I’ve been a big Justina Blakeney fan for years. I admire her focus and drive in creating the beautiful home furnishings and interiors brand, Jungalow, which brought the re-advent and modernization of the bohemian style. She’s smart, talented, and on a mission to bring good design to the world! I’m constantly learning from her as a person, business person and artist, shop owner, and author.
One of the things I admire most about Justina Blakeney is how she has figured out what she wants and works her rear off to make it happen. For example, she sets time aside every day to work on becoming a better illustrator and artist showing me how you just have to make time to improve. Without further ado, meet Justina!
Becoming: Interview with Justina Blakeney
What did you want to be when you were young versus when it was time to decide what to actually do?
I knew I wanted to work in a creative field. I went through various phases of wanting to be a trapeze artist, a teacher, a newscaster, and a singer.
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, maker, business person etc.
Yes. All of those things. (except maybe maker haha)
How did your childhood influence what you have become?
My parents gave me a ton of creative freedom and did a good job of balancing and creating boundaries for me and letting me feel free. I think this gave me both confidence and a feeling of security which has served me very well in my career.
Did you feel pressured in any way to pursue a certain career path?
Yes, but the pressure was internal. I did not feel it so much from outside sources. For me, the pressure was about trying to make money vs. following my heart. I’ve found a good balance in what I do now.
How did you get started in your field doing what you do?
I’ve had about 25 different types of jobs and all of them (from working retail, to working in restaurants, to owning my own store, to consulting with small business owners, to being a freelance graphic designer and interior designer) all somehow have taught me skills that I use every single day today. I will, however, say that it was my blog (which I started in 2009) that a major catalyst in getting me where I am today.
What did you study? Did you go to school specifically for what you do?
I studied World Arts and Cultures and Italian at UCLA and then went to fashion school in Italy where I studied design for one year. So, I guess the answer to the second part of the question is “kind of.”
Did you have anyone along the way that was instrumental in the trajectory of your life?
EVERYONE. But especially my big sister Faith, who is an interior designer but has always been super chic and stylish and creative. My parents are a really obvious one, but they’ve ALWAYS supported me in everything.
What’s your workspace like?
Messy, fun, colorful, layered, inspiring, always changing, maximal, crowded.
You were one of the first people to produce original content for your blog. What lead you to think that it would be a viable career, especially in the early days when you weren’t getting paid for it?
I didn’t think it was necessarily a viable career, but I loved doing it and so I just did it for fun and because it was helping me to find new clients for my freelance business at the time. Honestly, I never thought in a million years I could make it big off of blogging.
You started out doing craft books. How did that come to be? Did that change your trajectory?
After fashion school in Italy, my sister and I opened a small shop. We were selling vintage T-shirts and so many of them were HUGE (and Italians are often petite) so we started cutting them up and making new styles out of them. People loved the designs and they were hugely popular, so we thought to self-publish a manual to show people how many designs you could make from a simple T-shirt! We thought of the book as more of a conceptual tool than a craft book, but the book was picked up by a craft book publisher in the U.S. and then the publisher commissioned us to create several books after that. I was in my early 20’s at the time and I was STOKED.
Did you always have an ultimate plan?
My plan has always been to figure out how to be my own boss, be creative, get rich, do good in the world. The details have always been a bit fuzzier.
Jungalow has morphed into a full-fledged brand. Did you always have that in mind? Where do you see it going?
Yes and no. I can’t say I’ve always had exactly in mind what Jungalow has now become, but I always allow myself to dream BIG and see where it takes me.
What sets your brand apart from other brands?
Me! I inject as much of myself as I can into my brand so that it can be true to who I am, and stand out in the crowd.
Do you like being the face of your own company? Does it have any drawbacks?
Yes, I’ll admit that I like being the face of my own company. I enjoy public appearances, I’m pretty outgoing and I love people and so I like that aspect of the gig. For me, the benefits outweigh any drawbacks, but I’d say the main drawback is that I sometimes spread myself thin wearing too many hats.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Every day is different and I like it that way! I live one block from my office and after I get my daughter ready for school I walk to our local coffee shop, grab a latte and go on a walk for 30 minutes, listen to the news or a podcast and head into work. I work with my team on all kinds of projects from working on our online shop, to designing new products or creating concepts for new collections, shooting new styles or posts for our blog and social channels, answering press and media inquiries and interviews (like this one 😉 ) and having meetings with partners or folks we work with.
What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?
My dad always said “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” and I couldn’t do all that I do if I was always fixated on fixing every tiny thing. I’m very big picture, and every day I knock down a ton of pins. It keeps me productive, and most of all, it keeps my learning.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in a creative field?
I would say to keep on creating. Don’t get stuck inside your head. Do do do do. Make make make. Share share share. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Then once you do, make sure you have an awesome accountant and a great lawyer who can help make sure your biz situation is on lock.
What’s coming up for you in 2019? And your company?
We have some fun new product launches happening this year, I can’t say too much about them yet, but one of them rhymes with “Shmall Shmaper” 😛 . A very large focus for us this year is growing our online shop, it grew about 200% in one year so that’s been so exciting to see. I also am hoping to purchase a building for Jungalow soon and open our first in-person location. L.A. is so expensive, so it’s gonna take some time for that to happen, but when I put my mind to something…I make that sh*t happen 😀 .
*Edit from 2021: You can find Justina Blakeney’s wallpaper collection here
What does your dream retirement look like?
Rich and beachy with lots of mojitos, grandkids and pottery classes.
What do you do when someone copies your work?
Depends on the circumstance. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry, sometimes I lawyer up 😀 .
Are you where you want to be in your life?
Hells yes and simultaneously NEVER!! haha.
Anything more/additional you’d like to “become”?
I’d like to become an agent for good in the world. Also maybe a podcaster, but we’ll get to that another time 😉 .
Where you can find Justina:
Justina’s new collection with Target Opal House
just came out and we’re all heart eyes for it. Here are some of our favorites. You can see the rest of our favorites over here!
Thanks for your thoughts about “becoming”, Justina! We’re so pleased to have you. Stay tuned for more interviews soon!