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Janna Ugone

Published:

Janna Ugone

When I was 5 years old, I declared myself an artist. I got hooked on drawing in kindergarten and went around telling everyone, “I’m going to be an artist”. I would work for hours at this old Mission desk in our basement while my mother hung the clothes to dry. I remember running down after her when I saw the clothes in the basket. The basement was warm and the quiet hum of the powerful boiler brought me a newly discovered and indisputable sense of calm. The smooth oak desk down there had two special drawers filled only with paper and crayons, just for me. My mom set up my out-of-the-way workspace, and each day it was just as I left it, poised and waiting. And then the excitement grew. I made a knuckle sandwich in my left hand holding at least 5 chosen colors of the day. The mix of colors was endless. I must have made a hundred mod 60’s drawings and filled them in. What I realize now is it was my first series, and I was experimenting with color palettes. Looking back, I understand that was my first sacred space.

Janna Ugone

I discovered making art gave me a sense of focus and a genuine thrill. I was lucky. I loved growing up. I loved making everything from forts to ravioli to gardens to drawings. What I didn’t grasp then, but I see now, is I really loved wearing a lot of hats and a creative way of life. I grew up in a double decker in the heart of Worcester, MA, where the kids owned the neighborhood in the good ol’ fashioned way. From kick the can to an all day bike ride to Coes Pond, we were resourceful and had true independence. We raked leaves and shoveled snow and soon after had day jobs by 6th grade. I was fortunate enough to have great art teachers from kindergarten to high school teaching me a plethora of craft and artistry from painting to weaving, glass, ceramics and batik. I lived in those art rooms every moment I had.

Janna Ugone

My parents encouraged my passion. My mother was an extraordinary homemaker with a keen eye for nature inspired design and taught me how to be resourceful—sew anything, cook Italian food from scratch and tend a woodland and vegetable garden. My dad was a successful businessman and handyman extraordinaire who taught me how to use tools to assist in shoring up our fixer-up Victorian from early on. My twin brother and I soon took 2 buses to the public high school that specialized in art for me and forestry and agriculture for him. It was at Doherty High that I focused like a laser on metalsmithing. I became a crackerjack jeweler by the age of 17 and thought I’d pursue this as my career. To support myself at Mass College of Art & Design, I restored settings for Shreve, Crump and Lowe and was a short order cook on the weekends.

Janna Ugone

I was destined to be a jeweler until I was struck with the endless possibilities of ceramics. I loved the ability to blend color, form and texture and utilize it as a painterly surface. My body of work became sculptural and narrative. Hence my interest in mixed media grew.

After college, I wanted to leave urban life and picked western MA off the map because I always heard it was wild and wooly west of Worcester. For two years, I ended up in the beautiful hill towns as a carpenter’s assistant, living off the land and homesteading, raising animals and bees in the countryside. It was here that I discovered the native woods and my love of botanicals deepened. This informed my work immediately. From my little studio in the woods, I produced my first solo show at UMASS.

Janna Ugone

While homesteading was wonderful, I was longing to pursue my career in the arts. At 22, I was thrilled to land a job as an illustrator for a Fortune 500 company. I moved up in the company from Product Manager to Manager of Marketing and New Product Development. What I discovered is I loved developing a product: from concept to market launch. I was poised to continue up the corporate ladder. However, there was a calling in me to infuse more of my art into my life and make a living from it. I wanted to create a product that had soul…and I wanted to make creativity a part of my life. I clearly felt if I didn’t do it now, I would regret it later. Fast forward five years, I was 27 when I quit cold turkey. I supported myself as a marketing consultant and graphic designer while I researched the market for 2 years to choose the product I wanted to produce.

Janna Ugone
Nature does it best. Collecting unusual pods from around the world has been a passion since I was a kid. This set of journal drawings was inspiration for my Field Chart and Artful Branch patterns.

While in a successful home furnishing store in the city, I looked up and saw a run-of-the-mill sconce and it clicked: Lighting. Beautiful lighting. Creative, livable lighting that performs its function, but offers up all parts as an opportunity for beauty. Detailed or simple. Uniquely narrative or historically classic. Painterly and sculptural. A product that can withstand the test of time. Finally, a product that combined my love for jewelry-like metalwork and hand painted composition. My love for blending creativity and business was hatched. It was one of those moments in life where everything and everywhere I’d been made sense.

I am forever inspired by the botanical world. The endless shape of leaves, pods, color, texture, the tiny geometric world of intricate forms, the grace of a plant reaching towards the sun.

I picked an old mill building with huge windows overlooking the Mt. Tom range. I rented a shared studio space for the first year where I developed my line. I didn’t even know how to wire a plug. I spent Friday nights reading electrical code books, and around the clock designing the ceramic sconces and shades to be hand painted. It was a major turning point when I exhibited in my first Accent on Design show in NYC. I returned with orders, rented a solo space, hired my first employee and soon after, 5 more. I was approached by Wild Apple Licensing and in three years, subsequently created a line of wall art, tableware for Lenox and bath collections for Croscill. At my first American Craft Exposition Show, I was discovered by Sundance catalog and Artful Home and still produce for them today. Business grew and at our peak, with a customer waiting list, we were a team of 25 employees.

Janna Ugone
Glaze and underglaze pen bottles make for easy application of our custom colors for our detailed ceramic patterns.

I set up each department as an independent hub. We created manuals, samples and videos to guarantee consistency for hand-painting, casting and glazing ceramics, hand-painting and eventually printing parchment shades, assembling bases and shipping. Throughout the years we continue our work as a tight knit group with lots of discussion and a deep caring for our customers. Our amazingly talented staff is the foundation of this multi-faceted studio. Always thinking outside the box, they are conducting work at a masterly level with an impressive range of skills, and a steadfast dedication to running things like a top. Each has great pride in this lighting tradition, and we are a studio family—finding inspiration, support, recognition and, thank goodness, sharing a good laugh.

Janna Ugone
Meet our 25 year old beloved custom made clay slip tank. This is stage one of pouring our ceramic lighting. With a mixer, pump and nozzle, we aim to keep the slip in proper suspension for successful pouring in our molds.

What I love and also find challenging about lighting design and mixed media is the multitude of things to consider. In one day at the studio this week, we discussed several factors in each department. The pros and cons of natural cut (with undulations) vs. honed (flat and matte) stone. Both are beautiful but one can seat larger metal collars without issue. One costs more and both give off a different vibe and color hue. We discussed creating new templates for making the proper holes for UL code so that sconces fit as expected for installation. We need new models for castings and talked about shrinkage rates, polishing methods and long term durability. A showroom customer requested a particular green/gold matte glaze. We needed several tests to present, so we discussed the glaze matrix. We brainstormed about a new adjustable length pendant fixture that passes code. And lastly, two new colorways for 2021, bright and subtle earth tones, each one a strong design direction.

“Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.”

Mary Oliver

This was a wonderful opportunity for me to build from the ground up—a space and a company that reflected the artistic life I had always imagined. It was invigorating to walk in the newly created space. I was empowered, alive and it felt great. To this day I still love opening the door to the sunny, buzzing studio. It is bright, modern and filled with personal work spaces; our showroom space has collections of curiosities, natural elements, sculptures, a hanging beaver trimmed tree, globe collection and other inspiration near the work that it has informed.

Janna Ugone
Pouring ceramic slip into plaster molds to create a small base. Each filled mold sits for a measured amount of time before emptying to ensure the perfect wall thickness.

A year ago, I opened to the public, added a warm and inviting wood walled Showroom to debut new and customizable work. This year we expanded with a Seconds Outlet and what we affectionately call the LampBar. Here folks can breathe new life into their own keepsake base or Target find by topping it with one of our shades from the Shade Room and finding the perfect match. This new connection with the walk-in community has become one of my favorite parts of the business. I love meeting people and seeing loyal customers. I learn a lot by helping them, solving their lighting issues and together we create beautiful solutions.

We’re a quintessential American company. Our tight knit studio family who have been adding soul to our product for over 30 years, plus 53 local artisans and small batch, often second generational businesses (that we collaborate with to create our collection from corrugated boxes to slate bases), our gallery and catalog partners, our loyal fans and customers, our accredited high school mentoring program and now our walk-in retail peeps…have expanded our definition of community! As of the past year, I have expanded the network and begun working with an exciting new branch of business, the hospitality industry. I have been approached by a large USA lighting company for projects including producing and overseeing production of ceramic sconces and pendants for Panera and Starbucks, both in our studio and farming out work to peer artists.

Janna Ugone
We need just that perfect shade of indigo! Mixing our own glazes provides endless hues for our palette & custom work. Organized by color, our tile library has the pigment recipe on the back of each tile for quick referencing.

I still hold dear and embrace the original essence of my line and fruits of our company. I have been told time and time again that our lamps help our customers feel connected to something deeper. They have shared with me that my lamps in some way helped them through a difficult time. Turning the lamps on each day, feeling part of a community behind the lamp has helped them start fresh. It’s something that provides hope and connection to the people and the community who helped create it, support it, and they too are a huge part of. I believe there is a life force behind these values, especially during difficult times. There is something greater than ourselves when collaboration happens—connecting, inspiring, encouraging and including all of us is a powerful thing.

Janna Ugone

I am forever moved to create beautiful and lasting work and in my small way, feel part of a family’s memories for years to come. I love designing pieces that help others live in unique and intimate spaces, and reflect the creative eye of the beholder. Each piece contributes to a special place to call home, which is more important now than ever. My biggest compliments stem from loyal customers who collect my work for years and say it’s what makes their house a home. One couple recently said my work makes their home feel like a retreat. Perfect. That warms my heart.

Janna Ugone

When I was 5 years old, I declared myself an artist. I got hooked on drawing in kindergarten and went around telling everyone, “I’m going to be an artist”. I would work for hours at this old Mission desk in our basement while my mother hung the clothes to dry. I remember running down after her when I saw the clothes in the basket. The basement was warm and the quiet hum of the powerful boiler brought me a newly discovered and indisputable sense of calm. The smooth oak desk down there had two special drawers filled only with paper and crayons, just for me. My mom set up my out-of-the-way workspace, and each day it was just as I left it, poised and waiting. And then the excitement grew. I made a knuckle sandwich in my left hand holding at least 5 chosen colors of the day. The mix of colors was endless. I must have made a hundred mod 60’s drawings and filled them in. What I realize now is it was my first series, and I was experimenting with color palettes. Looking back, I understand that was my first sacred space.

Janna Ugone

I discovered making art gave me a sense of focus and a genuine thrill. I was lucky. I loved growing up. I loved making everything from forts to ravioli to gardens to drawings. What I didn’t grasp then, but I see now, is I really loved wearing a lot of hats and a creative way of life. I grew up in a double decker in the heart of Worcester, MA, where the kids owned the neighborhood in the good ol’ fashioned way. From kick the can to an all day bike ride to Coes Pond, we were resourceful and had true independence. We raked leaves and shoveled snow and soon after had day jobs by 6th grade. I was fortunate enough to have great art teachers from kindergarten to high school teaching me a plethora of craft and artistry from painting to weaving, glass, ceramics and batik. I lived in those art rooms every moment I had.

Janna Ugone

My parents encouraged my passion. My mother was an extraordinary homemaker with a keen eye for nature inspired design and taught me how to be resourceful—sew anything, cook Italian food from scratch and tend a woodland and vegetable garden. My dad was a successful businessman and handyman extraordinaire who taught me how to use tools to assist in shoring up our fixer-up Victorian from early on. My twin brother and I soon took 2 buses to the public high school that specialized in art for me and forestry and agriculture for him. It was at Doherty High that I focused like a laser on metalsmithing. I became a crackerjack jeweler by the age of 17 and thought I’d pursue this as my career. To support myself at Mass College of Art & Design, I restored settings for Shreve, Crump and Lowe and was a short order cook on the weekends.

Janna Ugone

I was destined to be a jeweler until I was struck with the endless possibilities of ceramics. I loved the ability to blend color, form and texture and utilize it as a painterly surface. My body of work became sculptural and narrative. Hence my interest in mixed media grew.

After college, I wanted to leave urban life and picked western MA off the map because I always heard it was wild and wooly west of Worcester. For two years, I ended up in the beautiful hill towns as a carpenter’s assistant, living off the land and homesteading, raising animals and bees in the countryside. It was here that I discovered the native woods and my love of botanicals deepened. This informed my work immediately. From my little studio in the woods, I produced my first solo show at UMASS.

Janna Ugone

While homesteading was wonderful, I was longing to pursue my career in the arts. At 22, I was thrilled to land a job as an illustrator for a Fortune 500 company. I moved up in the company from Product Manager to Manager of Marketing and New Product Development. What I discovered is I loved developing a product: from concept to market launch. I was poised to continue up the corporate ladder. However, there was a calling in me to infuse more of my art into my life and make a living from it. I wanted to create a product that had soul…and I wanted to make creativity a part of my life. I clearly felt if I didn’t do it now, I would regret it later. Fast forward five years, I was 27 when I quit cold turkey. I supported myself as a marketing consultant and graphic designer while I researched the market for 2 years to choose the product I wanted to produce.

Janna Ugone
Nature does it best. Collecting unusual pods from around the world has been a passion since I was a kid. This set of journal drawings was inspiration for my Field Chart and Artful Branch patterns.

While in a successful home furnishing store in the city, I looked up and saw a run-of-the-mill sconce and it clicked: Lighting. Beautiful lighting. Creative, livable lighting that performs its function, but offers up all parts as an opportunity for beauty. Detailed or simple. Uniquely narrative or historically classic. Painterly and sculptural. A product that can withstand the test of time. Finally, a product that combined my love for jewelry-like metalwork and hand painted composition. My love for blending creativity and business was hatched. It was one of those moments in life where everything and everywhere I’d been made sense.

I am forever inspired by the botanical world. The endless shape of leaves, pods, color, texture, the tiny geometric world of intricate forms, the grace of a plant reaching towards the sun.

I picked an old mill building with huge windows overlooking the Mt. Tom range. I rented a shared studio space for the first year where I developed my line. I didn’t even know how to wire a plug. I spent Friday nights reading electrical code books, and around the clock designing the ceramic sconces and shades to be hand painted. It was a major turning point when I exhibited in my first Accent on Design show in NYC. I returned with orders, rented a solo space, hired my first employee and soon after, 5 more. I was approached by Wild Apple Licensing and in three years, subsequently created a line of wall art, tableware for Lenox and bath collections for Croscill. At my first American Craft Exposition Show, I was discovered by Sundance catalog and Artful Home and still produce for them today. Business grew and at our peak, with a customer waiting list, we were a team of 25 employees.

Janna Ugone
Glaze and underglaze pen bottles make for easy application of our custom colors for our detailed ceramic patterns.

I set up each department as an independent hub. We created manuals, samples and videos to guarantee consistency for hand-painting, casting and glazing ceramics, hand-painting and eventually printing parchment shades, assembling bases and shipping. Throughout the years we continue our work as a tight knit group with lots of discussion and a deep caring for our customers. Our amazingly talented staff is the foundation of this multi-faceted studio. Always thinking outside the box, they are conducting work at a masterly level with an impressive range of skills, and a steadfast dedication to running things like a top. Each has great pride in this lighting tradition, and we are a studio family—finding inspiration, support, recognition and, thank goodness, sharing a good laugh.

Janna Ugone
Meet our 25 year old beloved custom made clay slip tank. This is stage one of pouring our ceramic lighting. With a mixer, pump and nozzle, we aim to keep the slip in proper suspension for successful pouring in our molds.

What I love and also find challenging about lighting design and mixed media is the multitude of things to consider. In one day at the studio this week, we discussed several factors in each department. The pros and cons of natural cut (with undulations) vs. honed (flat and matte) stone. Both are beautiful but one can seat larger metal collars without issue. One costs more and both give off a different vibe and color hue. We discussed creating new templates for making the proper holes for UL code so that sconces fit as expected for installation. We need new models for castings and talked about shrinkage rates, polishing methods and long term durability. A showroom customer requested a particular green/gold matte glaze. We needed several tests to present, so we discussed the glaze matrix. We brainstormed about a new adjustable length pendant fixture that passes code. And lastly, two new colorways for 2021, bright and subtle earth tones, each one a strong design direction.

“Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.”

Mary Oliver

This was a wonderful opportunity for me to build from the ground up—a space and a company that reflected the artistic life I had always imagined. It was invigorating to walk in the newly created space. I was empowered, alive and it felt great. To this day I still love opening the door to the sunny, buzzing studio. It is bright, modern and filled with personal work spaces; our showroom space has collections of curiosities, natural elements, sculptures, a hanging beaver trimmed tree, globe collection and other inspiration near the work that it has informed.

Janna Ugone
Pouring ceramic slip into plaster molds to create a small base. Each filled mold sits for a measured amount of time before emptying to ensure the perfect wall thickness.

A year ago, I opened to the public, added a warm and inviting wood walled Showroom to debut new and customizable work. This year we expanded with a Seconds Outlet and what we affectionately call the LampBar. Here folks can breathe new life into their own keepsake base or Target find by topping it with one of our shades from the Shade Room and finding the perfect match. This new connection with the walk-in community has become one of my favorite parts of the business. I love meeting people and seeing loyal customers. I learn a lot by helping them, solving their lighting issues and together we create beautiful solutions.

We’re a quintessential American company. Our tight knit studio family who have been adding soul to our product for over 30 years, plus 53 local artisans and small batch, often second generational businesses (that we collaborate with to create our collection from corrugated boxes to slate bases), our gallery and catalog partners, our loyal fans and customers, our accredited high school mentoring program and now our walk-in retail peeps…have expanded our definition of community! As of the past year, I have expanded the network and begun working with an exciting new branch of business, the hospitality industry. I have been approached by a large USA lighting company for projects including producing and overseeing production of ceramic sconces and pendants for Panera and Starbucks, both in our studio and farming out work to peer artists.

Janna Ugone
We need just that perfect shade of indigo! Mixing our own glazes provides endless hues for our palette & custom work. Organized by color, our tile library has the pigment recipe on the back of each tile for quick referencing.

I still hold dear and embrace the original essence of my line and fruits of our company. I have been told time and time again that our lamps help our customers feel connected to something deeper. They have shared with me that my lamps in some way helped them through a difficult time. Turning the lamps on each day, feeling part of a community behind the lamp has helped them start fresh. It’s something that provides hope and connection to the people and the community who helped create it, support it, and they too are a huge part of. I believe there is a life force behind these values, especially during difficult times. There is something greater than ourselves when collaboration happens—connecting, inspiring, encouraging and including all of us is a powerful thing.

Janna Ugone

I am forever moved to create beautiful and lasting work and in my small way, feel part of a family’s memories for years to come. I love designing pieces that help others live in unique and intimate spaces, and reflect the creative eye of the beholder. Each piece contributes to a special place to call home, which is more important now than ever. My biggest compliments stem from loyal customers who collect my work for years and say it’s what makes their house a home. One couple recently said my work makes their home feel like a retreat. Perfect. That warms my heart.