Janelle Gramling is a Milwaukee artist and designer extraordinaire, who specializes in creating gorgeous works out of fiber, found objects, and ceramics. Her technique and raw touch offers a deep personalization to each object she molds.
Why did you start working in this particular craft?
Four years ago, my mother-in-law decided to get back into ceramics and I was very interested in learning too. We pulled her old kiln out of storage, and I began working alongside and learning from her in her garage. The faceted porcelain air plant vases were some of the first ceramic objects I ever made. After a while, I returned to my old passion of fibers and began combining the two mediums to create jewelry and wall hangings.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
In my design I mix materials that you don’t usually see together using methods and forms that are innovative and unique. Also, my work is very personal. I make things that are strange, meaningful, or beautiful to me. It’s more of an art object than a product.
What has been your proudest moment since creating your business?
Recently, my cousin told me that her daughter said, “When I grow up I want to be a famous artist just like Janelle.” That just made my heart melt. I want to inspire people to nurture their inner artist, and pursue a career in the arts if that is their calling. Far too many people are discouraged and give up even though they have so much creativity in them. I work with kids a lot, along with my own four children. I try to spread the message as much as I can that even though it is a difficult path, becoming a professional artist isn’t “impractical” or “impossible.”
How does the city you live in influence your work?
Milwaukee is a fantastic place to take risks because the cost of living is low. Financial flexibility is a huge reason why my husband and I have both been able to start our own businesses while also starting a family. Also, I love the outdoors. Spending time in nature recharges me and inspires my work, so Milwaukee’s amazing parks, rivers, lakefront, and bike paths, are a huge asset. Finally, the creative community in Milwaukee is killer. There are some brilliant people in this city that inspire me all the time, and everyone is so supportive of each other.
What valuable experience did you have before starting your business?
I guess I just had a stubborn resistance to settling for a mediocre life, I had a serious work ethic, and great self-confidence.
What are some inspirations for your work?
I am inspired by nature, folklore, science, math, and geology. I’ve been reading about sacred geometry and applying those ideas to some of my sculptures. Traditions and folklore that involve objects having spiritual power have always intrigued me. I make my objects to be totems, or talismans, putting good luck on them somehow with the good intentions I have in my heart while making them.