Artist Series -- Jan Huling

While browsing through Etsy I came across the artist elJan and was smitten. I must have looked through her shop for an hour and have been back several times. The intricacy and artistry of the bead work is just incredible. As you will read in following interview she is much more than a mosaic, bead artist...she also writes lovely, children's books.

1. When did you become interested in art and did you choose art, or did it choose you?

I’ve always wanted to be an artist, although I thought that being a commercial artist was as close as I’d ever get. To pay the rent I work 2 dimensionally, designing things to be sculpted (figurines, etc.) and also painting surface design. So when it came to expressing myself for pleasure, I wanted to do something more tactile and intuitive. I love doing mosaics (breaking plates can be so cathartic!) and embroidery, but when I discovered beads, it just felt right to me. Now, what started out as a hobby has turned into a real passion and I feel that a new chapter in my life has begun.

2. You get to spend one weekend each with three historical figures, an artist, a writer and one of your choice. Who are they and what will you talk about?

This is such a hard question and I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. I seem to change my mind every time I think about it, so this is just today’s answer. My favorite artist is James Whistler, but I would love to hang out with Joseph Cornell because I think we’re like-minded in some ways. We would first go to junk stores and flea markets and then we’d have fun creating art out of our junk. I love his assemblages. I’m a voracious reader, particularly of Indian authors and fiction taking place in India, and I adore Anthony Burgess, but I think that if I were going to spend time with one writer, I would choose A.A. Milne. I used his poem “Forgiven” as inspiration for one of my pieces and I love his sense of humor and rhythm.

I’ve also written a couple of children’s books (Puss in Cowboy Boots, Simon & Schuster, 2002, illustrated by my husband, and Ol’ Bloo’s Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble, Peachtree Publishers, 2009) and so I’d love to talk to Mr. Milne about writing. Hmmmm. George Harrison. And he would take me to India, which has been my obsession ever since the Beatles went all those years ago. And we’d laugh a lot.

3. Do any of these choices influence your work?

Everything influences my work.

4. How has the popularity of the internet affected your work?

Etsy has been an amazing resource for my work because so many people have been able to see it and a lot of people have contacted me with their reactions to it. I put my work on etsy for exactly that purpose, not really expecting to sell it there. People have been so supportive and very generous; it’s been a joy. Other than that, I’m afraid that the internet’s popularity (with me!) has been a major distraction!

5. Have you discovered any new techniques to creating your work that you can share?

Lately I’ve been experimenting with using what I’ve learned from my beadwork to adorn 2-dimensional pieces using colored paper dots in place of beads. This has been a lot of fun.

6. How do you overcome artist block?

I’ve been lucky enough not to be bothered by artist block. I’m usually working on more than one thing at a time and have a lot of ideas stacked up waiting for me.

7. If I walked into your studio this moment what would you show me first? What would you want to hide?

I think that I’d show you all of the cool supplies that I have, such as boxes of brass chains and costume jewelry and, of course, beads. And the wonderful new preserved bug that my husband gave me for Mother’s Day. And whatever I’m working on that’s new. I would try to hide the dust bunnies and all the beads littering my floor!

8. Describe something that comes up in your work because of a life experience.

I’m a very lucky human being and I’m grateful and happy. I have a wonderful family, great friends and even a couple of wacky, amusing cats. I think that my work has a sense of optimism and fun, I hope it does. However, I think that the experience that has most influenced me, and therefore my work, in the past several years was 9/11. We live right across the Hudson River from Manhattan and watched as the towers fell down. It was a horrible, awesome sight and one that I think about every day. More than anything else, it taught me that life is much too short and unpredictable and that I need to live life to it’s fullest. Clich├ęd, I know, but it’s very much my philosophy. And it helps me overcome some of my reticence as far as showing my work and trying to be accepted in the art world. It’s now or never.

9. Describe what you do, or who you are in a haiku.

I choose the colors
And glue the beads down row by
Row by row by row.

10. Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Well, under the heading of “life’s too short”, my husband and I are going to India this fall after nearly 30 years of talking about it! I’m beyond excited and look forward to seeing what influence the trip will have on my work. I’m also busy writing up grant proposals and submitting images to various and sundry shows and museums.

16 reviews:

sherry said...

Truly amazing, I've learned so much today. Lovely interview.

Triz Designs said...

great write up and amazing artist!!! thanks for sharing!!! and i love that hand!!! :-)

Rosebud Collection said...

What wonderful work and you did a great interview..

ourgreatgreenglobe said...

what beautiful, detailed work! amazing!

Jael said...

Incredible artist, amazing interview... questions I would never have thought to ask!!!

Marlaine said...

Great interview! I enjoyed reading it.

missknits said...

wow i am in awe! her work is just amazing!!!

blackfeatherfarm said...

Wow ! Great post, wonderful work.

M.Kate said...

so amazing, love the last picture of the bowl!!

LadyK said...

What an amazing artist! Great interview!

picciolo said...

what a great interview, I'd never seen this work before, thanks for sharing!
: )

Beat Black said...

ok, so... wow. I am very impressed with these items and by her view counts I'd say shes got plenty of fans! incredible

Lisa-Needle Wood Designs said...

Wow - her work is so intricate. Very impressive!

Artbeat said...

elJan certainly looks like a very versatile, talented and accomplished artist, thanks for the article

Estela said...

her work is beautiful!!

Pam Hawk said...

Stunning. Love it.
I need some of that in my home...

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