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Meet Janna Coumoundouros

Janna is a incredibly talented photographer, jeweler, and fashion designer. Janna graduated from the University of Michigan with a BFA in photography. She has been a professional photographer for 17 years, she shoots real estate, corporate events, commercial, fashion, portraits, and sells her fine art metallic prints at many metro Detroit stores and galleries. Her work has been featured in Vogue Italia, USA Today, U.S. & World Report, ABC News, Metro Times, Detroit News, Hour Detroit, Cake & Whiskey Magazine, and Verite Magazine. Her desire to create jewelry started when she acquired a damaged 1950’s cash register. Her pieces are unique and different in that they combine the quirky machine parts with current fashion trends. Her jewelry combines the past with the present by giving unused and discarded machines a new, modern appreciation.

What is your favorite piece of work that you have created?

I think my favorite piece of art I have created is my Samurai dress made out of automotive material for the Detroit Institute of Art / Detroit Garment Group competition. I had the most fun making it and it was my first time sewing something like that with the material. As for jewelry, I have 2 pieces that are my favorites and I will not sell because I’m keeping them for myself. They are both necklaces I made out of camera parts and both are from the same camera. One I took the brass part that held the lens and set a peridot (my birthstone) in sterling silver and it sits in the center. It also has sterling silver rings that I made by hand. The other one has the actual shutter from the camera and it can open and close. It’s so cool.

What are your goals for the future, both artistically and in life?

My goals are to keep creating art that I can be proud of, that are thought-provoking, and continue to work as a full-time artist. I also curate art shows at my husband’s restaurant, The Conserva, and my goal is to continue to highlight emerging or established artists whose work is interesting and different.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies or maybe a fun story about an experience involving your artwork?

With my jewelry line, I take apart old machines and then use a torch to solder them to sterling silver. I melt things. A lot. I had a very old cash register button that I was trying to solder to a sterling ring very carefully. I turned the key upside down on my stone to attach it, hit it with a torch, and smelled the most awful smell! It was the inside of the button melting. When I flipped it over, the entire thing had melted into itself and was smoking. I learn as I go. Haha...

What is your strongest memory of your childhood?

I have great memories from my childhood that I have now realized have influenced my work as an artist. We had a big box of really old family photos dating back to the late 1800's. I loved them. I would look at them all the time. I think my love of old things and how precious they are carried over to why I collect vintage machines. I also used to clean all my mom’s jewelry whenever possible. I loved taking something metal that was dingy and making it shiny again. It felt like magic. And when I found photography in college, the darkroom process was just like that. You put the paper in the chemicals and like magic, the image would come up.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I prefer to not take photos if I’m relaxing. It’s my job and the last thing I want to do is pick up my camera when I’m not working. So vacations and family gatherings, I use my cell phone to capture the moments.

I once covered a model with a mix of pudding and molasses! I wanted to do a black and white shoot with a thick tar-like substance dripping down the model’s body. I had a space that was under construction that I was able to shoot at. I went to Gordons and bought the biggest can of pudding I’ve ever seen. The shoot went well and the images came out great but the model was headed back to Grand Rapids and we hadn’t planned on materials to wash him off so we had to use little tiny napkins and small sink to clean him off. He said his clothes stuck to him the entire drive back home. The finished photo shoot was part of a group show at U of M called, “Pieces.”

Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others?

Keep supporting artists by buying local art.

Where do you gather most of your inspiration for your artwork?

I subscribe to many fashion magazines and pay attention to Instagram and fashion blogs for current trends. I then take those into consideration but use my crazy machine parts or automotive material to do my own interpretation.

What has been the best cultural event you visited in the past year?

My husband’s a chef and always working so I don’t get out much and can’t think of anything that really stands out. I photographed CES in Vegas last January and that was pretty cool to see all the new technology. I curate art shows at The Conserva and the opening receptions are always fun cultural events. They’re roughly the third Thursday’s of every month.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

I never really had any help or mentors, to be honest. I had to figure it all out on my own. When I graduated from art school I was clueless and felt unprepared. I ended up working for a wedding photographer to learn to use lights and medium format cameras (back then it was film). When I started my business I had to just figure it out by researching. So when people ask me for help I am always willing to share what I have learned. I love connecting people because I wish I had people that do that for me. 

What’s one thing you can’t live without?

My family is most important to me. But other than that, I would say coffee. And maybe my hair products. Haha!

What is your favorite...

Color: I can never answer this question. It’s relevant to the object and time frame.

Pet and/or animal: I love birds like the blue heron and osprey. My father-in-law owns a house in Matlacha, FL and there are ospreys that nest around there and you can watch them catch fish right out of the ocean. They’re fascinating. My husband and I got married in their backyard and we actually had dolphins behind us in some of the photos. It’s a beautiful place.

Season: Summer!

Movie: Too many to pick. Classics would be Pretty in Pink, Breakfast Club, Better Off Dead. Love Actually is a great movie. I loved Wonder Woman. Woman in Gold was great too.

Board game: Cards Against Humanity- that’s more of a card game but it’s the best.

Holiday: Christmas

Website: Pinterest

Best cup of coffee: I like Trader Joe’s coffee. But there is a place in Columbus, OH inside the North Market called Stauf’s Coffee Roasters that makes the best honey latte. I think it was the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. coffee-roasters/

Ice cream: Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip

What superpower would you have and why?

My son asks me this all the time and I have a hard time choosing so I’m going to share what his superpower would be instead. He wants to be able to make bread come out of his hands so that he can just look at people and say, “bread” and it would shoot out. That way no one would be hungry and it would solve a lot of the world’s problems. Plus he could shoot bread at people. Genius.

You can find lots of Janna's amazing photography and jewelry at Yellow Door and online.

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