An Artist By Design: ‘Eureka Janet’ makes name in metalwork
Thursday, January 30, 2014
Some people dream in color. Janet Alexander dreams in design.
Dreams are where Alexander gets the ideas for the copper pendants she makes at her workbench in her East Mountain studio. And since her bedroom is tucked behind her studio, she can step out of bed and transfer her visions into art.
“I feel like I’m doing a small painting, an abstract landscape, on a wearable piece of art,” she said.
Alexander has been an artist all her life, but it was only last summer that she took a class in powder-coating metal at Eureka Springs School of the Arts. Since then, her distinctive copper jewelry has lifted her career to new heights, including being named one of “Ten artistic people to watch in 2014” in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette by features editor Becca Martin.
“She had bought some of my jewelry” Alexander said.
Alexander grew up in Eureka Springs, and works in a studio she added on to the back of the family house on East Mountain six years ago. But she only started making jewelry two years ago when she was stuck in bed with an illness, and needing something to do, pulled out some beads and started making necklaces. Then last summer, she took the powder-coating class at ESSA and loved how perfectly it went together with metal work.
“I find it a brilliant medium to work with because it offers a lot of experimentation,” she said. “You can apply a lot of different techniques.”
Realizing she would need money to buy the equipment, she raised more than $500 on Kickstart. Alexander’s pendants now sell at shops in Bentonville, Eureka Springs and her website, www.EurekaJanet.com.
Her mother, Wanda Alexander, is also an artist, and owned Alexander’s Art Gallery in Eureka in the 1960s, exhibiting work by Louis and Elsie Freund, Glen Gant and Miriam McKinnie. When Janet was 5 years old, she expressed an interest in making her own doll clothes, so her mother taught her how to run the Singer sewing machine. By eighth grade, Janet was making her own clothes, and was excused from Home Ec class after completing the first project, making a skirt, the first day of class. When she graduated from Eureka Springs HIgh School, she got a scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute.
She chose to go to Miami Beach instead. Since then, she has lived in Santa Fe, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Memphis, plus a year in Mexico, and worked in marketing, retail management and art –in Los Angeles, she had a job teaching people to use different kinds of media. She also made hats, which she sold in a store in Eureka Springs. She was part of the Eureka Theater Group that put on plays in the Auditorium, Gavioli Chapel and the Basin Park Hotel, both as a director and performer, and originally met Becca Martin through the theater.
“I directed her in a production of “The Vagina Monologues,” Alexander said.
Alexander’s mentor is Mary Springer, an artist who does drawings, paintings and jewelry — whenever Alexander feels bombarded with too many ideas, she said, she goes out to Springer’s studio, which helps her get things back in focus. One of her goals when she started making jewelry was to make every component that goes into a piece. Now she makes her own chains and findings, and has ordered a table-top kiln so that she can make her own beads.
She also continues to do graphic art and sells her designs online, and does volunteer work for local non-profits. She is now taking an online course in social media to help non-profits get more publicity, and plans to take another metal-working class at ESSA.
She sees herself staying with metal and beads, but continuing to go wherever her dreams take her.
“I say I’m always in experimental mode,” Alexander said. “I’m always challenging myself to do something different.”