By Molly Spero, 2016
Armed with hot chocolate clutched between my cold hands, I was ready to explore Franklin’s Pumpkin Fest. The streets were crowded with rows upon rows of booths that offered handmade crafts from soaps to aprons. A few minutes into roaming the aisles, Sam, Dani, and I were attracted to the jewelry stand, Designs by Janette. Christian was not nearly as interested.
A variety of necklaces made from14k gold, sterling silver, brass, and copper hung from nails in a wooden box, evoking a simple, rustic vibe. The pieces were simple, yet caught the eye with their intricate detailing. Small pendants adorned each paper-thin chain: a bird woven into its nest, a tree entangled by its branches, and a simple bar inscribed with a word, BADASS (and yes, it fittingly was in all caps). The juxtaposition between the powerful, confident statement and the delicate design made the piece unique.
When I conversationally mentioned this juxtaposition to the lady overseeing the stand, I discovered that she not only was the Janette of Designs by Janette, but also appreciated that I had picked up on the contrast in her piece. “I draw inspiration from the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made world with the combination of organic and geometric lines,” she said. Among her most popular pieces include her Tree of Life design and Bird’s Nest necklaces and earrings. Framed by a rectangular border, the Tree of Life emerges from the intertwining wires that twist into sprawling branches. To add texture to the Bird’s Nest pieces, the eggs are made of freshwater pearls or aquamarine.
Growing up in Michigan, Janette loved art and the creativity involved. Today as a North Carolina artisan specializing in metal work, she employs wire-wrapping and metal-smithing techniques to create “elegant, lightweight, and feminine jewelry.” She participates in numerous art shows, festivals, and craft fairs throughout North Carolina. Last weekend she had set up her stand in Cashiers, NC for Art for a Cause. Before pursuing her career as a professional artist, Janette taught art class to elementary and middle schools in North Carolina for five years. She smiled at me, explaining, “While I enjoyed working with youth, a career as a professional artist was calling.”
After learning from numerous how-to books on jewelry making, she dedicated herself as a self-taught jewelry artist and started her company, Designs by Janette, in 2011. In addition to handcrafted jewelry, she creates oil and acrylic paintings, photographs, and prints. Her art is displayed in galleries across North Carolina, South Carolina, and Michigan. When I asked her about selling her art in multiple states, she replied, “My love of travel and exploring the outdoors serves as a constant inspiration and is reflected in my work.”
To create her beautiful one-of-a-kind designs, Janette starts at the beginning. “My creative process begins with the raw materials in my hand. My ideas go directly from my head to my hands with typically no sketch in between. I solder the wire, hammer the pieces and continue by adding gemstones or textures with the rolling mill. Each piece is completed by being filed and polished,” she described. Her designs center on reshaping recycled materials, metals and natural stones into wearable art. Many of her jewelry are inlaid with precious and semi-precious metals with natural and faceted gemstones. The malleable metal and wire undergoes hot- and cold-forging processes to be fashioned into her wire-wrapped creations.
After talking to this self-starting businesswoman about her labor of love, I couldn’t leave without a souvenir. I admired a pair of Tree of Life earrings and examined a Bird Nest necklace, but it wasn’t until my gaze turned toward the bar necklace stamped with “BADASS” that I truly smiled. That word doesn’t represent me at all – so naturally, I had to have it.
Janette swiped my debit card using her iPhone card reader, and started to put my necklace in a fancy box with her logo on it. “Wait!” I said, gesturing for it. “I want to wear it now, please.” She smiled and placed the delicate necklace in my palm. I thanked her and walked out of her stand to find my other Mountain group members, who were looking at handmade soaps next door. With the necklace fastened around my neck, I could feel the slight pressure of the bar every time I inhaled the crisp mountain air, making me grin as I was reminded of what I could be – or perhaps what I am: BADASS.