Sometimes, her work begins with a few porcupine quills. Cut down to a sharp point with ends dipped in gold, the quills become a bauble of sorts for Janie Mayer. Simple, modern, black and white striped.
Designing with natural materials like these quills, Janie’s designs are “boho, but tailored.” She balances natural, unexpected materials with bold colors and a sleek look. Although her work first took form in long beaded necklaces and her beaded bracelet “stretchies,” her jewelry-making now extends to leather, feather and chain styles.
After branding her designs Inspirations by Janie for 16 years, she recently renamed her company Jane Clayton as a tribute to the artistic heart of her family. Both her mother and grandmother were interior designers in Birmingham, always inspiring her. “Some of my sweetest memories are their one-of-a-kind, hand-picked items for clients— shelves lined with designer books, rolls of fabrics resting in a corner, rainbows of paint swatches,” she says. “As long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by design.” So, with “Jane” for her grandmother and “Clayton” for her father who helped bring her mom’s creative ideas to life, her name was reborn.
Wearing her own tower of beads on her wrist and fuchsia leather earrings, Janie says knows she was always inspired by her mother’s taste too. “She wore so much jewelry, but it worked. She would wear it up her arm,” she says. “And I may not have liked something I made, but she would love it and wear it forever. And it would look good.”
Janie also studied interior design, but she’s been channeling that creative energy into jewelry since her first shows years ago. After moving around the South, after getting married and welcoming her two daughters, she’s always stuck with making jewelry, though her designs move with the trends.
Right now, Janie’s into making leather cuffs. “I’ll have a huge zebra hide out on the floor, just cutting it up,” she says. “Or, I just find old Louis Vuitton bags that people don’t want to send back to get redone, and I cut them up and make cuffs with them up.” She’s never been into brand-name, designer bags, so she just turns the old into something brand new.
She might even pick up some snakeskin and incorporate its natural beauty into her work. “I call it upcycled, repurposed, a lot of those words. It’s just taking things you wouldn’t think to use and making something with them,” Janie says. Recently, she’s brought in more natural products than she ever imagined. “I never thought I would want to touch a porcupine quill, much less snake. It’s funny that they’re some of my favorite things to work with.”
Another element of Janie’s jewelry is layering, just like she does with the pieces she wears. Using gold with silver or colors and neutrals, you can stack beaded bracelets and string multiple necklaces together. “I love layers and layers and layers of jewelry. I play with a lot of chains and mixing metals. And I’ll mix in an old belt buckle sometimes,” she says.
The way Janie’s jewelry so easily matches with other pieces makes it fit so well with a tight-knit community of Homewood makers. “I love seeing people wear something of mine with someone else’s. Everybody seems to support each other,” she says. “I love the small community feel”
Even if you don’t know Janie for her jewelry, you’ve definitely seen her out around Halloween in the Homewood Witches Ride, maybe even leading the charge of bikes. Tying her even closer to the Homewood community, Janie organized the first witch ride with Daphne Dickinson in 2013 in honor of her mother who passed away earlier that year from a rare lung cancer.
And Homewood pulled through big. “People thought it sounded like so much fun and they wanted to come. Without even meaning for it to be a fundraiser, they all showed up, just from word of mouth,” Janie says. From her jewelry making to the ride, the things she starts in Homewood just seem to keep getting bigger and bigger. “And the community’s the reason,” she says.
To learn more about Janie’s work, find her on social media @janeclaytonhandmade.
A Family Affair
One of Janie’s favorite parts of her job is how it allows to always put her family first. “With my stage in life, it’s nice that I can work a bit, or work all night, and then be with them. If we go on a trip, then I can take everything with me,” she says. Sometimes, when she’s lucky, they’ll help her make the pieces. When she was making a lot of coin-based jewelry, she remembers her husband Dave drilling holes into the foreign coins so Janie could repurpose them. And her daughters, 15-year-old Chloe and 11-year-old Lola seem to think her job is pretty cool. “They both think it’s fun. A lot of their friends will where my jewelry too,” Janie says. Just like her love for design began with her mother and grandmother, it still always goes back to family for her.