Jewelry created by metal smith Jason Janow is among a wealth of handcrafted goods that visitors can see and admire at the Southern Highland Craft Guild gallery in Biltmore Village.
The unique design of Janow’s gold, silver and bronze jewelry reflects his love of nature.
“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scene,” he says. “I’m a found-object jeweler.”
A lifelong outdoorsman, Janow begins his creative process by collecting twigs and bark in forests along with stones that he finds in rivers.
“I bring them home a pocketful at a time,” he says.
In his studio, Janow makes molds of the twigs and bark to begin the casting process.
He then pours hot metal into a series of molds and fashions it rings, bracelets, necklace pendants and earrings. The river stones he sets in their natural shapes to make earrings and other jewelry.
Janow also uses precious stones such as diamonds in rings and other jewelry he designs and creates at his studio in Weaverville.
“I really like making gold-and-diamond jewelry,” he says.
These materials are both brilliant and highly durable, he notes.
Many of the metals and precious stones he uses have been re-purposed—and some are from family heirlooms, Janow says.
And some of the rings he designs for engagements and weddings.
“The wedding business is growing,” he says.
A native of Virginia, Janow grew up going hunting and fishing with his father. When he was in high school, Janow began making primitive jewelry. After completing his education, Janow embarked on a career in the construction business where he worked in management.
Fourteen years ago Janow decided go into a more creative direction. He went back to school, enrolling in the professional crafts program at Haywood Community College.
After honing his skills, Janow began making jewelry and selling his work in the Asheville area. His first wholesale order was from the Grovewood Gallery.
In 2007 Janow became a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild and began displaying his jewelry at the two local guild galleries.
Judy Dillingham, manager of the Southern Highland Craft Guild shop in Biltmore Village, speaks highly of Janow and other artists whose works fill the space where a historic bank was formerly located.
In the spacious gallery where sunlight streams through large Palladian windows are collections of glassware, pottery, coverlets, fiber art clothing, art, and wooden items such as cutting boards and spoons created by artists sustaining the tradition of mountain handcrafting.
“We look for things that are going to be exciting for people coming through the door,” Dillingham says. “Being here has allowed us to introduce the guild to a different demographic,” she adds.
The items in the gallery change as new items are brought in by artists.
“We’re always saying it’s like Christmas morning,” Dillingham says.
“The artists know I want to see what’s new,” she adds, even though many tried-and-true items remain as popular staples.
Many of the same artists have work displayed at both the guild shop in Biltmore and the one at the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, says Dillingham, who has managed the Biltmore Village shop since it opened in 2013.
Given its proximity to the Biltmore Estate, Dillingham incorporates events at the estate at the guild shop, such as the upcoming Gilded Age showcase that begins in February.
The Southern Highland Craft Guild has a long history in Western North Carolina, having been chartered in 1930 to preserve the tradition of mountain crafts in the region.
The Southern High Craft Guild, 26 Lodge St., is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.
For more information, visit the website at www.southernhighlandcraftguild.org or call 828-277-6222.