Growing up in Missouri, Jane Cook credits her dad with instilling a “can-do” attitude at an early age. With a paintbrush in hand, young Jane would stand on the scaffolding that her father built, to paint the steeple on an old house that he bought to rehab. By helping her dad with different projects, a foundation was laid that Jane could do anything she set her mind to. Her mom made all the kids’ clothes, crocheted, and worked as a part time secretary. Jane never lacked in support for anything that she wanted to tackle. Even as an adult when she made the decision to leave her teaching job to become an artist, her mother, who later went on to become a nurse, never questioned her decisions and often accompanies Jane to art shows and special events as her number one fan.
Jane wanted to major in art but just didn’t know anyone doing art full time, so she taught 6th grade all subjects and then later just Art. It was during this time when Jane discovered polymer clay. She loves the fluidity of the polymer and the flexibility. Jane states, “Polymer is much more forgiving than other mediums.” Life would never be the same again. Jane eventually went to a half day of teaching and a half day of practicing her new found love with polymer clay. Jane learned and developed her art through workshops, mentoring, and self-discovery. Jane pursued her Art, and as she added more art shows, she jumped into artistry full time with a full slate of Art shows in the Midwest.
Jane and her husband live on a 100+ acre farm outside of Bonne Terre, that has been in the family for over 100 years. While Jane’s husband works off the farm, and Jane does her art, they still find time to raise cattle and hay. They have also raised sheep, from which Jane used the shorn wool to take up spinning and continued the crochet legacy from her grandmother and mother, and did fiber art as well as basketry. Like many artists, Jane has many interests and enjoys working with different mediums. She’s a self-described,” Ridiculous Reader”, and enjoys journaling/writing, as well as playing the flute and spending time with her seven grandkids aged 2-10. As Jane loved to inspire and encourage her students’ creativity with exposure to lots of mediums and experiences, she now loves to encourage her grandkids’ creativity. She almost always incorporates a small doodle or a piece of art from her grandkids into her mixed media pieces.
After working as a full time Artist for 10 years, Jane opened the Oasis Christian Book Store and Holy Grounds Coffee Shop in Farmington, MO in 2003 and used her creativity for her customers. During this time, she would take a week off every year and head to the ocean for a little rest and relaxation. It seemed Jane would always meet other creative women during her retreats. It planted a seed and a desire to help other women market their creative work. Jane had a new vision which kept developing and ended up with her going on some short-term mission trips to Africa and other countries. She started selling her bookmarks again (which can now be found at Bluestem Missouri Craft in Columbia) and donating the money to help women in need in third world countries. She also found creative ways to connect her customers with digging wells in Africa and headed up a tent drive after returning from Haiti after the earthquake, but her heart remained with the women artisan groups she had met and the desire to help them continued.
As inspiration often comes in the shower, driving, or walking, it became very clear to Jane one day while showering that, “If you want to do that creative project, you need to put down what’s in your hands.” It wasn’t long before Jane put her bookstore/coffee shop up for sale and soon found herself in Africa for three months connecting with women artists trying to work their way out of poverty. Jane would teach them wire work to add to their jewelry skills.
Over time, Jane has traveled to Thailand, Singapore, and Haiti, where she worked with a group of twenty-five street boys aged 6-18. She taught them how to crochet plastic bags and t-shirts, turning them from trash to treasure by creating mats, totes and other sellable items. Jane’s teaching style is to not be the “expert” but the encourager to give children and women the confidence to create. Jane has always loved to learn herself. She reads all the time, attends and gives workshops, and loves to share what she has learned. Her work in mixed media is new compared to the 25+ years of working in polymer clay and jewelry design. She loves the layering and the intuitive process which creates “mystery” and story. She had been creating collages and layers of clay as well in her jewelry, and after an epiphany a few years ago, she began incorporating the polymer clay and her jewelry pieces into her mixed media work. Her stories are multifaceted as a story becomes tangible and wearable.
While Jane continues to create her art here at home, she recently showed at Art in the Park in Columbia and has applied to a few local fall shows. You can meet her and see her lovely work this September 6-8 at the Cedarhurst Art Show in Mount Vernon, Illinois. A part of her heart is also devoted to helping others create art. Two years ago, an exploratory trip resulted in travel to Cambodia where Jane spent two weeks connecting with women coming out of the sex trade industry. It was clear that these women needed an alternative way to make a living. Jane returned in September and stayed through November to set up an artisan group. She again returned in February and stayed through April to help the women learn additional skills and to help with marketing their artwork. She hopes to return this January for continued assistance. While Jane thought she would have one group to mother, she feels like she needs to help more and is working on a program to help market the work of many artisan groups around the world in the United States. Her dream is to empower these women to create sustainable income for themselves and their children and to become successful enough that they can in turn teach others and provide micro loans to other women vulnerable to poverty and the sex trade.
When asked what advice she might give, Jane replied….” I just want to encourage people. If you have a dream don’t let any excuse stop you. Don’t let fear or the unknown stop you. Life is short, don’t wait. Don’t be overwhelmed by the world’s big problems like clean water, sex trafficking, etc. because every problem has a creative solution. I believe everyone of us has a passion or connection we are to follow. So instead of being overwhelmed with the problem, ask yourself, “What can I do?” Just stop for that one person in front of you. Love that one wherever you are and use whatever is in your hands and in your heart. Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture, every little bit helps, and together we do change the world.”
You can learn more about Jane and her mission by following her on Facebook or Instagram at Jane Cook Create. You can also visit her website at www.JaneCookCreate.com Parting thoughts, Jane quoted Vincent Van Gogh “There is nothing more truly artistic than to love People