21 SECRETS Spotlight :: Jan Avellana


Every Wednesday at Dirty Footprints Studio Tonia Jenny, the 21 SECRETS Creative Director & Course Manager,  is interviewing one of the talented teachers in our program.  Be sure to sign up for blog notifications below to never miss a spotlight — and CLICK HERE to check out past interviews. 

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Hi there, Gorgeous!

Our Spotlight Artist of the week is none other than Jan Avellana. Jan’s sweet, magical illustrative work has been tickling my soul for years, and as I write this, a glass of water sits to my side on my desk, atop a quilted “mug rug” that I created several years back from fat quarters that came from a line of fabrics she designed. In that way, her cheerful style greets me every day! Jan’s 21 SECRETS Paper, Glue, Scissors workshop—Mixed-Media Accordion Art Journals—is a wonderful project that would be perfect for a themed journal. I’m happy to let her share more about herself with you, here.

What is your earliest memory of a creative activity you enjoyed?

My first art love was writing. As a child, I’d lose myself in books, and that love of books led to writing. As a child, I enjoyed a creative-writing class I was in, and later, turned to more personal writing in journals and then much later, discovered blogging. Diving into mixed-media seemed a natural next step, because of my love for papers and found materials.

Is there an element about your process that you’re especially passionate about?

I love the moments of serendipity. Stumbling across a “just-right-ratty-thing” that I know I have to have, even if I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet! For this workshop, it was fun to go to my local library where they house a used bookstore, and search for just the right old book that needed to be loved back into use.

What do you wish you gave yourself more time to explore?

In general, I wish I could be more disciplined about carving out regular creative time each week. Life is so jam packed these days with ‘adult responsibilities’ and a demanding full-time day job. I wish I had more time to take classes at my local museum on printmaking and ceramics and even a creative writing class—not just for the instruction, but also for the kindred community.

In what do you find inspiration that it seems few others find inspiring?

I seem to find my inspiration in the small, everyday moments—a word said in passing, a bite from a book, the way the sun filters through the tree in my backyard. Special colors that gives me a spark each time I come across it—lately, these are pinks, mustards and avocado colors! It’s in these small things where I find poetry in life.

Share something very few people know about you.

I teach elementary school now, but in my first life I was a graphic designer in downtown Honolulu. I spent about 7 years in that field and then chose to go back to school to get a Master’s degree in Teaching. I’m in my 18th year now, and time is rolling along at a fast clip, but if I could, I’d be in the art and writing studio all the live long day! My perfect day is sitting down in an air-conditioned art and writing studio all day, with my puppy Radar pouncing around!

Clearly, Jan is a woman of many talents and I also happen to know she has one of the world’s biggest hearts. Look to her website or social media accounts for lot of those little “slice of life” bits she mentioned and to see more of her wonderful artwork.

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About Jan Avellana

Jan-Avellana_headshotJan Avellana was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii and has always been part fish. Perhaps because her true form is a mermaid, she has never quite found her way in the hustle and bustle of a traditional life. 

A wanderer at heart, Jan’s first creative inklings came through creative writing as a child. She was known to burrow herself away in snug, sunlit corners as she escaped into her world of books and writing. Much later, Jan discovered the visual arts, and found her wanderlust continued as she explored different media—collage, illustration, graphic design, painting, encaustic art and papier mâché, just to name a few. Even today, she is most at home with wide open seas and vast landscapes that allow her to follow wherever her heart leads.

Her newest body of patchworked collage paintings are a way of bringing all of her disparate parts together in a way that lets Jan say “yes!” to all the arty things she loves—gouache, acrylic, painting, typography, collage and words. All her loves bundled up together to tell a story—each element a part of her visual language. Jan’s art is a patchwork of everything that ever happened to her and also the things that didn’t, the lovely sum of her deepest fears and fondest hopes, images stitched together to tell a story full of meaning—bringing comfort and warmth in the telling of a life made up of scraps and treasures gathered through her wanderings.

Jan is an elementary teacher by day, an artist and writer by night. She is always a mom to her boys Seth, Cody and Momo the cat, and partner-in-crime to her husband, Steve.


Jan teaches Mixed-Media Accordion Art Journals in 21 SECRETS Paper, Glue, Scissors

If you love the look and feel of old vintage books, but don’t know what to do with them (or if you have a weakness for journals and sketchbooks of all kinds), I have just the project for you! We’ll be using vintage book covers to create a one of a kind accordion-style journal. I’ll introduce you to the mixed-media materials and techniques I use, and give you an introduction into my personal style of mixing collage with acrylic paintings and line art. Through play, experimentation and demo-ing, you’ll discover what works for you and design your own journal cover art—from abstract collage, to more representational art (like the girls I love to paint); the final look of your one-of-a-kind journal is up to you!

The inner “pages” will be constructed using watercolor paper using a simple folding method for making an accordion booklet. At the end of the process, you will hold a completed, one of a kind art journal in your hands!

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