Copyright Jean Yates From Jean Campbell's Steampunk Style (focal of fine silver by Kate McKinnon, porcelain by Melanie Brooks of Earthenwood Studio)
I had a lot of interests as a child. As long as I wasn't forced to do anything athletic, I was one happy manatee (ahem: one of my kids likes manatees)! At age five, I was already the ultimate book nerd. I love reading! This profound love is the underlying factor of my creative life. It has drawn me toward trying to figure out what the point of everything is. I even enjoy analyzing people's dreams. Illustrations in books only enhanced this great love. To read a story, and see great illustrators like Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Maxfield Parrish and others (Garth Williams!) just completely inspires me!
Therefore,the first thing which I learned to do was draw. I used to help my classmates in school finish their drawings. They would come to me if they couldn't draw a nose, for example, or a decent pair of legs. I was really good at noses and legs. We're talking kindergarten and first grade. Even then, as you can see however, I was humble about my far reaching fame at art, however. You are the first to have this exclusive into my incredible, ever-fascinating life.
Time flew by. I became an actress, then a mother of two wonderful sons,then got divorced. After the divorce, I became a bodybuilder and a professional trainer at a gym. This makes no sense, given my history of hating sports. However I caved to the interest around "being physical" for the first time in my life. It was the nineteen- eighties! Everyone wore legwarmers! I was divorced with two kids! I sported hand-slashed shirts like the girl in "Flashdance". I also made my own t-shirts, tie dyed and hand painted and glittered. Everyone at the gym wanted one of my t-shirts. One guy wanted a t-shirt dyed a dingy grey, with a smiley face on it, only he wanted it frowning. It said underneath the frowny face, HAVE A BAD DAY! That one was actually a big hit. I designed two matching t-shirts, for me and my other divorced friend I hung out with. Those were a riff off of the symbol for "Ghostbusters", which was another popular movie at the time. Our tees said "Heartbusters" and we wore them with tiny denim miniskirts and red kitten heeled pumps. Good times. Good times.
Then I married Jim, whom I adore.
While I was busy having the three sons with Jim, it was discovered that our two youngest children have severe autism. Later, epilepsy was also diagnosed for our two little guys. I immersed myself in learning about autism. My creativity at that time was expressed by writing articles in news bulletins, all concerning autism. Nobody knew very much about this first massive wave of children who were on what is now called " the autism spectrum". We donated blood as a family, and participated in any and every study going on because having two siblings with the disorder was a real help to researchers. This experience, having children with this disability, was life changing for me. My heart opened up in a way I cannot express to this day. My whole being has been enhanced by this experience. Having children does that anyway. Anyone who has a kid knows what I am talking about. I guess I will get to Blythe later. :)
Angry Flower Goes to the Prom Copyright Jean Yates (Focal by Cathy Lybarger,
polka dot SWAROVSKI ELEMENTS hand set clasp)
*At Craft. You. we’re all about turning obstacles into opportunities. You do this every single day. Can you talk about being the parent of two autistic teens and how you juggle that with your creative endeavors?
Well, now our boys are a bit older, and although they live with us (we wouldn't have it any other way!) as does our terrific oldest son, Ian, they have their own interests and their own lives. Admittedly, we are all often at home, but they go to school during the day like regular kids. Now that their seizures are almost under control, I am able to spend some time writing my column for Australian Beading magazine, "Our Beading World". In it, I report on jewelry and beading trends in the USA for the Australians. I love to comb the internet and find products, books and American jewelry designers to write about. It's great to be able to do this at home and still take care of the kids, with Jim helping. Jim and I are a team. I also love contributing to books and jewelry magazines, when invited. I feel "chuffed" when I am invited, as the Brits say. Chuffed is a useful word which I like because it is kind of akin to the word proud, only it has a bit more humility than proud, which can have sort of jerky implications to me when I apply it to myself.
I don't really juggle here, I just accept. I MUST go with the flow. If I am all involved in a project, and someone in the family needs me, I accept that I have to quit what I am doing, PERIOD. If I allowed this to frustrate me, it would be a huge waste of time. Fortunately, I am a very linear person. I only tackle one thing at a time anyway. Therefore, I only have to stop ONE thing if it is necessary, and go help out with what is needed by whomever in my family. Then I resume what I was doing, if there is time to continue it at that moment.
Pink fantasy chalcedony and hill tribe silver necklace by jean clothes by Cindy Sowers,
customized doll, (Regina) by Moon Rouge Copyright All Rights Reserved
*You’ve been a true champion for the Art Bead world and for the importance and value of jewelry making in general. You featured art beads in your design work and you endlessly promote other artists and designers in your blog and publications. Can you talk about the impetus behind why you do what you do in the way that you do it?
Thank you! I was born wanting to promote what I judge to be great! Obviously, this does have an aspect of "me" and my high esteem of my own opinion , so it isn't all about being kind. However, it IS about my love of discovery, and of recognizing and pointing out people who do good work. If I see something I think will blow other people's socks off, I want everyone to know! I spend a lot of time giving reasons WHY I think certain artists are great, or certain art beads are worth using as focals, in order to back up my personal strong feelings. I am passionate about good work. I rarely tear other people down. I prefer to ignore what I might think of as lesser work, or more derivative work. Why bother with it, when there is so much beauty around? Artists and artisans are amazing! I am in awe of what we humans can accomplish creatively. It's like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier. We bust through the art barrier and discover new things constantly! I find this incredibly exciting. Therefore, if writing, I break things down into why they are so spectacular to me. Then I set out to convey this to other people who might not have seen whatever it is which I might have perceived. It is nothing I expect to argue about. It's just my own opinion. If I myself am designing, I think about what I am trying to say from every angle. Color, balance of positive and negative space, light play, a novel idea well executed, and wearability are all things which fascinate me when I am designing using someone else's focal bead or set of beads. I want to add to the great thing I found so absorbing in their work, and show it at its best. The best I can possibly contribute. I have learned a LOT from you and consider you one of my main mentors. You are a free person when you create. You have set a great example of how flexible we all can be, when we design, and when we think. This has been invaluable to me. You are a groundbreaker, Margot.
Graduated Byzantine, a custom chain maille design by Urbanmaille.com, made by Jean Yates,
focal by Kim Miles Copyright ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
*You have a fascinating background and family. Would you share a little bit about how your childhood and family influenced who you are today? I love the stories you share on the blog and I know writing is a true passion and gift of yours. Will you ever pen the Jean Yates memoir?
Hahaha! I have it all in my head, only I need to protect the innocent, so you will know me by my pseudonym, "Jean Gates". Or, more ominously, "Jean Bates" of Bates motel fame. The "working title" of my oeuvre? Back to Square One. Why? Because it is so true.
I love my family, but as you know I was always "the black sheep". I come from a hoity toity background and was presented to New York society as a debutante. HAHAHAHA. I hated all that stuff, that "you are not as good as I am" junk. I walked away from it at an early age and I have never cared what people think of me. My family is full of famous politicians, writers, and incredibly sucessful businessmen. My saving grace was and continues to be my father, Bob Baldridge, who loved me and my sister, and my mother Nancy so much that we were the luckiest people in the world. The strait-laced community I grew up in was very judgemental. It was located in what is known as "Old Lawrence" in Long Island, New York. The community was all about being the best people in the USA. I mean, please. Didn't we all come over here because we were different and nobody liked us back where we were from? Get over it! My dad was considered eccentric in Lawrence. He was the only person who owned a Cadillac, for example. A used one, black, with fins. Everyone else was following the herd and driving station wagons to "look right".
In this enclave they were all anti-Semitic, particularly because there are many Jewish people surrounding this tiny little group in which I grew up. They made fun of us tooling around in our "Kosher Kayak", or called it "Bob's Jew Canoe". My father was unfazed because he adored his car, which was big and roomy, and he was a tall man, at 6'3". He taught me how to separate good from bad, to be honest, and to follow the Golden rule.
My jewelry design book Links tells a little about my family because they were so important to me, but I guess our most famous "celebrity" is my father's sister, Letitia Baldrige. Note the different spelling. My dad was so annoyed as a young man at everyone misspelling our name Baldrige and adding the extra d, making it Baldridge, he had it officially changed. My aunt and my Uncle Mac were supposed to go along with this but finked out. So we are known as the Baldridges, and when we write to our cousins and other Baldrige relatives, we have to remind ourselves to take out the d. It is idiotic. Anyway, Auntie Tish was very tall, just like my dad. She is over 6'1". She is now in her eighties. The tallness factor, back when she was young, meant that she had a hard time finding a man to marry. THIS tall stigma was considered a dreadful state of affairs. I remember taking a walk with my dad to Pond X, near our house. Yes, that was the name of the road. Pond X. My dad suddenly said reflectively to me, "You know, I don't think Auntie Tish is ever going to get married". He had a sad tone to his voice. She was THIRTY-SIX! This was ancient! She was old. old, old. Because she wasn't marriage worthy, because she was so tall, she went on to become a really good secretary. Then she worked after WWII in Europe and had a ball. Then she worked as social secretary to the Bruces, when David Bruce was Ambassador to France. She spoke fluent French. Then she worked a social secretary to Clare Booth Luce, the first woman ambassador to Italy, and once again had a ball. She spoke fluent Italian. Finally, she worked as social secretary to Jaqueline Kennedy. This caused a big brouhaha because when Kennedy was in office all of the United States was fascinated by all things Kennedy. Of course we in the family were all Republicans (I wasn't anything--I was eight) but Tish temporarily became a Democrat to embrace this job. Again, she had a ball, however she had quit before the terribly sad assassination, to work at the Kennedy Merchandise Mart in Chicago. It was there that she met a gentleman as TALL as she was (thank the Great Whobody, as Kim Miles would say), and they fell in love amd married and had two children. Now she has passles of grandchildren! She didn't quit working however, and started her own Public Relations Company in New York, after doing public relations for Tiffany & Co. and a number of other fabulous places. She had a bestseller on the New York Times book list called Of Diamonds and Diplomats. She became a leading expert on etiquette and has written at least twenty books, one of which had her name misspelled "Baldridge", with the extra d my dad had legally changed our name to, on the spine for the first printing. Hah! Whenever something about the Kennedys comes on TV, I hear my Aunt's melliflous voice down the hall and check out what they are interviewing her about. AGAIN. As she is very funny and charming, she is always worth a listen.
Everyone always said to me, "Oh, Jeannie, you are just like your Auntie Tish"! What they meant was I was irresponsible with money. Hey, I can be irresponsible with money without being Auntie Tish. I am far less glamorous and besides, I am 5'4', not 6'1". So there.
Customized doll, "Liath" by Zaloa27, dress and belts by Jean's friend Elizabeth King,
jewelry collaboration by Rose of Moon Rouge and Jean Yates Copyright Jean Yates
*What advice do you have for people who want to do what they love and love what they do?
Funny that you should ask that. I actually follow the quote from the indie movie, "Little Miss Sunshine" : "Do what you love."
That is exactly what I try to encourage other people to do!
I am a very impatient person. However, for example when I was learning to make chain maille, I loved it so much that, even though it didn't make sense to me (and I have the upside down, backwards chain maille watch band to prove it!), I kept working on it and working on it until I COULD do it, because I loved doing it. I kept remembering my mother patiently teaching every neighborhood child to tie his or her sneakers, because no other mother was very good at teaching that. I would try to accomplish something and always remember my mother patiently working at every single art and craft you have ever thought of, except jewelry. She would also fly all over the county to teach people how to arrange flowers. My father liked skin diving. He dove on Long Island, snorkeling around the jettys, and he took us to Florida every year to the Keys. We all learned to skin dive safely and properly from my dad.
Whatever you do, if it is creative, and you can add your own personality to what you love, be persistent in learning the basics. Then take off and soar. You've got the whole world to explore, when you love what you do. Your delight will be endless, once you learn the techniques. You will delight in the process as much as your progress. I just know this!
*What’s next for Jean Yates?
Right now, I am writing a book about Blythe dolls called For the Love of Blythe. It is a collaborative project with an artist named Cindy Sowers, who thought the whole thing up, and a writer named Fanny Zara. We are the adminstrators for 50 people who are busy doing what they love: practicing their specialties on customizing, in teams, and chronicling their work in progress as they perform wonders on stock Blythe dolls. We have a Facebook page, For the Love of Blythe, if anyone reading this is interested (I am making it, so it is going a bit slowly--I can't even figure out how to put the thunbs up icon on it), we have a blog, "For the Love of Blythe" , overseen by Fanny, and we have an Etsy Store, called, not surprisingly, For the Love of Blythe. There we sell Blythe doll T shirts called "What the cool girls are wearing" which Cindy designed using a great photo image by my dear friend and customizer Rose, of Moon Rouge. This is all for charity, even the Etsy store: proceeds from that will help defray shipping costs. Our finished dolls will come from all over the world. They will be displayed in a prestigious gallery in Soho, in New York, and will be at "Blythecon 2013" -- a convention for the zillions of Blythe doll freaks (of which I am a card carrying member) . Then they will be auctioned off for charity. We hope all sorts of people in the art world will enjoy our book and understand the preciousness of fifty artists just giving of themselves, not thinking "what's in this for me?". We will be sharing thoughts and ideas as we work on each doll in all of our areas of the world. I am on one of the teams so I get to make Blythe jewelry! How much more could I be doing what I love? It's perfect and amazing to me that I got from where I was, to what I do now. My past experiences, when rolled into a great big ball, have offered me so many opportunites to express my deepest loves in so many ways: for my family, for creativity, for humanity, and for ...well, the phenomenon called Blythe.
I am truly "chuffed"!
All love, jean
Visit Jean's blog for more inspiration!