A Sweet Gig

Confectionery artisan and designer Jenna Park adds sugar and spice to the blog world.

January 23, 2013

Jenna Park. Portrait by Carolyn Fong.

It’s hard to identify Jenna Park by what she does. Is she an entrepreneur, art director, designer, blogger or photographer? In this case, it’s all of the above, and Park is skilled in all she does, as evidenced on Sweet Fine Day (sweetfineday.com), a blog she started as part of Whimsy & Spice, a Brooklyn, NY-based confectionery company she runs with her pastry chef husband, Mark Sopchak.

Whimsy & Spice was among the first to ride the Brooklyn artisanal wave, debuting its line of cookies, brownies and marshmallows in 2008 at the first Brooklyn Flea Market in the Fort Greene neighborhood. The business was a marriage of the couple’s skills — Park’s design and branding background along with Sopchak’s 13 years in the food industry. As one of the few food vendors at the Flea’s inception, Whimsy & Spice gained a lot of attention. Now in its fifth year, Whimsy & Spice has grown to offer its products online, in specialty shops and, of course, at the Brooklyn Flea.

Brooklyn Market cookies

On Sweet Fine Day, the company’s blog, Park writes about the business, and Sopchak intermittently posts recipes. But what has drawn such a large audience is Park’s honest distillation of their life, along with gorgeous photos of the husband and wife team with their two daughters, Claudine and Mia, ages 6 and 8. “A lot of what [I write about] is my experiences growing up and how that translates or influences the way I raise my kids,” says Park, who was born in South Korea and immigrated to New York at age 3.

Reading Park’s blog is like unraveling a history that clues readers in about how she’s picked up such a varied skill set. As an art student at Cooper Union in New York City, she couldn’t decide on a major, so she left to travel the country, picking blueberries in Maine, making and selling jewelry and calling her parents when she came across a pay phone.

Eventually, she ended up in the Pacific Northwest, where she studied music composition at Evergreen State College and met Sopchak. She gained design experience from an internship in the beauty industry in Portland, OR. “That’s where I learned about typography and doing photo shoots and prototypes,” Park says. “Then, I decided to go to grad school [at NYU] and that’s when the Web was really exploding.”

Park with her family. Photograph by Carolyn Fong.

Undeniably, Park has had some excellent timing and has found herself in the hotbed of many social and economic developments — the Seattle music scene in the ’90s, the dot-com boom, the Brooklyn artisanal movement and blogging in the early aughts. She is among a coterie of people who began blogging before 2010, all of them makers of some sort who are now friends in real life.

In fact, Park was blogging before blogs. In 2000, she and a few friends created Eat Squid, an Asian American webzine, as a graduate school project. “I was manually hand-coding all those pages,” she says. It was a lighter take on Asian America and each issue was thematic: hair, Asian pop music and even an issue about grandmas. “My friends and I just wanted to make it fun because so much of what we were reading about Asian American stuff on the Web was steeped in politics and race. We just wanted to make an Asian American magazine that made fun of things,” she says.

In 2011, she launched The Mixed Race Project (themixedraceproject. com), a documentary photo series in which she takes pictures of mixed race families in their homes. In part, it was a reaction to the “home and wife tours” of mothers in their great apartments and amazing careers and also a desire to apply context. Park says: “There isn’t a lot of photographic material on mixed race families,” especially in the context of their homes and how they live. The families are asked to wear clothes they would normally wear at home and to not feel obligated to tidy up. It also appears that this project is a continuation of her documentation of her own mixed race family.

With her myriad projects, how does Park manage her time? “I don’t sleep a lot,” she says, laughing. “It’s funny because I still feel like I’m not doing enough. I still feel like I can do more.”

Gloria Kim is Hyphen’s deputy managing editor.

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