I'm getting so excited for Art-A-Whirl, which is coming up May 20 - 22! I’d like to introduce you to one of my three fabulous guest artists for Art A Whirl this year. Meet Jean Bathke, owner and creative director of Janey Appleseed.
KJ: What is Janey Appleseed?
JB: Janey Appleseed is a line of handmade, one-of-a-kind dresses for little girls, made in small quantities by skilled artisans globally. Our idea of Global Handmade stitches together bold textiles from all over the world, along with a steadfast commitment to partner directly and fairly with our artisans. Currently, we partner with artisans in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we are also in the beginnings of a new partnership with artisans in California who have joined our local community as refugee citizens.
KJ: So, do you design the dresses yourself?
JB: My mom and I designed the dresses together; most of them are inspired by dresses that I wore as a little girl in the late 70’s, and that she wore in the early 40’s. When I was growing up, my mom made most of my dresses, and her mother had made hers… I love the idea of simple, timeless little frocks and pinafores, these classic little dresses that have remained perfectly sweet, and fun to wear over decades. I named two of the dresses after my mother and grandmother: Little Carol and Little Kathryn.
KJ: Can you tell me a little about the artisans who make Janey Appleseed dresses?
JB: The ladies in Congo are amazing, they are good at what they do and are a joy to work with. Eastern DRC has an incredibly rough history of conflict, war and violence, so these artisans are all living in a region that can be described as unstable at best.
KJ: One of the things that I love about your project is how working with this group of women affects their children and in turn their community. Can you tell me a little about that?
JB: We know for sure that when women are wage-earners, their entire community echoes with direct benefit. Increased family income means children are more likely to go to school, eat healthier food, and have access to health care. This bodes well for a strong future going forward. We also know that the world has become a much smaller place than ever before, so that these strides forward being made in far away places will have a positive effect for us all.
KJ: Your fabrics are so vibrant and beautiful. Where do you get them? Is there a story behind the fabrics?
JB: The textiles are mostly kitenge wax-prints from the local marketplace in Congo. The ladies shop for textiles and we consult together to make design choices for the dresses. Availability is a bit unpredictable at the market though, making traditional (Western) garment production a challenge, meaning that once you find the fabric you want to use it very like may be gone or not available in quantity. I must say, though, that I rather enjoy this aspect that might be perceived as a glitch for any other company: I find that the unpredictable nature of sourcing is actually a vehicle to tell part of the story of the place, to help people understand that life and commerce are different in Congo and that things may not be so readily available.
I also love that the small quantities of each print means that we usually have an array of really exciting, limited-edition inventory. Each dress is different, a true treasure!
KJ: I am so excited to host you for this upcoming show – I can’t wait to see the new pieces in this year’s collection!
JB: I am SO excited to join you and your other guests as well! Thank you so much!
Find more photos and more information about Janey Appleseed here:
All photos by Lucia Annunziata
Art-A-Whirl hours are:
Friday, May 20th - 5:00-10:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 21st - Noon-8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 22nd - Noon-5:00 p.m.
For more information about Art-A-Whirl, visit the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association website.