Happy Feature Friday!
Today we’re featuring Janel Foo Glassworks. Janel’s stained glass pieces are so dreamy and we love her practical home pieces, like planters and trays! They’re sure to bring your interior decorating game to another level. In all, her passion for her work is evident in her pieces. Read on to learn more about Janel’s journey into glassworks!
: Tell us a little about yourself.
: I was born and raised in Huntington Beach, CA. I went to college at San Francisco State where I studied fashion merchandising. I stayed in SF for about six years before I decided to move back to Southern California to Los Angeles to be closer to my family again. I missed my mom way too much! From there, I worked in the entertainment industry as a wardrobe stylist. I assisted the very talented stylist for the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovato for a very crazy five years of my life which was one of the most exhausting and amazing opportunities/experiences of my life. I transitioned to working on styling commercials after that and while that was fun I started to want something else for myself. So now i’m here, still doing wardrobe styling here and there but mostly trying to focus on my glasswork because that’s what makes me happiest. A few random facts about me would be that I’m a crazy cat lady. I have two cats, Frankie and Mia. I’m completely obsessed with them. I play in two women’s recreational soccer leagues, I love bowling, korean bbq and cookie ice cream sandwiches are my favorite thing to eat, and I’m a germaphobe.
: How did you begin making stained glass pieces?
: When I was soul searching, I decided to go back to school to earn my Jewelry Design certificate. I had this online boutique that featured all handmade jewelry by independent designers and I really wanted to learn and know the process. In this Jewelry Design program, we were required to take a crafts class (the title of the class alone makes it the best class ever) and we had to do a stained glass project. I remember being a little terrified and completely intimidated by the project but I was so excited to learn. I immediately fell in love with it. I continued to take stained glass classes outside of school at a local stained glass shop and I haven’t stopped since.
: We all have to start somewhere! What kinds of stained glass work did you start with and how did you progress to more challenging pieces?
: I started out by making stained glass panels with lead came and lead solder with minimal curves and minimal pieces. From there I started learning how to do three dimensional objects which is done by a different method of copper foiling rather than lead came. After getting the hang of soldering, I decided to switch to using predominantly lead-free solder which many stained glass artists hate because it’s tricker to use and it’s harder to get the smooth solder lines that lead solder will give you. The patina also doesn’t take as well to lead-free solder. I’ve learned to use lead-free solder pretty well and I think that customers can feel more comfortable purchasing products that are lead-free and I feel more comfortable not using products that contain lead on a day-to-day basis. I will still use lead solder and lead came because sometimes you just have to but I try to use lead-free whenever possible. When I started, I started with much simpler patterns but now like to challenge myself with more complex patterns with more pieces and harder pieces to cut.
: You went to school for apparel design and merchandising. You also work as a wardrobe stylist in the entertainment industry. What draws you to the fashion and design worlds?
: Fashion has always been a huge part of my life, even when I was attending my catholic high school where we had to wear uniforms. I was always trying to “Fresh Prince” my uniform up by adding some sort of style that would still fit the dress code. I also just grew up loving to draw and do crafty things. I’ve always liked building things and getting my hands dirty so I think it just made sense that I’d end up here.
: How does having a fashion oriented eye help with working with glass?
: This helps with glass the most with being able to put together a good color palette for designs. I spend so much time trying to choose the right glass for each piece and trying to find the right color palette. The colors are going to make or break the piece. I think having an eye for fashion helps with being able to put together glass colors and textures that will compliment each other well.
: You live in Los Angeles. Do your surroundings inspire your pieces at all?
: I’m sure I am influenced by life in Los Angeles without me even knowing it. I live in Highland Park which has a huge artistic community so if anything, i’m inspired by living in this part of Los Angeles amongst so many talented people.
: Do you have a favorite glass work piece that is especially fun to work on?
: I love working on custom projects. It gives me the chance to be really creative and I love the challenge. My favorite project so far has surprisingly been this custom crucifix I designed for a friend’s mother-in-law. The only parameters I was given was to try not to make it too cheesy and “churchy.” How do you make a cross not look “churchy”? I loved the full creative freedom of this project and how challenging it was.
: What do you love about independent designers?
: I find that the product that comes from independent designers is so special because there is so much love and care that is put into every design. I like how personal the item feels when I buy something from a small business whether it be from an etsy shop, a designer’s website or a little boutique. I just know how much thought went into selecting the item for the store or designing and making that product. It’s nice to have something that feels so personal and to feel connected to the designer in some way. Independent designers work so hard to be able to do what they do. I don’t think many of us are making loads of money but it’s so rewarding to do something that makes us happy and to share that with other people.
: What’s the most popular piece in your shop?
: My most popular pieces are the Mini Mountain Range and the Mia feathers.
: Any advice?
: As cheesy as it sounds, you have to do what makes you happy. Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy. I can definitely relate to that term “struggling artist” right now and will probably be able to for the rest of my life but it’s completely worth it because I get to get up every morning and do something I love.