist booked her for some paid shoots and through that she landed jobs styling for a luxury home client.

"Before I knew it I was working almost every day styling home products - bedding, dishes, decorative accessories, etc. Some people thought I was crazy for turning down fulltime employment, but as a stylist you have a much greater ability to build your career if you keep yourself open to the opportunities of new, varied and better paying employment."

Hannah continued, "Keeping current clients and getting new work continues to be a job in itself for me and is a big part of being a freelance stylist."

Hannah says her job is always interesting. "Sometimes I have to scour the city for the perfect pillow or chair or Christmas lights. Other days I have to fold twenty shirts over and over to look exactly the same. But there is a simple joy that also comes from laying down a shirt with perfectly soft wrinkles and shadows...there is an aspect of this that feels almost like painting.

"Most people think that being a stylist is really glamorous. This is NOT true. A lot of my job involves moving boxes, unpacking and organizing merchandise, figuring out the most time efficient way to get all of the shots done. But, there are also really great and unique aspects of the job. I get to know and work with tons of creative people because I'm working in many different studios and the people working there are always changing. While some jobs are simply about making the product look exactly as it does in real life (maybe a little better), there are also jobs where I get to create an environment and tell a story through the surfaces, paint colors, props and lighting. Those are the most fulfilling jobs.

The simple goal is to create a beautiful image, and these images end up living out in the world."

Hannah said that most of what she does lives on the internet, so she can go online and see the image in the space it was intended to live. She admits that can feel very rewarding.

"Also, because I work on a freelance basis, when the job is done, it's done. The days can be very long and exhausting but once it's over there is no baggage. No work to bring home and work on that night or over the weekend. Unless it is sewing a garland for a holiday shoot or researching floral arrangements...but that's the fun stuff!"

Hannah believes that styling is a great job for someone who is creative, tactile and motivated by fast paced, stressful environments.

"I think the greatest challenge for people (including myself at times) who are pursuing this work is that you really have to build your own career. There is not a promotion or raise waiting at the end of a specified timeline. If you call in sick, you don't get paid. Despite some of the insecurities, there is freedom. And if you're ready to work hard, you can really live in a way that suits you rather than suits a corporate agenda."

Freelance styling isn't all that occupies Hannah's career.

"Music came back into my life when I started dating my boyfriend, Geoffrey, about three years ago. He has a band, "Jus Post Bellum," and convinced me to sing harmony with him on a couple songs at their first concert. Before I knew it, I was singing on every song, and helping to organize recording our first album with my stepdad Brent Sigmeth (recording engineer at LittleBig studio, Cannon Falls). We play regularly in NYC, have completed our first tour throughout the south, and are planning our second recording with Brent in Cannon Falls in February. Jus Post Bellum will be recording a second album and planning more tours for the next year. Hopefully we'll be playing in Minnesota soon."

Hannah does admit that her freelance and music lifestyle isn't always easy, adding, however, "It leaves me far more fulfilled than if I were to abandon art in my work life for a job solely focused on money. It's a process, and I trust that if I stick with it, it will only get better."

What's in the future for Hannah? With her ambition, it sounds like she won't be slowing down anytime soon.

"I plan to find more time for making art for art's sake. I want to learn an instrument and gain the confidence to play, as well as continuing to sing with the band and travel more. I want to eventually have a family (not quite yet though!). I want to own a letterpress studio or a little retail shop...I want to do so much more!"

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