If you haven’t seen Janel Foo Glassworks‘ wall hangings or dishes yet, you’re in for a treat! This Southern California cat lover combines her stylist mentality, love for Art Deco, and LA vibes into glass art that no one can’t quite resist!
Have you always been passionate about design?
I’ve always been an artistic person and I love all kinds of design. As a child, you could always find me sketching, painting, or sewing, and in high school I made my own homecoming and prom dresses. I’ve had my hands, quite literally, in all types of crafts, from metalsmithing to woodworking to sewing, but nothing has captured my interest like stained glass. When I figured out a way to combine my design sensibilities with my love of the handmade, it made sense.
Why did you start working in this particular craft?
A couple of years ago, I was working as a wardrobe stylist and as much as I enjoyed it, I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do long-term. I decided to study for a certificate in Jewelry Design. At that time, I was operating an online boutique with a friend that featured handmade jewelry by independent designers, and I really wanted to learn the process of making jewelry. I took a crafts class as part of the curriculum and I worked with stained glass for one of my projects. I immediately fell in love with it; so much so that I continued to take a few stained glass classes outside of the program, and I haven’t stopped working in that medium since.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
I have a style that is somewhat influenced by my interest in the form and geometry of Art Deco. The more work I see by other glass artists, the more I realize my designs are unique.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
I’d have to say that my venture into an online jewelry boutique wasn’t the success that I had hoped for. However, I enjoyed it and it brought me into contact with artists whose jewelry I admired and it made me want to be an artist myself. This experience inspired me to create my own designs rather than sell someone else’s. While there’s a lot of trial and error and experimentation that comes with being an artist, I wouldn’t call anything a failure as long as you learn from it and don’t get discouraged.
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business?
As any artist will tell you, sacrifice is part of the business. I used to have nice hands, but I cut myself just about every day working. Being an artist requires long and hard work within the confines a studio without immediate returns. It’s not unusual for me to make a number of items for a craft show and to leave at the end of the day with almost as many items as I started. Before embarking on this career, I made a decent living. I’ve been doing this for couple of years now and I expect to be in the red for some time. But I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I didn’t love it.
What has been your favorite moment since creating your business?
I’m an unabashed crazy cat lady. Anyone who knows me will tell you. One of my favorite moments was being interviewed for catster.com and having my geometric cat mirror featured in Catster Magazine. I’ve also been excited about collaborations with other artists that will be released soon. But nothing quite compares to the show of support from friends and family who come out to craft shows and buy my work.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
That’s a great question. I love it here in L.A. In my neighborhood of Highland Park, there’s a vibrant culture of artists that feels different than other parts of the city. I get ideas when I least expect it while walking around the city, whether it’s Downtown or Koreatown. So I guess a myriad of influences specific to L.A. and its many distinct neighborhoods inform my work.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
When I was working as a wardrobe stylist (I still do some work on occasion to make ends meet), I had to submit to a rigorous and tiring schedule of early wake-ups and long hours. I worked with the Jonas Brothers, assisting their stylist for over five years. After that, I worked in commercials for a while and I began to burn out. I realized it was time to follow my own passion. It made sense for me to take the leap and I haven’t regretted it.
What are some inspirations for your work?
I find a lot of inspiration when I travel and go to museums. For example, when I was in Europe last year I made it a point to see the interiors of centuries-old churches and their magnificent stained glass. Naturally, I’m also inspired by the work of other artists.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Develop your own style. If you’re producing something unique and you enjoy making it, success, however modest, will come. Also, as part of a community of makers, it’s important to support and respect one another.
What else is new about you?
I enjoy making whimsical designs from time to time. I have what I would call a signature style for Janel Foo Glassworks, but occasionally I like to design something playful. For example, I recently designed a Corgi butt after my own dog, it’s slightly abstract and almost immediately it’s become one of my most popular products.
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