CCAD grad Jonna Twigg’s artistic and business life has been wrapped up in paper from the time she arrived in New York as a fresh CCAD graduate more than a decade ago.
Twigg (Fine Arts, 2003) owns Twigg’s Bindery, which is based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and specializes in handmade luxury journals, everyday books, custom editions and albums. She and Twigg’s Bindery have been featured in a number of national publications including The New York Times, Design Sponge, and New York Magazine.
We sent fellow CCAD alum Marcus Morris (Photography, 2011) to photograph Twigg and her work. And we spoke to Twigg recently by phone while she was at a warehouse in Queens, in the middle of a happy, solitary day of preservation work on a private collection of works on paper. She talked about tough decisions, staying true to her artistic self — and why working in the CCAD frame shop could lead to big things.
You landed in New York right after graduating from CCAD. How did you find work?
Like all new graduates, I thought I was going to be a working artist. The goal was really just to find work so that I could be in New York. So when I moved to the city, I got a job at a frame shop. I progressively found frame shops that worked primarily for museums and galleries, so I learned so many more materials and processes. I ended up working directly with artist Kiki Smith. I kind of had a knack for paper.
One of the people I worked with had been the chief preparator at the Guggenheim. For the 50th anniversary, they did a huge retrospective of the original Frank Lloyd Wright drawings. It was the largest-ever showing of his works on paper. I had no museum experience, but I went through interviews and eventually got a job. That led to traveling internationally for the Guggenheim. I stayed for five years and rehoused their entire works-on-paper collection, which led to so much more.
Why did you leave museum work?
I found myself working at the top of my field, and I made as much money as I knew I was going to make. I loved it, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else for my job. But I wanted to explore new things, and I don’t want to be tied to a 9-to-5 unless it’s rewarding me financially as well as stimulating me as an artist.
As a solo business owner, how do you take stock of your art and business?
It’s so personal. I do still think of myself as an artist, even if my daily life doesn’t reflect that. What is most paramount is my personal creative growth. I had to set some of my daily art practice aside in order to build my business and brand. Now I’ve had my first child, and that again is intensely personal. It shifts your focus. It shifts your priorities. Am I being the person I am, which is a creative person? That was a primary motive in doing this — to have creative independence and control over my time.
Why did you choose CCAD?
I’m from Columbus — I grew up in the suburbs. I came to art really late, in my senior year in high school. I got into a few liberal arts schools, but I was never a traditionally academic person, and the thought of going into that environment again was awful. I knew I had to continue my education — (not going to college) wasn’t an option in my household. My parents gave me one semester to figure it out. I really wanted to do art, and CCAD was the most familiar place for me.
What were some of your biggest discoveries at CCAD?
I was making art all throughout my life — I took glass classes at Glass Axis and pottery classes — but it never occurred to me to go to art school. Once the thought occurred to me, I had no problem putting together a portfolio. It was the first time I understood what school is supposed to be. I had a lot of apathy toward academics. Then I went to CCAD, and all of a sudden, my intellect and my abilities were tapped into. I read every assignment. I did all the extra readings. I would stay up all night and work. It was the most exciting time when I think back on it. CCAD taught me how to learn and a way to understand not only art, but the whole world, how to investigate things and why things are worth knowing.