This one’s different. Completely. It’s a little less of what you’ve come to expect from a Living With Kids home tour and a lot more of what you’d expect from a love story about two friends. Because, to me, this is exactly how Cary Vaughan and Jenna Wilson’s life reads. They’re the gorgeous designers behind ace&jig — Cary is the brunette, and Jenna is the blonde — which is a cool enough story on its own. (Have you seen their clothes? I think this skirt should be traipsing through the gardens of La Cressonnière!) But then there’s their personal relationship. They met as interns over ten years ago, became roommates and bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, and now live and work together in the same neighborhood where they’re also raising their babies. See? A television series in the making! Friends, meet Cary and Jenna. This is how they live and work with kids in two separate houses and one studio. Enjoy!
Q: Where do you live?
A: We both are lucky enough to live in a not only picturesque (think Cosby show brownstones!) but very supportive community of Park Slope Brooklyn. We live very close to Prospect Park, which was designed by the same designer as Central Park, and we spend many weekends there. It’s wonderful to have a respite right in the middle of our city. There are a plethora of children that live here, playgrounds to romp around in, and many cool and creative activities abound. Needless to say, our children are never bored. In fact, they’re probably overstimulated!
Q: Will you tell us the story of ace&jig?
A: We met as fashion interns right after we graduated college. We were both steaming and ironing and we immediately hit it off. Subsequently, we became roommates and worked our way up from cleaning bathrooms to assistant designers. We worked for a small fashion company called Language, which was an amazing place to establish roots because you literally have your hands in all different buckets. After leaving Language we became the head designers for LaROK, which was a contemporary, very trend-driven clothing line. It was a huge success, but a few years later, we were burnt out and felt like we really wanted to create clothes we were more passionate about.
It was about this same time that we both got engaged and married — both bridesmaids in each others weddings — and realized we wanted to have a life that included babies! So, we started ace&jig; ace are the initials of Cary’s daughter Alice and jig are James’, Jenna’s son’s initials. We now both have second babies and a thriving business, so it is possible to have your own business and have small children, too! In terms of us working together, we are pretty much inseparable and have been for the last ten years. We can pretty much finish each other’s sentences and then some.
Q: How do you separate work from family at home? Is it difficult?
A: Part of our vision with ace&jig was really to be able to work for ourselves and try to create a seamless existence between work and home. Yeah, right! We have both come to believe that such a scenario, frankly, does not exist. We worked for two years from our homes and we can proudly say we now have a studio in Boerum Hill, which is about a ten minute walk from our homes. It has been a life changer!
We would like to say it’s easy to be around our children and work, but in reality, it is really challenging! We feel guilty if we are checking our email or phone and not focusing on them, you know? So, in terms of balance, we feel very fortunate that we are now able to have our own space separate from the lives we lead at home.
Q: What, in your experience, has been the hardest part about balancing a career with being a mom?
A: Between us, we have an almost-five year old, Alice, a four year old, James, a two year old, Ada, and our newest member is Paul…six weeks! So yes, do we have moments!
An image comes to mind of a Saturday morning: nursing while Skyping with India about a technical fabric issue (which needs all of our brain cells and focus!) and having our eldest two run in front of the screen with body paint all over their naked bodies. And at the same time, the banana bread was burning. Ha.
It’s life. It’s not easy balancing, but we love what we do. We have creative freedom. How many people can say that? We are very lucky.
Q: Where do you find the most design inspiration?
A: Our inspiration mostly comes from what we have around us: everything from our vast textile collections (we are hoarders!), vintage shopping, our children’s drawings, personal photographs, pieces from trips we have been on, and on and on and on. Recently we’ve been inspired by Instagram, which we find is a great visual sharing resource.
Q: If you could do one thing better professionally, what would it be?
A: We always feel like we are running behind. That nagging feeling when we wake up in the middle of the night with lists of things to do that you can never remember during the day. We have all of these creative ideas that sometimes never make it to fruition.
It would be nice if we got caught up on the endless day-to-day aspects of running a biz so we could just create create create!
Q: What do you hope your career teaches your children? Likewise, what do you hope your aesthetic teaches them?
Our children are surrounded by beloved things: family heirlooms, antiques, and our huge collections of vintage textiles both at home and in the studio. These spaces are full of tactile treasures on the walls, underfoot, and overhead!
Our living rooms walls are an ever-evolving palette where our kids’ art, from paintings to twig sculptures, intermingles with equal importance alongside our antiques and textiles. Although we suspect that our love for material objects will rub off on them, we hope they also will come to understand that the true value of something cherished lies not in its worldly value but in the heart and soul of it.
At ace&jig, we try to infuse soul into our clothing. We custom design all of our fabrics, and our kids are always saying, “That color/pattern would be cool for a new textile, Mama!”
We both went to our kids’ preschool recently and had a day where we talked to the children about fiber and weaving. It is important to us that they understand where things originate.
Oh, and India! Since we travel to India a few times a year to work with our weavers, Alice and James have thus become fascinated by this culture. One of these days, they will travel with us.
Q: What do you hope your kids remember from this home and this time in your lives?
A: Joy! Joy of colors and laughter and learning. Joy of baking and sewing and sweeping the stoop. Joy of spontaneous dance parties and pot ‘n pan parades. Joy of feeling peace, comfort, security, and above all an infinite feeling of love! They are young, so we know they may not recall the specifics…but we hope they remember smiling a lot.
Theirs is a lovely story, isn’t it? Thank you, Cary and Jenna for sharing it with us! From your relationship to your shared (stellar!) style and love of textiles all the way to how you’re living and working with your kids and with each other. It inspires me.
One of my favorite take-aways from this interview: “Although we suspect that our love for material objects will rub off on them, we hope they also will come to understand that the true value of something cherished lies not in its worldly value but in the heart and soul of it.” It’s true, isn’t it? Most of us are kind of in love with our stuff and love having it scattered around us, decorating our lives. But I also think we all recognize what we’d save in a fire.
Do you have a friendship like Cary and Jenna’s? One that blends home and work and even play? I hope you do. Tell us all about it!