We had the good fortune of connecting with Janel Foo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Janel, how do you think about risk?
I wouldn’t be where I was today without taking risks. I left a good job to go back to school and enrolled in the Jewelry Design program at Pasadena City College. I didn’t really knowing where I was heading at that point but this is where I was taught by one of the best teachers I’ve ever had and where I was introduced to stained glass. To me, this was the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken and it completely changed my life. Shortly after I finished the program, I decided to go full-time with stained glass.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The amazing opportunities and experiences that have come along since I started stained glass have been so unexpected. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it except worked really hard and poured my heart and soul into everything I do. I’m very proud of where I am in my career right now. If you asked me 6 years ago, how my life would be as a stained glass artist now, I could have never predicted I’d still be surviving as an artist. I probably would have said that I’d be back at my day job.
Most recently, I founded Create to Stop Hate, an initiative that began as an Instagram auction to fundraise and bring awareness to anti-Asian hate and highlight the AAPI creative community and that is something I’m very proud of.
It has taken a lot of sacrifice to get to this point in my artistic career. I started my business in 2015 and I’ve been nonstop since then. I am constantly working and seldomly take time off but I think being a workaholic has help me succeed as a stained glass artist and when you love what you do the hard work and sacrifice is worth it. With that said, one of the hardest parts of this has been finding a work/life balance with work. I think I am finally learning to take time off to allow myself to decompress once in a while.
Another challenge has been balancing retail orders with commissions and creative expression. Only recently have I achieved a more equal balance between retail and commissions, which comes from having switched to a ready-to-ship format for my most popular pieces. I’ve also learned to set stricter boundaries to allow myself to take a break from routine and have more time to create new designs and accept commissions.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take them to The Huntington Library, maybe do some afternoon tea in the rose garden for lunch and then dinner in San Gabriel Valley, maybe Golden Deli or Noodle 101 Express. Next day, I’d take them to Disneyland but if that’s too much maybe we would start in Highland park and walk York and Fig and check out all the awesome shops there, eat lunch at Triple Beam or Joy. Dinner at Sugarfish or Grand Central Market.
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?
I’d like to give a shoutout to first and foremost, my parents. I’m sure my parents would have loved to see me become a doctor or get a nice 9-5 job instead of trying to pursue a career as a full-time artist but they have fully supported me and encouraged me. My next shout is to my big brother, Jason. Jason is the person that always pushes me to challenge myself and is always there when I need him. He also names all my stained glass designs and his opinion is always valued. My husband, Matt needs a shoutout for putting up with a workaholic wife that disappears in her studio for weeks at a time. My best friend Emily has saved the day many times, swooping in to help me conquer my busy holiday season. And lastly, my teacher at Pasadena City College, Kay Yee. Not only is she one of the best teachers I’ve ever had in my lifetime but without her, I wouldn’t have found stained glass.