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Janelle Pietrzak

Tell us about where you are from and how you ended up here in the Desert


I am from all over the place. I was born in Japan and moved around the west coast, mid west and finally landed on the east coast in high school. I went to VCU in Richmond, Virginia for fashion design. After college, I moved to New York to work in the fashion industry and was quickly disillusioned with city and office life. As soon as I started my career, I made it my goal to get out of the office. After a few years, moved to Philadelphia and worked at Anthropologie sourcing fabrics for over 6 years. In 2012 I moved to Los Angeles..still trying to figure out how to get out of an office. On our move across country to stopped in Joshua Tree for 3 days. I had barely heard of Joshua Tree, and had never had any interest in visiting a desert.  I was immediately entranced by it. About 5 months into my new job, I started weaving due to a very demanding and uncreative manager role at a fashion company.  After 11 months at that job, I earned three pretty big textile jobs - which would cover my rent for 3 months. I decided to quit my job to take on the jobs. I have been doing my own thing now for 5 years.  A couple years into living in LA, my partner Robert and I knew we had to leave to safe our sanity. We searched all over the country, imagining ourselves in far flung places. We kept coming back to the high desert as the best option for all of our needs.  Since we had been visiting here regularly during the years we lived in LA, we had a pretty nice group of friends already, and felt confident we could seamless integrate into the community here. After years of talking about moving to the desert, we finally got our shit together and moved here in July 2017.


What was/ is like to transition into the desert? 


I heard from friends it is tough to live here in some ways. A couple friends tell me “the desert will crack you open and you will discover your true self.” I thought I knew what that meant, and I thought I knew myself enough to handle myself. The summer moving here was challenging, but not in ways that I expected. The heat But I did not consider that when it is so hot, you want to stay inside in the air conditioning. So you get summer time cabin fever. Some good friends finally suggested we make a point to leave the high desert every couple weeks, even it means just going down the hill to Palm Springs…it certainly helps sanity a little bit. The summer and fall was spent looking for our permanent home, which was much harder than we expected. We were up against so much competition, people from out of town who want to buy vacation homes. When I am not settled in a home, I get hermity. I wasn’t in the mood to hang out with anyone, it was very isolating and depressing. Looking for a home is such a roller coaster, so we almost left all together to go back east.  Of course, at the moment we surrendered, we found a home so perfect - we could not have even imagined it. Now things are feeling really good here, and I can focus on digging into the community more. 


You opened a store in Yucca Valley recently, can you tell us about it?


My studio used to be in our house in LA. I knew coming here that I could possibly afford a separate studio, and that I would really like a studio with some showroom space. The space was originally just going to be things that Robert and I make.  We decided to expand into a small assortment of goods that our friends or other inspiring people make.  Robert calls the studio/store a stordio.  It is a tiny shop that is open by appointment during the week, and I open to the public on Saturdays.  It is really nice to have curated space and see our vision come together.  It is also really nice to have dedicated work space. I like offering a public space for visitors to come by. When guests used to visit my old studio, I would have to clean the house, do the dishes..always a chore. Honestly, I get more excited when customers make a purchase of an item that someone else has made. I love supporting other people who make rad stuff.  I think of it as a modern hippie shop. 


You collaborate with your partner, how does this dynamic work? 


I do all the textiles, and Robert does all the metal and wood work. Our relationship started as a working one, so we have always found a good rhythm working together. I think our skills and perspectives compliment each other. We come from different angles, and we meet together to create something that would not have come out either of us solo.  It is challenging sometimes, because maybe one of has a strong vision of how something should be, but we have to compromise so we are both satisfied. We have our own projects, and we have some projects together. But really our work is our life, and we live together, so it all intertwines.  At times I have considered separating my work from All Roads, as the textiles grew to their own thing, but in the end - I like that All Roads can be anything we want it to be. So I just funnel everything I do as All Roads to grow and expand the brand. 


What are some of the most impactful experiences you have had here in the desert? Has this changed or effected the art work?


I think because now I am just starting to feel settled, and get into a routine - that now I can start to absorb my surroundings and experience here.  The first 5 months here was a really distracting transition to my work…. The impact was that I could barely find space in my brain for creativity.  It was very stifling. I hardly made work and just scraped by.  Since the new year, I have been allowing time and space for creativity, and I am feeling really inspired. I am ready to process my experience living here. I feel like since July I have been in turbulence, but now the plane is flying smooth again.  I have started painting a bit as a creative warm up practice, and while I struggle with technique, it does feel good to give myself that time to have some free creativity.


Your practice blends/bridges craft, fine art, design and fashion. Can you speak to all these elements in your work? 


I have a BFA in fashion design. I worked in the industry for 10 years, and I still work within it for certain clients.  I am trained to operate using a design process. I think this helps my process, as most of my work is client work. I can present organized ideas and make changes if necessary and I don’t have an ego about it.  Textiles have always attracted me, since high school when I learned how to make my own clothing.  It was always inspired by the fabric.  Textiles surround us, always. In fashion, they are used for protection from the elements and as a form of expression.  Textiles in interiors are used to warm up a room, both physically and emotionally. I appreciate the history of the craft. I love the methodical hand work. I use color and texture to create compositions. I think textiles are simply relatable to so many people. I do struggle walking the line of art/craft/design…I guess at times it is because I want to know how to label myself!  I want my work to be taking seriously (aka valued monetarily and respected) as fine art. But I also love my design client work, because that work is challenging and keeps me connected to trends in color and aesthetic. I rarely participate in art shows, mostly because I just don’t know that world. But then I guess, since most of my work is commissioned by private or design clients, do I need to have work in a gallery and give 50% to a gallery owner? I guess I am doing ok making wall decor for people’s homes! Sorry for the rant.


Can you tell us about your influences, your conceptual framework, and the context in which your work fits in to a larger sculpture dialogue today?


Influences…I am inspired by people who have strong vision. I am inspired by people who create art and also product and make a business by it. 


I create my work for interiors, so I think about how my pieces would work in a room…or what kind of room my work would sit in. I look at the landscape for color palette inspiration and textures.  I don’t think I approach from a conceptual angle in my work, but that may be from my design training.  


Since the popularity of fibers during the 60s-70s, I think that fiber art has seen regrowth as a valued art medium for 10+ years.  It has been interesting to see how 5-10 years ago, “traditional” fiber artists (mostly women) presented work - but now I see many non-fiber arts people (men & women) using fibers as a medium. For example…I am talking about artists who maybe have always used painting as vehicle, but now they are creating “paintings” with fibers. . things that look like rugs but hang on walls.  


What is your favorite thing to do out here? 


Walk around the desert, look at plants and take pictures.  I also like to do yard work here. 


Anything coming up soon we should know about with your work? 


I am giving an artist talk during Palm Springs Modernism week at the Desert Art Center on Saturday, February 24th at 2-4 pm. I am also included in group show called L.A. FEMME  - all female artists in Venice at Merchant Gallery, that opens on February 23rd. 


Thank you for letting me talk about myself! 

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