"The First Craft: The Best Craft I Ever Bought” with Jenea Robinson

We continue our blog series celebrating the power and beauty of handmade objects, titled “The Best Craft I Ever Bought.”  In this series, creative and passionate Philadelphians tell us the stories behind the craft objects they’ve welcomed into their lives and what the objects mean to them.

Jenea Robinson is the media relations manager at Visit Philadelphia. She’s a proud graduate of Howard University and has worked in many areas of public relations from pharma to fashion. Besides counting down the days until the release of the next Hunger Games movie, she enjoys writing poetry and trying to convince her friends to leave Brooklyn and move to Philadelphia.

I think I chose the hottest day in 2007 to move to Philadelphia. Fresh out of college, I packed up all of my clothes and old textbooks (because every professional knows that you’ll need to refer to your old Intro To Public Relations book on your first job) and made my way to the City of Brotherly Love to become a tax-paying member of society. To be honest, I was scared out of my mind. I had no friends or family in the city, but I finally had the opportunity to use my degree so to West Philadelphia I went.

I intended to spend most of my free time decorating my new apartment. My fanciful décor plans were obviously very attainable, now that I had real job. I would buy a super cute vintage couch. Find an amazing deal on antique lamps. Start building my art collection. Perhaps purchase some grown up pots and pans. Oh, and make sure my apartment smelled like lavender at all times.

And then, I received my first paycheck. I sat in the middle of my couch-less living room floor and sobbed dramatically over my pay stub. How was I supposed to buy abstract art and a vintage couch on an entry-level salary? Two weeks later, I map-quested my way to the particleboard furniture outlet to furnish my first apartment like a normal 22-year-old. My place was full of furniture with names I couldn’t pronounce and my kitchen was stocked with dollar store frying pans. While I was grateful for what I had, I still longed for something original — something that hundreds of other people didn’t already own.

On one of my many getting-to-know-the-city journeys, I stumbled upon a little place in Society Hill that sold handmade South American sculptures, art and jewelry. One day the doors were open and a flood of bright, bold colors drew me in. I immediately fell in love with a collection of Peruvian sculptures way out of my price range.

That’s when I spotted the smallest piece in the bunch—a hand-painted wooden candleholder. There was something about the tribal colors, the artistry and practicality that caught my eye. It felt like it was made with love, by someone who truly cared about creating something beautiful.  It was also small enough to fit in my cubby-sized apartment and it happened to match all of my new furniture. I had to have it. I didn’t eat lunch a few days that week but I survived.

It was such a great feeling to go home every day and see that little candleholder on my table. The owners even threw in a multicolored candle for free — still burning strong seven years later.

At that point in my life, it was important for me to own something with a story. Artists possess the power to move you with their work and I believe that there is a great tale behind the pieces they create. You never forget the feeling you get when you find a piece that speaks to you. Whenever I look at my candleholder, I remember who I was the day I bought it, and who I am now.  I’ve come a long way, and this beautiful little work of art has come with me.

Visit the 2014 Philadelphia Museum of Art Crafts Show emerging artists category to discover new artists. 

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