a little bit about me

Ok, a lot actually.

Most folks probably don’t really want or need to know much about an artist, but there may be a few, so this is for them.

I didn’t go to art school or college, I’d always loved drawing and painting but school just wasn’t in the cards, didn’t have the cash. I did a bit of running away from home and half-assed adventuring and then plopped down in NYC and worked as a nanny for several years (and met my future partner, writer/ photographer John Damn Seven).

My favorite part of nannying was reading beautifully illustrated books to wee ones, and I got it into my noggin that might be something I would like to do when I was a grownup. So, after several more years of nannying, this time in the Boston area, I decided to start seriously putting some effort in that. At this time, John and I were creating an indie comic book series together so I was starting to hone my drawing skills… then we had twin sons and then I started seriously trying to give illustrating a go (read: I can’t afford daycare, I need to figure how to make money from home, so let’s start trying to sell illustrations to parenting papers for $15 each)

Slowly I started illustrating actual children’s books and did that for about fifteen years, including some favorites that John and I created together.

For most of that time, my creative soul was totally being satisfied by illustrating. Until one day when it wasn’t. There are dark parts of me along with the light parts, things that I kept having to shove aside, because I was spending 100% of my creative time drawing fairies and happy families. Obsessions with decay, decay, decay, and bones, and the beauty of life cycles, and maggots and beetles, and CROWS and trees and obsessions with why we are the way we are, the history of mental illness and Victorian insane asylums, more time spent exploring abandoned farmhouses and factories and subways, what is IN that dark corner? Oh! It’s a person! Sorry! , so many things that occupied my physical and mental time… many illustrators can express their darker parts successfully, I just couldn’t, and definitely not in the medium of children’s publishing, at least not in the path I had carved out for myself.

At the same time, I needed to start making things with my hands. The characters and stories in my head could no longer be contained on a flat piece of paper. They needed to be able to stand and walk, maybe hugged. So, about 6 years ago, I started twisting bits of wire and sticks and fabric together and started to make some very rudimentary creatures.

And then, inspired by an article about artist’s Nathalie L’ete’s studio I became almost infuriatingly compelled to make paper-mache friends. I think synapsis in my brain actually started EXPLODING…. WAIT a minute! It looks like she’s just making the things she wants to make! She has giant rabbits and hanging sausages and dolls dolls dolls and rugs and WOAH! It hadn’t ever actually occurred to me to just make things that I wanted to surround myself with. I’m not sure why, it seems so obvious now. I made a five foot tall cat, who lived in our kitchen for a while (til some tiny bugs started eating her) , and a lady pig who sat on my desk.


At first I just needed to teach myself basic construction- how to build armatures that would actually hold these characters up… (wait, I have chicken wire in the basement …) do I want the beings to be able to move their arms? their heads? their legs? Do I want them to stand? to hang? to wave? to walk? So I spent the next bunch of time literally filling my house with small things, BIG things, HANGING BIG things… I think adding the papier-mâché element was the final bit that my brain needed to help bring these characters to life.

At around this time we were in Budapest for a week and I experienced a couple things that left a huge impression: wooden puppets hanging in a bar (!), and a trip to the Semmelweiss Museum where I came face to face with small hand carved anatomical dolls that were used as teaching tools for hundreds of years and large, lifelike wax anatomical figures. These would inform how my art would start to evolve over the next few years in really profound ways.

Since then, all of the things that have been lurking in my brain, under cobwebs, maybe in nightmares, usually just in obsessive thoughts… having been find their way to the surface. and the more I make, the more that emerge. I showed them twice in kind of gallery settings at art house movie theaters, and I sold a few pieces. and just kept making things. Last year I decided that illustrating was no longer a thing I wanted to do on a regular basis, it kept losing the battle of my creative heart, (and to be honest, I’m older, tired, I just don’t have the competitive personality that you need to really thrive in publishing).

So, I applied to do some shows with my friend, artist Marianne Petit, who makes incredible pop-up book and other beautiful paper craft.

We had a blast. I met a bunch of really lovely people, got to see folks reacting to my work and actually sold some pieces and was like… yep, here we go. A dam burst and I cannot stop making.

It’s been such a fun, fucking ride. thank you so much for being a part of it.

xo jana