Although Jenny Hill’s business Lonesome Traveler is run by her alone, it radiates the most loving sense of community. Just browse her Instagram and you’ll quickly find hurricane relief efforts, babies, weddings, representation of all peoples, and on top of that beauty- gorgeous neckties. Not just neckties; bow ties, pocket squares, western bows, cuff-links and tie bars, and kid’s bow ties too. Made for ladies and gentleman, this exquisite line of accessories will draw you in for all the right reasons.
1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?
Lonesome Traveler neck-ware accessories are sewn by me, Jenny Hill, in St. Louis, MO. Our goods are created using a collection of vintage, re-purposed, dead-stock and unique found fabrics. All of our neckties, bow ties, pocket squares and women’s western bows are constructed from templates and patterns we develop in-house. We use natural fabrics exclusively, either linen or cotton, and we strive to use fabrics that are either made in the US and/or are recycled vintage. We offer a standard line as well as custom grooms ties for weddings.
2| Why do you make/design things?
I make things because as an artist my brain is always designing and creating, I assume most every artist feels that way. I make things for a living because I worked corporate design jobs in my 20’s and when I hit my 30’s I wanted to find a route where I could work more with my hands (and less with computers) and at the same time be my own boss. I knew I wanted to start a family and wanted to be able to work for myself with the ability to design my own hours and lifestyle.
3| What kind of aesthetic do you shoot for when choosing fabrics?
When I am hunting for fabrics, certain styles and patterns just jump out at me, and I try to listen to my gut. I work with a lot of vintage, dead-stock, or other unique fabrics that have that vintage inspired feel. I love big, bold florals, unexpected color combos and retro geometrics. Each season I add new styles and this summer I am introducing more limited edition vintage styles.
4| What is it you love about menswear?
I have always loved menswear. When I was younger, I was obsessed with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, and more so how they dressed than how they danced. I love that menswear has rules and guidelines, which, of course, are made to be broken. I also am a huge fan of women wearing menswear. About half my clients these days are women, both in every day wear and brides who choose to wear suits for their weddings.
5| What do you love about your job?
I love connecting with clients who not only appreciate the neckties themselves, but also appreciate the fact that I make them! My absolute biggest joy is making neckties for weddings, knowing that I am part of someone’s most magical outfit on their special day. I also love the process of working with brides and grooms to create the perfect tie for their wedding group. Nothing is more exciting than receiving an email with wedding photos featuring my ties on the groom and groomsmen.
6| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?
I had a very well planned out “aha” moment. Lonesome Traveler was a thought out business plan, not something that just grew organically. I came up with a plan to make neckties before I left my corporate job so that I could have a lifestyle where I could create and be my own boss. I love to sew and am always drawn to men’s fashion, so it seemed like a logical fit! Luckily for me, there was a space open for me in the market and it took off from there!
7| How do you work, and where?
I work in my home studio in St Louis, MO. It is a home built around 1900 with glorious sunlight, which is great for taking product photos. I use a 1970’s Kenmore sewing machine, a 1930’s White sewing machine, and a 1980’s Elna serger. I work with my baby boy Hugo swaddled to me, or while he naps, and when he goes down at night.
8| How did you tackle branding (I’m obsessed with your logo)?
When it comes to branding, I found a graphic designer who is an amazing artist, and who shares my same vision for Lonesome Traveler. Mary Frances Foster, who is also out of St Louis, created my logo, which really captures the rustic and vintage Americana feel of my pattern selection.
9| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?
I would love to swap lives with Nikki Lane for about 2 weeks, maybe do a short tour for her. I have all the visual talents but no musical talent. Her voice is so beautiful and unique, and she knows how to kick back and have a good time. Ride around the country and play music with my love… doesn’t seem like a bad life to be living.
10| What makes a handmade object valuable?
A handmade object is valuable because of the process that goes into it. The passion and thought and time that goes into each piece, which for us artists often means late nights, pots of coffee and endless podcasts to get orders done. Specifically for the weddings I do, the love comes in the collaboration with the groom, or the bride if she is wearing a tie, and the story that that process tells. It truly melts my heart to see how excited the grooms get to pick out fabric for their big day.
11| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?
My favorite pieces of art that I own (if you can call them an object) are my tattoos. For the most part they are designed by my tattooer Josh Howard. Josh is a classically trained artist and an old school tattooer. He always works with me to turn my concepts into images more beautiful than I could ever imagine. His process of drawing and tattooing, plus my process of pain and healing really make these pieces the most valuable artwork I treasure most. You can see pictures of my tattoos on my Instagram, they always make their appearance in product shots.
12| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.
People are always surprised that I am a practicing Jew. I am covered in tattoos and, for some reason, I guess I don’t look like what people would expect a Jewish woman to look like, but I go to temple at least once a week. I am member of an amazingly progressive temple in St. Louis, and our Rabbi do a lot of work with the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ awareness, and Muslim American inclusivity. This is my other community, outside of the crafting world.
13| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.
-I have lived in 5 cities; Chicago, Los Angeles, Madison, Dallas and St Louis. Most all of these moves were just for fun.
-I absolutely love to swim. I swam though my whole pregnancy up to the day my baby boy was born, about 10 hours before I went into labor, and got him into the pool when he hit 2 months. He is almost 4 months now and loves the water as much as I do. He is quite the hit at the indoor YMCA pool. We cannot wait for summer!
-I see a friend every day. If I have no plans, I take my boy Hugo to the coffee shop to see our friends who work there. A day without friends doesn’t really count in my book.
Love Lonesome Traveler? Come shop her work right here on Mass. Ave. at Homespun! Or, take a look at her website, Instagram @lonesome_traveler, or Facebook. Thanks Jenny!