Interview: Tara Jensen / Smoke Signals

Once upon a time, I had an awesome roommate named Tara Jensen. She was pretty much the dreamiest roommate ever, coming home with piles of extra pastries and hot loaves of bread, which the rest of us housemates dutifully inhaled. At that point, Smoke Signals the bakery was only a dream. Now she works and lives by the fire in Marshall, NC and is an internet sensation. I am super inspired by her vision and work ethic, so I thought I'd ask her a few questions.


What's your story?

I’m from Maine. I live at and run a wood fired bakery, named Smoke Signals, in Marshall, North Carolina. I love art, dancing and astrology. I’m 33 years old.

Tell me something you have learned recently.

We have a monthly pizza night here at the bakery (the first Saturday of every month) and I stayed up late the other night figuring out how to poach lemons so I could use them as a topping. Turns out it’s quite easy and really tasty! To poach a lemon you simply need to place thin slices in boiling water for two or three minutes till you can see the rind turn somewhat translucent. If you start to see the “tissue” of the lemon break apart you can reduce the heat from a boil to a simmer so they’re not in such rough waters. Then you carefully lift them out of the water and allow cooling in a strainer. So good!


Describe a day in your life.

I wake up around 6 A.M., make coffee and read my horoscopes. Then I try to have an hour of studio practice. Just get in the bakery and make something. A paper cut, a print, a new recipe. Or I’ll use that time to write at my desk or journal. By now it’s mid-morning and I get on with whatever needs to be done that day. Baking, preparing workshop materials, firing the oven, printing invoices: that kind of stuff. When I stop working depends of the flow of the day. Sometimes I’m going till 6 or 7 P.M., other times, with the summer heat affecting fermentation I might work till 1 or 2 A.M.  If I’m pushing for something to happen and it’s not working I set it aside, do some other task and circle back around. I generally try to sit on my porch for an hour in the evening to watch dusk settle in.


Personally, I rely heavily on outside media stimulation to get anything done. Do you listen to music, podcasts, etc while you work? What is your Jam right now?

I listen to a LOT of pop music in the bakery. I’ve also been really happy to get into some “new” soul like Leon Bridges and Michael Kiwanuka. I look forward to every Monday when Anne Ortelee releases her Weekly Weather astrology podcast. When I really need to focus I prefer silence.


What is the best advice you have received?

Go with your gut.

How do you currently define success?

Success to me is a balance of inner peace and outward action. Success is taking the right action at the right time and trusting in a larger, hidden plan. I don’t measure it in terms of products sold, money in the bank, followers and likes, but rather: Am I reasonably happy today? Can I take care of myself in this moment? If the answer is yes then I’m at least heading in the right direction.


What are you excited about?

I’m happy my two loves, astrology and baking, are become more and more popular. I think there’s a correlation and I’m working on putting the puzzle pieces together. I was completely inspired by the recent photos of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons mission. At the same time I’ve been experimenting with traditional, Scandinavian flatbreads for an upcoming event, Smörgåsbord, with Amber Jensen of Sketchbook Crafts. And I’m always excited about PIZZA!