Jill's Joy, grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, the fourth of five children and “one half of a set of twins named - you guessed it! - Jack and Jill,” she says with a laugh.
Reared in college-preparatory Catholic school, Jill felt creatively stifled. The all-girls high school she attended didn't even have an art teacher until she was a Senior. After begging her parents to let her attend public school so she could study more art and history, a compromise was reached. During her Junior year, her folks arranged for her to take art classes at night.
In her Freshman year of college, Jill began to explore her creative talents by taking a few art courses. However, her parents were not supportive of her pursuing a career in the arts. “They admonished me to stay focused on subjects that could bring me a real way to support myself.” She delayed declaring a major until her third year as an undergrad. The only subjects she liked well enough to major in were seen as leading to “no end” in her parents’ eyes.
“Since I was paying my own tuition, I finally decided to go with history,” she remembers. “A Bachelors degree in History got me a job in a bank, which I hated.” She went back to school to get an education degree, but the resulting teaching job afforded her just enough money to either pay for a car or pay rent, not both. After receiving her Master's degree in History, Jill took a summer job that lasted 22-years - and led her to a career in research and management.
“I worked for the US National Park Service as a Research Historian, Park Planner, Program Manager, and Park Manager. I loved it! It had a wonderful combination of creativity plus facts, interest plus influence. I was in my element as a researcher, writer, teacher, planner and manager - usually most of those things at once. Every day was an adventure.”
Due to government cutbacks, Jill and many other professionals were “released” from their government positions in 2001. “I decided to feed my creative side,” recalls Jill. She learned custom framing while working at a framing shop and taught at a local art studio. “During this past year,” she says, “I’ve been increasingly devoted to ‘quitting the day job’ and making my art the focus of my interests - beyond my family, of course.”
“My coordinating art pieces are also fun.”
“I'm into a new palette with warm browns and oranges.”
“Every time I see something, I want to translate it into art. For example, the folded paper decorations I saw in a store became folded paper earrings in my shop.” Jill feels her greatest talent is the “willingness to try almost anything - the ability to visualize - to figure out how to do something, and to follow through. If something doesn't work, try something else,” she says. “I once had a mentor tell me, ‘Whatever commitment you make - in time, in money, in anything - is worth everything it costs to keep it. Follow through on your commitments.’ I believe in this strongly.”
Jill began making jewelry in the 1990s, as she was studying metalworking, glass and silk-painting. “I finally realized I was an artist when I learned to accept the serendipity of my efforts,” says Jill. “I finally understood that art is not science; it does not produce certain predictable results when specific factors are controlled. I learned the use of the tools, I learned the properties of the materials, but I still couldn't fully predict the results. Art is like life. When you start, you never know how you will finish. The joy is in the journey.”
Interview and article by Linda Loca of Fire Grog Studio