Showcase: Junker Jane
Interviewed by Giulia Bertelli
Hi Catherine, how is it in Portland?
Portland is a wonderful city and I love living here. The vibe is creative, diverse yet cohesive, encouraging individuality.
Your nickname is Junker Jane, why?
My name Junker Jane came from my love of junk. I have always loved second hand and cast off items. Anything from broken furniture to old photographs. The saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” fits me perfectly. Even though my name isn’t Jane, one day the pairing of the names Junker and Jane popped into my head and it sounded catchy so I decided if I ever had a shop I would name it Junker Jane.
Your art consists of soft sculpture art dolls, paintings and print, which one came first? When and why did you start making dolls? What was the first thing that inspired you for your first doll?
I began making monster plush first. I was a stay at home mom when I discovered the indie online art and craft world. I was inspired by all of the wonderful handmade things that were being created. Handmade plushies stole my heart and even though I had never used a sewing machine before I knew I had to begin making these little creatures! My desire was so strong to start making plush that I borrowed an old sewing machine from my mom. No one really knew how to use it and my first attempts at plush making were total failures. I couldn’t even properly turn the monster plush inside out!I then jumped to hand-sewing my first ones, but it was too slow going for my ideas so I eventually went back to the sewing machine and learned what I needed to know sew a monster together. From then on I never stopped.
My dad is an artist and so I grew up around creativity and have always been creative myself, but I never really went for it until I began making those first plush. After that I tried painting. My paintings are child-like and primitive in style. I have a huge love for primitive and outsider art.
Seen your dolls one could think you like Tim Burton, is that true?
I love Tim Burton and also all aspects of gothic horror. I grew up watching old horror movies and read any supernatural book I could get my little hands on.
Do you have a favourite doll?
I do have a few favorite dolls, for various reasons. I have never kept any of the dolls I have made for this reason though. My love is in the creation process and so I find that I am not attached to my creatures enough to want to keep them. I am inspired to create more if I send them out into the world, so to speak :)
For what kind of people do you make your dolls?
I never set out to make my dolls for a specific type of person. I have only ever made them for me. I have found though that there isn’t a particular type of person that purchases my dolls. They seem to be of different backgrounds and ages. My only guess is that maybe the one common thread is that something about my dolls speaks to their inner child.
Your dolls appeared in some magazines and you also did some exhibitions. How did these develop? Given that with your dolls you create a story, I imagine the exhibitions like some sort of “fabric story”. Would you like an exhibition like that, with your dolls telling us a tale?
I had been making dolls a couple of years before I submitted them to magazines or galleries. There are many opportunities out there to submit your work. I have always given my my dolls names but not always stories. I think it would be wonderful to have the opportunity to create a show with a specific theme and tale in mind for my dolls and paintings. Like a fairy-tale.
Do you always use vintage fabrics and clothing for your work?
When I first began making dolls I used all vintage or secondhand fabrics. I eventually started combining new fabrics for supply reasons and the simple fact that there are so many beautiful new fabrics being produced. When I go fabric shopping I feel like a kid in a candy shop! Still I prefer to incorporate vintage pieces for the undeniable charm age brings to a creation.
You have your online shop on Etsy so you can sell all around the world. Which country buys the most?
I sell to countries all over the world, but my main business comes from the U.S., Canada, Australia and France.
You live in Portland, Oregon, have you ever wanted to move to other cities or countries?
I was born and grew up in Los Angeles, California. When I was a teen my family moved to a small town in Southern Oregon. The change was huge but I welcomed it. We went from living in big city to the woods! I have a natural love for the woods and living there for many years inspired me in so many ways that I am putting into use now. To me the woods have always been linked to fairy tale worlds. I am a kid at heart and my childhood memories inspire me most. I now live in Portland, Oregon. It is a wonderful small city. I love it so much at this point I can’t imagine that I would want to live anywhere else, but I haven’t had the chance to experience other cities. I would hope that I would always be open to change if it called.
Do you enjoy making workshops? What kind of people does usually come to it?
I recently just taught a doll making class for the first time at Teesha and Tracy Moore’s Artfest. It was a wonderful experience, not only sharing my doll making process but meeting so many wonderful, amazing like minded creative souls. That community of sharing art in a concentrated area was wonderful to experience.
Do you ever imagine a story for your dolls? Before or after you sew them?
The stories for my dolls always come after they are made and I see how the little creature has come to life. The subtle expressions in the face or stance of the shape brings forth a story about the character. It is a lot of fun to think of new names, too, but as I have been making dolls for so long I am running out of unique names! Suggestions are always welcome :)
(Images © Junker Jane)
More of Junker Jane’s work here
Interviewed by Giulia Bertelli