When I asked Jenny Henry for her bio, I never expected what I received. It is more of a journey than a typical bio steeped in a rich history of family members before her....
For years I thought my start in needlepoint was accidental but now when I look back I think of it more as a fated path.
I come from a long line of needle wielders. My grandmother on my mother’s side who I only met for the first time at age ten years old when she was dying from lung cancer in the hospital, was a master seamstress who made her own clothes and my mother’s clothes including my mother’s wedding dress. After our first and only meeting she told my mother that I was to inherit her sewing machines. It would be many years later before I actually received the machines and learned how to sew. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a well respected surgeon both in Argentina and in New York City and even operated on Eva Perone. My great grandfather on my father’s side, Arnold was a surgeon and professor of anatomy at The Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. He wrote a book called Extensile Exposure about making the smallest incision possible for a procedure. It is still used as a study reference today. He quotes Shakespeare in his opening page, “tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church-door, but ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve.” This from Mercutio as he explains to Romeo that even though the cut appears small it will be enough to do the job (which in this case means kill him.) I still use “twill serve” today whenever appropriate, which is often. Amazingly, Arnold’s wife, Dorothy, my great grandmother, was a surgeon as well. This would be very uncommon for women at this time. She was also an accomplished stitcher. I have a needlepoint of a British Harbor scene hanging in my sunroom that was designed and stitched by another great grandmother. These stories of those who went before me, wielding their needles and weaving their own stories are a part of my story and a part of who I am.
Twenty five years ago when I sat in Union Square San Francisco reading the help wanted ads just a few days after arriving in the city and in need of employment I happened upon the words “Needlepoint painter wanted, job available immediately.” The address was just a block away from the bench that I was sitting on so I thought I might as well apply. So began my career in needlepoint.
I worked for Needlepoint Inc in San Francisco for five years. During that time I went on a trip to China with the company where I saw how the silk fiber was made. I literally saw them extracting the fiber from the silk worms! I also eventually became their head designer and trained a number of needlepoint painters. After I moved back to the East Coast I continued to freelance for Needlepoint Inc and other needlepoint businesses. In 2002 I began my own needlepoint brand, Jenny Henry Designs. In the beginning I conducted my business in the traditional manner by exhibiting at trade shows and only selling wholesale to local needlepoint shops. Early on I transitioned to creating direct to retail needlepoint kits. Today my focus is on creating fresh and innovative needlepoint kits and designs and helping to grow the needlepoint industry. As I get ready to celebrate my twentieth year in business I am planning my biggest collection of needlepoint designs so far.
Needlepoint Design was not where I imagined I would end up when I was younger but sometimes there is a path marked out for your life and you are just meant to walk down it.