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An Interview With Janessa of Found & Foraged

In September I had the absolute joy of reconnecting with my old friend Janessa Warkentin, and had a wonderful conversation about nature inspired jewelry, creative process, and the power of art to create meaningful connections with others. Janessa is a multi-passionate artist, and creates jewelry for her business Found & Forged. You can find her on instagram and on etsy

Catherine: Thanks for meeting with me! It means so much to me that you’re willing to share a bit about yourself and the work you’re doing. So to start off, do you consider yourself to be a Wallflower? 

Janessa: I definitely do! I feel most comfortable observing and connecting with people one on one with my art. Stepping out of my comfort zone looks like pushing myself to be ‘seen’ more through social media, or having my work displayed more publicly (at markets, art shows or selling in boutiques). However, stepping out of my comfort zone in these ways often leads to more opportunities to connect with people. I love the vision you have for this community, to encourage each other to share, encourage and connect through our creative pursuits; I always love seeing what other people create, so the encouragement to put myself out there more is so appreciated.

C: I really appreciate that! Sharing has always been something I’ve struggled with and it’s been reassuring to realize how common it is for others too. How do you usually feel about sharing your art? Have you come up against any roadblocks?

J: I love sharing about my work individually with people; I find that I learn just as much about others as they would about me through talking about my art together. The most meaningful moments for me have been when people trust me to tell or hold a story through my art. I have had the honour of creating custom jewelry in memory of a family’s beloved daughter, and I have also created custom wedding jewelry featuring leaves from a couple’s home, where both the engagement and wedding celebration took place. 

I sometimes fear that sharing my work on a larger scale will lessen the opportunity to connect in these deeper ways, or that these stories will become more commodified if the scope of my work expands too much. But the act of creating something, anything, helps me feel more connected to who I am, and sharing my work allows me to connect to others.

C: Those stories are so incredibly special — and I’d love to know more about the work you do! Can you tell me about Found & Foraged and your process?

J: I have been devoting more time to my jewelry designs after a long hiatus. Moving up north to Terrace, BC has brought a new wave of inspiration, and I’m constantly looking for interesting textures and shapes in my walks through the forest by our house that I can capture in silver.

My first foray into silversmithing involved making silver rings with the impressions of skeletonized magnolia leaves that I collected in my neighbourhood in Vancouver. As I kept finding more unique seed pods, leaves and plants, I wanted to find a way to capture the textures, negative space and forms of the objects I’d collected. Precious Metal Clay allows me to play around with these, and just like with ceramic clay, there’s opportunity to form and reform the clay before firing. I love that I’m able to do this in my home studio on a smaller scale, and create pieces that both bring me joy to create, and joy to share with others!

My favourite part of making each piece is the textures — both finding the textures in the natural objects, and also finding a way to highlight them in metal. I love how tactile the whole process is for me to create — feeling the texture of the centre of a daisy in silver is very meditative to me! I hope those that wear my jewelry feel the same way.

C: I love the way you speak about the joy of the process. And I know your interests extend beyond Found & Forged. In addition to this business, what are you doing these days?

J: I am currently working full time as an Executive Assistant for the Terrace Child Development Center, and I will be starting my Master’s of Counselling degree in January! My long term plan is to go to school again for an Art Therapy diploma.

I’m finding that I have a lot more space for creativity in general these days. I’ve been experimenting with cyanotypes, using the same natural objects that I’ve collected for my jewelry; sunshine is a limited resource at this time of year up here, so I’ve tried to take advantage of it for both myself and for my art as much as possible this fall! 

In the winter, my creativity enters its cozy era, and I love trying out new baking recipes and techniques. I love creating themed bakes for my book club, based on the book we’ve read that month! 

C: Yes! Seasonal creativity is the best. It’s like the weather turns and I rediscover my love of sewing and quilting. Are there any other ways you would describe your creativity?

J: At times, my creativity feels like a machine that’s propelling me forward, and at other times it feels like a friend I’m joining for tea. It always remains close, but sometimes the distance is more noticeable, like it’s a separate entity even though it’s within arms reach. But in seasons where I’ve felt less access to my creativity, I’ve felt more disconnected to myself. Maybe all of this is to say that I’m most ‘myself’ when I feel most in touch with a creative process, regardless of the final result.

C: You speak so much about connection with yourself and with others with respect to your art. What is something you’ve made that holds the most meaning for you?

J: I’m most proud of the jewelry pieces that I’ve been a part of co-creating with others that hold deep significance for those who wear them, because of how the stories take on a new life through silver. I’m honoured by the trust of others to capture these stories and memories in pieces they can wear for a lifetime — whether these are memorial pendants, wedding bands, earrings that remind someone of their childhood home, or a gift someone bought for themself to wear to feel brave on hard days.

C: I know you’re going back to school in January — are there any other things coming up that you’re excited about?

J: I’m a part of a group art show that’s running from November 23-December 23 at the Terrace Art Gallery! All of us are teachers and have been working on this show for the past year and a half, centered on the theme, ‘After the Bell.’ My work in this show is about finding new rhythms beyond the school calendar, rooting myself into the seasons of my new home in the Northwest. The designs I’m showing capture each season in Terrace: textures of decay in autumn and winter, moments of anticipation in spring, and finding beauty in unexpected places in summer. My cyanotypes each provide a different reflection on these seasonal stories through the silhouettes of leaves, flowers, lichen and tomatillo husks that I gathered throughout the year.

C: These are so beautiful! And what a wonderful way to collaborate. Is there anything else you want to say or include?

J: Just that I’ve loved reconnecting with you and sharing about all of these things together!

C: Me too! You are so lovely and you’ve really inspired me to try and be more observant to look for textures in nature. And to focus on one-on-one sharing when the world of social media gets overwhelming. Thanks for joining me today!

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