Forest Hills Family Portrait
A local family creates different types of art using individual talents.
When it comes to art, the Strong family creates a little bit of everything.
The mother, Jamie Murphy, designs her own high-end leather bags. The older daughter, Emma Strong, graduated from Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio this past May with minors in photography and cello. The younger daughter, Hannah Strong, is a sophomore at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, N.J. majoring in opera with a concentration in piano.
But the Forest Hills family disagrees whether their talents are solely inherited or influenced by each other.
"Are you an artist even though you don't create?" Hannah asked.
"I think it is inherent," Murphy said. "I think you own that [talent.]
But Emma said artistic influences certainly help.
Emma began taking piano lessons at 7-years-old. Hannah began playing soon after her older sister. She even taught herself how to read, just so she could play.
"Growing up, we were influenced by our mom," Emma said. "Both of us had sketchbooks and coloring books with blank pages."
Both women are continually encouraged to use their imagination. For Hannah, she hopes to become an opera singer and said moving to Europe could help her achieve that goal. Although she has not visited Europe yet, she is going to live in Vienna, Austria for a semester next spring.
"You can do it [in the U.S.] but it is a lot harder," Hannah said. "[Opera singing] is treated more like a regular job [in Europe]."
Emma wants to use photography as a supplement to her environmental studies major by educating others of "the value of nature" through her photographs. She said working for National Geographic would be her dream job.
"I love the outdoors and want to protect it from destructive humans," Emma said.
Murphy always knew she wanted to use art to make a living, but said she "kept hitting road blocks." Graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a double major in art and nursing, Murphy was an avid painter and also worked as an E.R. nurse for 20 years.
Three years ago, Murphy found another calling. After someone came up to her and bought her homemade leather bag off her shoulder in Office Depot, she started creating more bags for her daughters and friends. Now, she runs her own designer bag business, Luna Jaze, from home.
"It's fun. I don't paint as much as I used to," she said. "But I'm now a fabric artist."
She also grew up in an artistic household. Murphy's mother used to live in the middle of a national park in West Virgina, the house complete with a stained glass studio. According to Emma and Hannah, their grandmother is also a singer, frequenting karaoke bars around her new home in Florida.
Emma and Hannah help their mom with Luna Jaze. The three women enjoy picking out and matching leathers with vintage buttons to design new bags. But Murphy does all of the sewing. Soon, she wants to get a studio space and hire employees to help with sewing.
"It is nice to see a business grow," she said. "I'm really happy it is sustaining itself."
The larger bags can get pricey, but Luna Jaze offers lower priced clutches and shoulder bags called peace bags. Murphy donates 10 percent of the proceeds from those bags to a nonprofit. Right now, she is donating to Go Forth Braddock, an organization that is teaming up with Levi's to create a better future for the Braddock community.
Although each woman might have inherited some of their individual talents, they also had significant artistic influence throughout their life.
"I guess if you look at our history, it is nurturing," Murphy said, changing her mind about influencing her daughters' artistic talents. "The things [my husband and I] did unknowingly encouraged their imagination and self-confidence."
Whether their talents are inherited or influenced, Emma and Hannah are thankful they grew up in an artistic household.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Hannah said.