DFN: Janna, you are a multi-disciplined visual artist and designer. You’re a photographer, fashion designer, and jewelry designer. How do you keep up with it all and stay consistent?
Coumoundouros: I think as a creative person my mind is always thinking of things to make and also ways to push materials and ideas. I cannot imagine only working in one art form. It’s just natural for me to jump around and keep trying new things. It keeps my work fresh. With all the art shows and the auto show canceled this year, I’ve had time to devote to my fine art. In the fall, I moved my studio from Ferndale to our new home in Clawson. Before, it took so much effort to get to my studio and devote a nice chunk of time to work on metal or to sew. Now, my studio is connected to our garage so I can create any time I feel like. I’ve even taken up painting again.
DFN: Painting? I can’t wait to see more of that! Is there a division of Lilacpop that brings you the most joy?
Coumoundouros: I love the variety I’m able to have within my business, but I really enjoy metalsmith work. I can work on a piece for hours and hours and it’s so calming. I love working with metal: torching, sanding, polishing, stamping, experimenting. Sometimes I come up with a design on paper, figure out a way to make it work, then I spend hours and hours working on it until it’s done. Other times, I work more spontaneously with found objects, figuring out a way to turn them into an aesthetically pleasing design. Sometimes, I like to take a current trend and see how I can incorporate that style using vintage machine parts. In that case, it’s more the found object causing an organic design process to occur. I end up asking myself, “how can I make this little gear sit the right way with the other elements?” Things like that. Then it turns into a construction puzzle to figure out.
DFN: So interesting. We’ve been noticing your new jewelry designs on social media. Would you say you have “grown” or “evolved” in terms of designing?
Coumoundouros: For sure! I hope I am always growing and evolving with my work. Metalsmith is difficult and I am always learning and honing those skills. I still have a lot to learn. My work changes as I am able to afford new tools too. This year I acquired proper tanks for my torch and I have a better set up at my new studio. I have a new tool that makes different sized holes in metal. It’s such a simple thing but it made a huge difference in my work. I have a long list of tools I still need but I make do with what I have and sometimes it forces even more creativity.
DFN: How would you say your jewelry pieces have evolved over the years?
Coumoundouros: As I learn new techniques and get better at the basics, my work changes. A few years back, I learned how to set rivets. That opened up a whole new way to attach pieces together. This year, I got better tanks for my torch and I can control the flame better. This meant less melting metal (so many mistakes) and more fine detail work. I just got a small kiln and once I figure out how to use it I know my work will evolve even more.
DFN: What are your main “go-to” machine pieces when it comes to making memorable jewelry?
Coumoundouros: Little gears that are interesting looking are what I tend to gravitate towards. It’s more about how I can get the pieces to attach to other pieces. Found metal is not easy to solder to other metal so sometimes it all comes down to construction. Gears that have openings are easier to attach in a sturdy way.
DFN: How did you start creating jewelry with machine pieces? What gave you the idea?
Coumoundouros: It started with a 1950s cash register that was being offered for free on a site called freecycle.org
a long time ago. It was in really poor shape so I decided to take it apart for fun. As the pile of machine parts stacked up I decided to clean them up to see what they looked like. I shined up the first piece with a Dremel and knew that it should be jewelry. That was the start of my entire line of machine part jewelry. Now, I am concentrating more on metalsmith techniques and semi-precious stones but I still add in little parts here and there.
DFN: Being a small business, has the pandemic helped or hurt your jewelry making business?
Coumoundouros: The pandemic has hurt my jewelry business quite a bit. I do the bulk of my sales in person at art shows and they were non-existent. I had to rely on the stores that carry my work and online sales and that doesn’t even come close to what I usually make around Christmas time. And, with the auto show being canceled, I didn’t make a dress for the Charity Preview either. Luckily, my real estate photography was decently busy over the summer but that has slowed down for winter like it always does. I hope enough people get vaccinated so we can all go back to normal.
DFN: What changes have you made within your small business to stay relevant and to stay afloat?
Coumoundouros: The downtime has been great creatively. I have been producing more jewelry and art, so that’s good. Last spring I spent a lot of time making videos for my youtube channel showing how I create my pieces. I’m planning on posting more videos showing my creative process and maybe even doing some classes virtually.
DFN: What obstacles have come your way since COVID-19 came about?
Coumoundouros: It’s really hard to run a jewelry business that’s based on the tactile experience of trying it on when you can’t see anyone in person. And, Etsy is flooded with jewelry artists so my shop gets lost in the searches. But, I have a great customer base and have been selling some pieces online and at Yellow Door Art Market in Berkley as well as Things From Detroit in West Village.
It has been tough with my husband’s restaurants (The Republic and Parks & Rec) closing down and he lost his job. The upside is, he started oil painting and getting creative and we feed off of each other’s creativity. My studio is connected to our garage and we converted the garage into a creative space so he paints while I work on metal. It’s pretty great.
We are planning on starting a new Instagram called The Artist & The Chef that will focus on my art and creative process and also cooking techniques and recipes.
DFN: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs and small business owners who may be struggling right now?
Coumoundouros: Take advantage of the PPP loans. They are about to release more of them and you can apply through your bank. They are 100% forgivable if you apply them correctly. The SBA is very helpful if you contact them about it.
DFN: What can we expect from you and the Lilacpop brand in 2021?
Coumoundouros: With every big crisis- World Wars, stock market crash, recessions, etc. – a burst of creative art happens as a result. When we are forced to slow down, re-evaluate life, and now with the pandemic, spend lots of time isolated. Artists will create more in isolation. Personally, I have been creating more than ever lately. I have been trying to stay positive and let the creative flow happen. Who knows what 2021 will bring but I look forward to change and positivity.