Marlene: What is/has been the strongest influence on your work/business?
Janis: The most important thing to me is to always make the best product I can. The integrity of my work is always foremost on my mind. My career has spanned fifty years and I have seen some of my designs that are thirty years old that are still relevant.
Marlene: When did you start your business?
Janis: I first started making jewelry professionally in 1977 when I had my first solo show in Montreal. My book, “Reminiscence” is a retrospective of my work. In the book there are examples of some early work from that period and show. 1980 was when I incorporated and started consciously creating cohesive collections that I launched every six months. The challenge was to create something new and desirable at an affordable price for my clients.
Marlene: What have been your artistic/design goals?
Janis: In retrospect, I think my design goals were not that specific…I believe my interest in techniques influenced my design trajectory. Once I settled in, I explored and expanded the concepts until I felt they were exhausted and then would move on. But playing/producing between one-of-a-kind and limited series work led to more exploration as well.
Marlene: Why do you think you have been so successful?
Janis: Being Canadian, I felt I needed to be tenacious when “breaking” into the US market. It was crucial my work stand out amongst all the talented and already represented US artists. My goal has been to create designs that would transcend fashion or fads. I have always strived to make well-made and well-designed jewelry that was timeless both physically and design-wise. One sign of my success is that people have followed and collected my work and galleries have shown and supported it for all these years.
These earrings are a Janis Kerman classic, deliberately mismatched!
Marlene: How have you learned about running a business?
Janis: Over the years I learned on the job, from peers and colleagues, courses, and my husband has always been an invaluable resource. His business background has repeatedly yielded wise advice. It has been so important to have someone to bounce things off, to be able to be one step ahead.
Marlene: What have you learned from running a business?
You need to be flexible and organized. Things move at a much faster pace today. Being able to source interesting materials for my jewelry has been imperative.
Marlene: What prompted you to retire at this time?
Janis: Initially I thought/assumed I would be that 80 year old still creating at the bench but somewhere about five years ago, I started to feel like the business was taking over the fun/creativity part. I felt drained and less excited about it. It all became “work”. In 2017 I had my Retrospective exhibition in Montreal (ironically where I had my first show in 1977) and when I was approached to consider the exhibition, the “retirement” seed started to grow. With that in mind, my husband and daughter encouraged me to put a book together of my career. I approached gallerist Noel Guyomarc’h and Jewellery school director, Stephane Blackburn to curate the book as I didn’t want it to appear as a vanity project. They both jumped at the opportunity and I am so proud of the outcome. Every time I look through the now finished book, I pinch myself at what I have accomplished. When you are going through it day to day you don’t get a sense but when it’s presented this way.. wow!
For the last two years I have concentrated on reducing/selling down my inventory and subsequently have had to reduce the galleries representing my work. I have been working exclusively on commission/special order pieces.
A Full Circle pendant
Marlene: What do you think/want your legacy to be?
Janis: As I was lucky to have mentors when I was starting out, I hope that I have been considered a mentor to the many designers that have worked with me.
My father always taught me, “If you are going to do something, do it right”. In my studio we take the time to do it right. My name is on it. My name and subsequently my reputation is what is most important.
Marlene: What have you missed the most now that you have closed your doors?
Janis: I am still in the race to close down.
A collection of rings.
Marlene: What are your plans going forward?
Janis: My plans are to have no plans! I’ve been at this since my teens and I’m ready to leave open space to get bored! I don’t think it is going to happen but I want to leave room for that possibility. Now is the time to spend quality time with family and friends.
Marlene: I can’t end without asking you what advice you have for people starting out in the jewelry world?
Janis: The art jewelry business has changed so much over my career and especially in the last ten years. I can’t imagine what’s in store for the young maker. Marketing is changing every day as is how products are made! All I can say is in order to have staying power, make the best product you can, have integrity and be open and ready to create and not copy or improvise.