When you walk into No Place Like Home, the first table you see is filled with beautiful, brightly-colored necklaces and earrings. The colors pull you in, telling stories from mountain hikes to fields of grain to fishing trips on salty seas.
Janine Gibbons was born in Alaska and has traveled the world in search of her life calling. A thread of creativity has run through every odd phase of her life though, and has finally brought her to Durango, where she and her two apprentices, Ashley Yazzie and Meredith Mason, create these beautiful pieces in her studio at the Smiley Building.
How long have you been working with enamel and how did you get started?
Enameling I started doing about six or seven years ago randomly when I first took an Indian Arts and Crafts Class at Fort Lewis (which I think is totally not politically correct anymore).
I had a lot of people that were replicating my silver jewelry ... I was still relatively new and didn’t know how to react to people taking my designs and then selling them ... I was frustrated, but the beauty of that frustration I transformed into enameling. I could use the silver designs and things I’d already done and also blend that into my enameling. So I learned how to enamel just by reading the directions.
Tell me a little about how you make your pieces.
The enamel pieces start out as a piece of copper, like a sheet of copper. We cut it out, we dome it, we drill it, we clean it and that’s just to get to the first part of enameling. The first step is you put on the counter enamel, which is the back side ... I do all of the enameling for all of the pieces. I usually get up at about 4:30 because it takes the kiln like an hour to heat ... The kiln is about 1,500 degrees when you’re firing each piece ... and they come out and you have to clean them because they get all this fire scale on them ... Even after we have cleaned the first time and fired them, there are about three different layers of enamel that go on the top side ... Usually there are about four or five colors within each layer, so that’s how they get all those crazy patterns ... If you Google searched ‘Enamel’ you wouldn’t see anything that looks like what I do because what I do is a technique that I’ve developed over the years and it’s just taken on a life of its own.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Everything inspires me. Nature. Sunrises. Sunsets. Flowers. Lots of bugs. Animals ... if you ever see me walking down the street my head’s either up in the sky or down in the ground, like, looking ... It never turns off it seems like.
What’s your favorite part about making jewelry?
I like seeing the end result on people ... When you actually put on the jewelry it takes on a whole different life ... That’s kind of fun when I see people wearing it and I get to see how it resonates with their energy and their beauty and just accentuates them. I think that’s the cool part.
Where’s the coolest place you’ve seen your earrings?
I was in LA and I have an LA sales rep who watches all of those Discovery Channel Alaska shows. (I had never seen any of them because I don’t have regular television.) So I was driving from LA back to here and I stopped at my brother’s place in Arizona. He has a TV so I was like, ‘Hey turn on the Discovery Channel. I haven’t seen any of those Alaska shows.’ So we turned it on and the first thing, there’s this girl who was halibut fishing and she’s wearing my earrings. So, for the whole segment they were halibut fishing with my earrings on!
Where can we find your jewelry?
The Telluride Mountain Resort carries my jewelry and There’s No Place Like Home, locally. In all we have about 90 locations (about 50 in Alaska and the rest all over. Mostly from the Rockies west).