For Janel Foo, the journey to becoming a full-time stained glass artist began with a jewelry class at Pasadena City College.
“I had been doing wardrobe styling for the Jonas Brothers for about eight years and I needed a break,” she says from her garage studio in Highland Park. “When I took a jewelry certificate program at PCC, I was required to take a crafts class.”
At first she was intimidated by the stained glass component. Soon, however, she was hooked. “It encompassed everything I’ve loved doing my entire life: design, art, color and texture,” she adds.
When she moved on to an advanced stained glass class at Stained Glass Supplies in Pasadena, Foo found her style: minimal geometric suncatchers with pops of color and clean lines.
“My work is all about the color palette,” says Foo who is 37 and grew up in Huntington Beach. “I spend a lot of time making sure the color is right.”
Working alone in her detached one-car garage-turned-studio, Foo assembles two to three suncatchers per day. Recently, her orders have increased, thanks to commissions for West Elm and custom pieces for weddings.
Foo says that most of her sales are courtesy of Instagram even though her work has been featured in holiday pop-ups at both West Elm and Nordstrom.
“Janel Foo’s glasswork is like nothing we’d ever seen before,” said Jennifer Gootman, West Elm VP of Social Consciousness & Innovation. “Her use of unique colors and geometric shapes captivated us. We knew her handcrafted pieces would complement West Elm’s LOCAL assortment and win the hearts of our customers.”
She works every day, often doing the foiling process at night while watching television. Overwhelmed at times, she calms her intense workload — answering emails, packing orders, cutting, foiling and soldering — by playing soccer four times a week.
Foo hopes to host stained glass workshops, but for now she’s just trying to get through the holidays.
“I’m not complaining,” she says of her made-to-order vocation. “The last two years have been crazy. I’ve had my whole family helping me at times. But I feel so lucky to have the work.”
Maker: Janel Foo
Craft: Janel Foo Glassworks
Studio playlist: “My Favorite Murder” podcast. Broadway show tunes including “Hamilton.” “I don’t recommend watching ‘This is Us’ while working.”
Why handmade things matter: “We put our heart and soul into things. There is so much love put into handmade things. Sometimes literally my blood. Even if I make two of the same thing, they’re going to be different.”
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