We had the good fortune of connecting with Jane Gaona and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jane, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Actually, this is my second career. My first career was in Information Technology. I got started in metalsmithing after the sudden death of my mother. Normally an upbeat and positive person, I experienced extreme sadness and depression for the first time in my life. I found this creative outlet challenged me and helped me work through the grieving process. As a result, most of my early work were heart shaped and commemorative pieces. After posting some of my work on social media, people commissioned me to make them custom pieces and that’s when I realized I could make this work as a business. Now I feel like I am making up for lost time – having my “Art Jewelry” selected for juried competitions, museum exhibitions and international publications. I start teaching metalsmithing classes in the fall, I am learning to weld, and by the time I do retire from my day job, I will have built the foundation for a successful second career with multiple revenue streams.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My brand is edgy, eclectic, pushing boundaries and blurring the lines between art and jewelry. Evolving within the realm of “Contemporary Art Jewelry”, constantly exploring different materials, often combining rugged and feminine materials in the same piece. I use materials from traditional metalsmithing such as sterling silver and faceted jewels, but also those found in contemporary jewelry such as cement, rusted metal, and assorted found objects. Over-the-top cocktail rings dominate my collection. I use a lot of symbolism in my art – often mixing the gritty with the feminine – an homage to my first career in the IT industry and military background, but also to other women not afraid to show their rugged side with big bold statement pieces!
Working as a woman in the IT field for 30 years, I experienced a lot of growth. While men still out-number women as techs, most top-level management positions have consistently been held by women. My major “claim to fame” as an IT project manager, was to bring internet access to library patrons at the Mesa Public Library – I know, that dates me. I used to get teased by my male counterparts, calling me a “day tech” rather than a “real tech” because I did not engage in technical content or activities in my off-hour hobbies. As an analytical thinker by day, it was always super important to me to utilize the artistic side of my brain outside of work. Again, I used art as an outlet – a stress reliever, a way to block out whatever was going on at the office. There is a great feeling of pride and joy as a “maker” of things that other people find beauty in. I now embark on a new journey as a full-time maker and artist. To be recognized as an artist was always a dream. Now I look forward to living that dream.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Day: Wildberries – lemon blueberry stuffed French toast is to die for!
An easy hike at First Water or Peralta Trail in the Superstitions
Goldfield Ghost Town mining town and train ride
Tempe Festival of the Arts or Phoenix Arts Festival
Lunch at North Tratoria – Camelback and 40th St.
Market Café at the Buttes Marriott Resort in Tempe, then driving tour of the cemetery next to it
Ice skating downtown Phoenix followed by lunch at Thai Basil downtown
Mystery Castle tour (South Mountain and 7th St.)
Filibertos (@Washington & Priest) then walk through the Desert Botanical Gardens – Las Noches de las Luminarias with glass art of Dale Chihuly
Walk around Tempe Town Lake then dinner at the Korean food court at H Mart Korean Market (Dobson & Main)
Festivus Night Market
Great Wolf Lodge overnight hotel and water park
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband, Daved, has been my biggest supporter. He has given me the latitude to explore and experiment without limitations, boundaries, or requirements. He gives constructive feedback, anticipates my needs by buying me tools, helps me figure things out, and whenever I doubt myself, he reminds me of what I have accomplished and encourages me to do more.
Second, I have a great support system of family and friends and even online friends I have made over social media. They have seen my work evolve, providing that positive feedback along the way, which in-turn encourages me to “up my game” with each new piece I make. I feel they are also invested in each phase of my development and encourage me as I leap onto that next lily pad.