Jen Westmoreland Bouchard welcomes me into her Minnetonka home studio with incredible warmth—bright eyes and a giant smile on her face. Her red lipstick kills, and she’s wearing an emerald green kimono-style blouse that plays beautifully with the gold medallions she’s layered around her neck. After taking over the family home (designed by mid-century architect Carl Graffunder and built by her grandparents) two years ago, Jen converted her childhood bedroom into a studio. Its wood floors and big windows feel safe—she’s lined a back wall with a giant bookcase filled with books and art collected throughout her travels.
As soon as we enter, I struggle to remember that I’m supposed to be journalist Diana. I’m brought back to weekends begging my mom, pretty please, to take me to my favorite shop in Oregon City—Bead Happy. I remember picking out clasps and crimps and charms and tiger eye gemstones and amethyst pendants. I’d happily drop my entire week’s allowance, anticipating the satisfaction of laying my treasures out on a table at home, arranging and rearranging them until I’d strung them into wearable art.
As I eye some of Jen’s creations across the room, I’m struck by what she’s been able to build in just three years. “I credit the birth of my daughter, Lyla, with the birth of Litany,” she says, reflecting on her motivation to begin designing jewelry. “I wasn’t getting much sleep … I was teaching French at Normandale Community College … I’d come home, put Lyla down for a nap and I’d head straight to my computer to do some freelance writing. It was all very cerebral … I needed to do something with my hands.”
Inspired by her grandmother’s fabulous style and love for travel, Jen began collecting vintage pendants and beads from all over the world. She smiles and remembers strolling through the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul as a college student—“Grandma Pat always said, ‘If you see it and you know you have to have it, then buy it, because you may never get back to that location.' For better or for worse, I have lived by that.”
Jen and I share an appreciative smirk. Grandma Pat sounds sassy and worldly and wise. She also might have just justified my latest impulse buy.
Bouchard Design Co. seamlessly melds Jen’s passions for travel, French culture, and post-colonial art history by incorporating globally sourced, vintage pendants, beads, gemstones and tassels. In essence, Jen designs unique homages to the various places she’s both seen and read about. Her unconventional academic background recently led her to create a Pre-Columbian collection for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and has her eager to work with museum shops around the Twin Cities. Jen knows that the materials she uses in her designs have stories—she’s excited to share them. In the last few years, Jen has forged strong partnerships with local, small businesses like Kisa Boutique, Khazana, and Victory. Specializing in collaborations, she works to deliver thoughtful, one-of-a-kind collections that align with her partners’ aesthetic visions. “Sometimes people are surprised when I tell them where my pieces are. Victory is a home goods shop … but you just never know. If it feels right, and the aesthetic matches, I just kind of go for it!”
For Jen, local collaborations and designing represent a means to maintaining a strong, global consciousness. She’s committed to donating a portion of her online and trunk show sales to non-profits like MamaBaby Haiti, and ResourceWest. You can also find her products featured in events sponsored by local non-profit, I AM Kindness.
“My life has been a continual process of recognizing my place in this world. What can I do with my skills to make the world a better place? How do we do this … how do we make this world work for everyone?"