Artist of the month Java Jane Designs

This months artist of the month is Java Jane Designs. I found her Etsy site and was impressed by both her designs and her success. Please stop by her site and check out her work. I will let her tell her story…

I am a full time photographer and designer.  My Alphabet Photo Art™ collection features a line of whimsical but striking architectural photographs that resemble the letters of the alphabet, as well as Vintage Sign photographs of eclectic historic and vintage diner/cafe signs, which are artfully arranged together to spell a name, a word, or an idea.  I began creating my custom alphabet photo keepsakes to for customers celebrating some of life’s biggest moments (weddings, birthdays, new arrivals, housewarmings, etc.)

1. I see that the people who are successful selling their art, are the ones that are the most original. Your art is probably the most original I have seen. How did you come up with the idea of using pictures for letters?

My first alphabet photo design was actually created as a gift for our realtor about 3 years ago.  I wanted to find a special thank you gift for her that was fun and different but I wasn’t able to find anything commercially that interested me.  I was looking through some of my recently taken digital images and remarked that one image of wooden wine rack would make a great letter “X”… And so the hunt was on to find the rest of the letters I needed to spell my realtor’s last name!  After that, I began searching out images to complete my first set of alphabet letters.

2. Does it get to where everywhere you look you see letters?

Yes, it can become quite an addiction!  I am much better now, but when I first began hunting for letters I couldn’t walk 10 feet without asking my husband, “Does this look like a letter K to you?”  It’s actually a great educational activity for children as well as an interesting social experiment on men and women as I’ve learned that the sexes tend to “see” and interpret my letters very differently!

3. Do you carry a camera everywhere you go?

I carry my camera absolutely everywhere I go!  I can’t even go to the Post Office without bringing at least one of my cameras to ensure that I can capture something that catches my eye along the way.  I’m lucky to be able to travel with my husband almost every month, capturing new images and inspirational elements to bring back to my art studio.

4. Do you display your pictures that you don’t use in your art.

Some of my photography from my travels can be found in my other shop, MidnightFarm.

5. For the tech people, Tell us about your camera. Which one you use and why you picked that one and which camera you started with.

The camera that I currently use (and started with) is a Canon EOS Rebel XSi with a 17-55mm f/2.8 lens.  I like it because it is very lightweight and easy for me to handle, especially if I am out for hours on end.  It takes wonderful images, but I am already saving up for a Canon EOS 7D.

6. Are you evolving your work to include other products that you can tell us about?

I have way more ideas that can ever be put into practice, but yes, I have a few new products that will be coming out very soon.  My newest item is a collection of individual 4×6 number photos that can be mixed and matched to create custom date collages to mark life’s important milestones (see attached images).  But for now, we’ll keep the other projects under wraps!

7. Have you created multiple alphabets with your pictures that you use, or do you create each custom sign to find pictures that spell each name on a as you go basis?

After 3 years I have over 1900 images in my collection!  You can view them all at  JavaJaneDesigns.blogspot When I am creating a name I normally will pull letters from my existing collection.  On occasion, I have photographed completely new alphabets by request, although it is too time consuming to do all the time.  My favorite is a name collage for McCOY commissioned by a Harley Davidson fan.

And sometimes a simple request turns into a completely new product line for me, such as my vintage signs collection (PIKES/ LUCAS):

8. How do you decide which photo’s work well together?

When I am creating a name collage for a customer the composition is very important to me.  I work to find a nice balance between light and dark, as well as ensure the style of letters blend well together.  Of course, I do tend to have my favorite images and over time I’ve sort of developed my own personal photo font!  Oftentimes my customers will request a certain style of images to be used: rustic, urban, ornate, beachy.  Most people prefer images that are very clear and easy to read, while some prefer a collage that is maybe a little more challenging to interpret.  I try to accommodate my customers’ requests as best as I can.  In general, my design philosophy is less is more…beauty in simplicity.

9. I am guessing that this is something you are passionate about. Could you tell us a little about how your travels brought you to your Etsy shop.

It was by accident that I happily stumbled upon Etsy.  I was searching for a local jewelry artisan that I had purchased from several years ago.  I discovered that she no longer sold directly from her website and had since moved her shop to Etsy.  I instantly fell in love with Etsy and spent countless hours searching through the fabulous creations.  The best part is that I had also been searching for an online platform to feature my alphabet art and Etsy was very easy to join and be a part of.

10. How did you get started in this line of work?

Believe it or not, I never planned on doing what I’m doing today.  Before starting my business on Etsy I had worked the previous 12 years in financial consulting, marketing, strategic planning, human resources, and event planning. I managed the finances for a $7M organization, wrote tutorials on successful operations, and presented award-winning workshops on goal setting, strategic planning, and project management. In short, I was a Professional Perfectionist!   I was considering a new career as a professional organizer, but before I could get things going, I took a happy detour with Etsy and opened my first shop,, which catered to my creative side.  In the end, all of my previous experience helped me immensely with the start of my own business.

11. Do you have a brick and mortar shop?

I don’t have a brick and mortar shop myself, but I do sell my artwork locally as well as in gift shops and boutiques across the country.  Selling my art strictly online and through other retailers has really allowed me to spend more of my time doing what I love.

12. Do you have any formal art training or are you a natural?

My only training was a photography class I took in high school over 20 years ago!   I feel that I have a natural aptitude for seeing things in different ways.  I’ve had a love of photography and architecture my whole life.  In fact, many of my photos were taken years before I ever decided to create my name collages.  As a child, I would go exploring in abandoned hay barns and down lost country roads, usually with a camera in hand.

13. Do you have a favorite place you like to go and take pictures?

My inspiration comes from many places.  I am equally drawn to elements that are rusty and weathered and those that are delicate and ornate; there is beauty to be found everywhere. In particular, church architecture and forgotten downtown buildings tend to capture my imagination.

14.Do you have a destination in mind for the future that you would love to go and take lots of pictures?

A romantic whirlwind trip to Europe is in the works!

15. Do you enjoy creating new art more or do you enjoy getting out and finding new photographs to take?

That is a difficult question but I think I am pretty well balanced between enjoying the art of creating as well as traveling and discovering new images.

16. Do you stage pictures that you think would work well for you?

In my collection of over 1900 images, I can’t recall staging a single one.  I think that’s part of the fun in finding letters as they are found naturally.

17. Do you use photoshop to create new designs or just straight photo’s?

The photos I take are the way you would find them naturally.  I use Photoshop for cropping and lighting adjustments.  I mainly use Photoshop to create my name collages and add personalization details for my customers such as incorporating first names or a wedding date.

18. How have you evolved as an artist?

I think any artist will tell you that they are constantly evolving, honing skills, learning new ones.  For me, I still have a difficult time calling myself an ‘artist’ since this was not my background.  But I’ve found that when I spend my energies on creative efforts, I seem to be more creative in all aspects of my life.  I will see patterns, color combination’s, or even textures that will give me an idea for something completely unrelated.  I still have a lot that I want to learn…I am a terrible portrait photographer!

19. How do you strive to be the best at what you do?

I’ve always been very focused and driven with everything I do.  My inner drive comes from challenging myself on a daily basis to do the best I possibly can do for that day.  Of course, making mistakes and taking detours along the way is part of the process.  I’ve always bounced back from every setback and used what I’ve learned to make me a better artist, a stronger business leader, and ultimately a happier person.

20. Is there anything you would change about you career path if you had it to do over?

I wouldn’t change a thing!  I am a firm believer that everything you do in life prepares you for what is to come.  One of my favorite quotes is, “Doing your best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”  I believe if you follow this guidance daily, how can you ever go wrong?

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