In this week's My Job Story, we hear from Jenny-Faye Klooster, a Photo Stylist who runs the photography department for Gibson Overseas, a large kitchenware company, a job she has held for almost four years.
High Demand, Low Supply: How do you describe your job?
Jenny-Faye Klooster: When asked, I usually say something like, “You know the boxes that cookware and dinnerware come in at Target? You know, with the pictures of great food or a perfectly set table? I’m the one who makes it look good.” The reality is that my position is far more than packaging.
HDLS: How did you get this job?
Jenny-Faye: The wife of one of my husband’s friends knew that we were anticipating a move to Los Angeles. She knew that I was creative and owned a flower shop and she just point blank asked me if I was interested.
When she told me about the position, I literally had to get off the phone with her and google the title. What is a photo stylist? I quickly found that I could TOTALLY do this job! The only draw back was that I had zero real experience and no portfolio to present. But, you know me! I didn’t let a silly detail like that stop me! I called my photographer friend and said, “Hey, you wanna make a product photography portfolio with me?”. Thankfully, she was game and within two days, I had a rockin’ portfolio. I took it to my interview a few days later and wowed them! About two weeks later, they called with the official job offer and I started working 350 miles away from home three days later. I know it sounds crazy, but I knew that I had to do this and the rest again, were only details.
HDLS: What is a typical day like for you in your role?
Jenny-Faye: There is no such thing as typical at Gibson. I shop nearly every morning. I use fresh produce and groceries every single day. The volume and ever changing pace of my schedule dictates that I cannot plan too far in advance. So, I buy based on my schedule daily. Once in the office, I jump right in! If I am doing packaging, we have particular sets for each brand and we set and light accordingly. When we are working on ads, editorial or marketing collateral, we really get to spread our wings and push the boundaries of what we’ve previously tried! These are the special moments. When you have something that was just a tiny spark in your brain and there it is, in all it’s glory!
HDLS: What are the best parts of your job?
Jenny-Faye: I love expressing my ideas. They aren’t always accepted and frankly, they aren’t always good. They are mine, though, and I’ll take responsibility in return for expression any day!
Our people make my job as enjoyable as it is, I love them. We are an extremely busy company. We bring EVERYTHING to the table! Literally! I work in the creative department and we do it all. Our surface team is amazing! They create custom designs for our customers, sometimes on the spot! Lately, I’ve even been impressed by our structural team. You know, the guys who build the boxes? They are responsible for making beautiful and practical designs that keep our fragile product safe without wasting material or sacrificing the overall look. The level of thought and intricacy involved in this process is mind boggling! Our graphics team, who I work closely with, is full of dynamic individuals who are always rising to the occasion. They meet intense deadlines and are able to do so with smiles. I love them! Photo is my area, though. I am fortunate enough to work with two incredibly talented photographers. Both are formally trained, but have something special that cannot be learned. They make my job fun and rewarding and they push me to be as good.
HDLS: Before moving to Southern California, you owned and operated San Francisco Floral on the Miracle Mile in Stockton. How did that come about?
Jenny-Faye: I opened my first flower shop in 2002. I had previously been an employee of San Francisco Floral. When the owner decided to retire, he chose to sell it to another employee. I decided to leave and open a shop on my own. It was located in a renovated 1950s gas station on the corner of Country Club and Mission. In 2008, I bought San Francisco Floral from the gal that my boss had sold to. I operated that business until we moved to Southern California.
HDLS: Did the design skills you learned running a floral business help you in getting this opportunity?
Jenny-Faye: Absolutely! The experience I got not only designing floral arrangements, but merchandising, event décor, interior design and so on, were all instrumental in developing the eye for what’s aesthetically pleasing that got me into my position.
HDLS: Can you share a particular interesting project or day at work?
Jenny-Faye: I’ve gone on location to David Tutera’s house a few times to shoot. He’s a super nice and accommodating guy and his daughter is an absolute doll! I wouldn’t call those my favorite times, though. I am more proud of the many projects I’ve done in our studio at my office. We really pull off some amazing stuff sometimes. I styled a fantastic Marketing Mailer for Crock-Pot last year that really spoke to me. The product was good and the concept was good, but when I finally dialed it in, I was extremely proud of the end result.
HDLS: What was your first job?
Jenny-Faye: I worked at Run Burger Run, a Stockton burger joint that was modeled after In-N-Out Burger before they were in Stockton. My still very close friend Monique Orr was my boss and my bestie, Wendy started at the same time as me. It was a hard job and taught me that hard work is part of life and nobody is too good to mop the bathroom.
HDLS: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Jenny-Faye: Man… I changed my mind a lot. I wanted to be a singer and a nurse and a writer and and and… I’ve kind of done all of that so, I guess I was right!
HDLS: What is the best career advice you have ever received?
Jenny-Faye: Don’t let the bastards get you down! Ironically, that came from one of the bastards that got me down. There’s a beautiful Latin way of saying that but, I’m more comfortable with this version.
HDLS: What is the worst career advice you have ever received?
Jenny-Faye: I’m not sure if this was advice or not, but it came from a gal who is kind of spoiled and entitled. She told me that I wasn’t doing life right. She remarked that I cared too much about work and that I needed to take it easy more often.
Listen, I am a busy busy gal. I don’t expect people to be as diligent as I am. I work full time, I am incredibly active in my kids extracurricular activities. I spend time talking with them and hearing what they are saying to me. I am devoted to my husband, that takes time, too! On top of it, I keep a very active blog and have aspirations for where that will take me. Oh! Time for a plug! theswearingmomsguidetolife.com y’all! I am goal oriented and motivated. If my house is a bit messy as a result, so what? When I die, I would rather people had more to talk about than the state of my home.
HDLS: What career advice would you give your younger self?
Jenny-Faye: I think I would tell me not to be afraid to look silly and who cares what people think? I spent a lot of time bound by my own fears. If I had let my bullshit hang-ups rule me, I would still be stuck in the rut, waiting for somebody else to validate me! I would have never gotten this job if I had allowed fear to prevail. If I hadn’t gotten the job, I wouldn’t be doing all of the other things that I’ve cooked up down here!
HDLS: Do you have any secrets to photographing food?
Jenny-Faye: There are two schools of food photography, one is kinda old school where anything goes and you try to make things look unnaturally perfect. The other is a more realistic approach. That’s my deal. I mean, a few tricks I use are always shooting undercooked meat, using a paint brush and olive oil to keep things “fresh” looking and a blow torch for… you know, torching things! Food is only a part of my job. I use a lot of different props, like flowers, linens and décor items to get my point across.
Jenny-Faye's job story is one of working hard, very hard, and not being afraid to take chances and jump into a new field. Throughout her career she has learned lessons that have made her stronger, from Run Burger Run to working in a flower shop and eventually owning that flower shop, to her current role as Photo Stylist. Thank you Jenny-Faye for sharing your job story!
Jenny-Faye is a true renaissance woman. In addition to being a wife and mother, she is a musician, an artist and a popular blogger. She describes her blog, The Swearing Mom's Guide To Life, as a "menagerie of opinions and ideas of lifestyle and social relevance through the eyes of a potty mouthed Mama". She and her husband Mike live in Pasadena, California with their two boys, Cosmo and Lucius.