How I started enameling...


Lately a few people have been writing me and asking me about my enameling technique and how I got started enameling.  I've found this piece I wrote a while back about how I started enameling...


There are many times I can see in my life that there were monumental changes that fully altered the course of my life.  In regards to art, the moment I changed from being a weekend fun-time painter to being an artist was when I applied for the Rasmuson grant in 2008.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been making jewelry for a living off and on for 12 years now and dabbling in painting for about the same amount of time.  The moment when I mentally switched gears and started to take it more seriously was applying for that grant.


In Alaska, there is a grant for Alaskan artists that come around once a year with the Rasmuson Foundation. The award was $5000, at the time, for anything you want to put your artistic endeavor towards.  It could be going on a trip to Europe for inspiration, my friend Donny Varnell, a pioneer in the totem pole world in merging tradition with contemporary style, won it and did that.  His sister, Teresa, also a close friend and, among other things, a traditional Haida basket weaver, won the year I applied and I believe used it for supplies.  Look up Dolores Churchill, Teresa and Donnie's grandmother, she is THE pioneer of Haida weaving.  Chris Hansen, a local jeweler, won a ton of supplies for his studio and gave me an outline of how to put together an application.


I knew there was a big chance I wouldn’t win.  Another local that I knew had applied 10 times and hadn’t won.   In the end, I didn’t win the grant but filling out the application and deciding what I would do with $5000 if I had it absolutely positively changed everything.  I looked up online what an artist’s resume was, made mine for the first time.  It was seriously lacking.  The process of deciding was like Christmas, “Okay, Dad, here is what I want from the catalog.”  In Alaska, pre-internet, we would circle all of the items we wanted in the JCPenny, Sears and Spiegel catalog and cut out the pages and mail to my dad or ask mom to ask dad for the money.  Good times!  Anyway, I went through jewelry trade catalogs and found all of the items I would need to start enameling and the cost for shipping up on the barge.  Many times in Alaska you have to ship heavy things up on the barge so it doesn’t cost $300 in the post.  Instead, you have it ground shipped to the barge depot in Seattle and then it comes up that way.


Part of the process of applying for the grant was deciding an end date a year from then to do a showing of some sort.  I applied to do a solo gallery show at the Ketchikan Arts Council showing off my jewelry and paintings.  I never do anything in a small way it seems.  I got the show.  Like I said, I didn’t get the grant, but then decided to spend all of my earnings from a festival on my kiln and supplies that I had outlined in the grant.  A seed had been planted that I need to finish off my bachelor’s degree too.  So I made the call to Fort Lewis College, where I had attended years before but couldn’t finish because I was having 3 seizures a day when I left, and found out what I needed to graduate.  The rest is history. 


If you are looking for advice, which I am always happy to give, is to put yourself out there.  Don’t be afraid of rejection because it may lead you on a new path.  It's all part of the process! 


IMAGE:  That's a picture of me working on one of my first paintings for the gallery show "India Color" that was at the Ketchikan Arts Council.  One of my favorite paintings of my career so far.  I didn't want to sell it but was finagled into parting ways.  Now it is with a dear close friend that I know enjoys it as much as I would have!  That's another story!

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© 2020 by Janine Gibbons Designs.

P.O.Box 587   Petersburg, Alaska 99833

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