Sunday, August 17, 2008

Focus On: Jan Huling

If you've been folowing my blog a few days ago I ran a post on bugs as materials with the spotlight on the marvelous Forgiven.

When I contacted Jan to let her know how much I loved her piece she was so sweet that that I mustered up boldness to ask if she'd like to be featured on my blog. She said yes, and here she is!

Jan creates museum quality collector's art, so prepare to be wowwed.

Profile: Jan Huling

Tell us about yourself. What makes you, you?
I’m a 50-something woman, happily married with a terrific 19 year old son. I’m a cheerful old hippie, originally from the Midwest, living in Hoboken, NJ which is just across the Hudson from Manhattan. I studied design in art school, KCAI, and have worked mostly freelance for the past too many years as a textile, dinnerware, giftware, paper goods, etcetera, designer. On my own time I make my own art and write the very occasional childrens’ book.

Do you see yourself as an artist or craftsman or both?
I do see myself as both an artist & craftsman, I’m very proud of both titles. I started off doing my beading as a craft, but have become more and more interested in it as art.

What made you want to be an artist and why beads?
I’ve always thought of myself as an artist, it’s all I ever really wanted to be. 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.
It’s my sister’s fault that I became a beadist! Several years ago she was visiting from Seattle and showed me a pez dispenser that she’d beaded and I fell in love with it.

What's the most wonderful thing you've made? The oddest?
I wanted to try doing it, but wasn’t sure what to cover. Then I got an email out of the blue from my old college hippie band, they were planning a reunion and would be opening (at a private party) for Leon Russell! Wow! For those of you who are too young to know Leon, look him up, he’s great! Anyway, I played first chair kazoo in the Brattleboro Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble a million years ago, so I decided to bead a kazoo for the gig. And that’s how I got started.

A few years ago I beaded a table which was displayed at the Jersey City Museum. It’s on my website if anyone would care to see it. I guess the weirdest thing I’ve ever beaded would be a matter of opinion.

How do you see your style and what makes it unique.
While other people also glue seed beads, I feel like I’m doing it differently than any one else. I like making patterns with the beads, so I string them myself. Most of what I’ve seen has been made by gluing prestrung beads from hanks, which I also do, but in conjunction with my patterns. Hmmm..I hope that makes sense!

What inspires you?
I’m inspired by everything, aren’t we all? But I must confess to a special fondness for the work of the Huichol indians of Mexico, I love Mexico in general and hope to move there in the not too distant future. I also love the art & culture of India and am thrilled to be making my first pilgramage this coming fall!

What scares you?
I’m scared of spiders. And of not taking advantage of opportunities and not following dreams. Just in case this really is the only life I’ll ever have, I want to live it to the fullest.

Tell us about your creative process.
I’m always looking around for forms that I want to cover and sometimes I get into themes like Toys or Birds or Music. I turn on my radio, plug in my air pen full of glue and jump in. I don’t plan the designs, I just let them happen and I’m really always happy with the results.

How did you get on Etsy and where else do you sell?
Again, my sister got me into Etsy. I haven’t sold anything on it yet and, quite honestly, I don’t really expect to. My stuff is really expensive, I know, and I mostly put in up on etsy in order to have it seen and get some feedback, and for that it’s really been a fantastic resource. I have sold a couple of pieces to a collector by word of mouth. I’ve shown in a couple of museums here in NJ and hope to show more and also to get into galleries.

Make a recommendation.
My favorite etsy store? Naturally my sister’s! Especially the Obama bracelets!

Tell us the answer to a question that we didn't ask, but should have. If you can't think of anything, tell us something random.
Right now I’m working on a big Kewpie doll which has been taking much too long. I’m hoping to finish it up this weekend. I’m also really excited about some one-dimensional work I’ve been doing based on the beaded patterns.


  1. Wow what a great interview! Thanks for opening my eyes to Jan's amazing work Sarah :0)

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed! She's pretty amazing!

  3. Sarah, I enjoyed this interview so much! I've done some bead gluing, but it can't even be compared to what Jan does. I was just amazed at the quality and detail of her work. Thanks so much for posting this! :)

    My question is this - what kind of glue does she use in that air pen?

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  5. Very cool, I'm so glad you featured Jan on your blog. I have fallen in love with her work!

  6. wow-za!!!!
    that is without a doubt THE MOST AMAZING work i have ever seen!
    thanks so much for the interview and for tuning the rest of us in to jan's wonderful work!