Artist Interview: Jana Lam

April 24, 2017

Artist Interview: Jana Lam

Jana Lam has been making rainbows out of her in-home studio on Oahu since 2010 and we are huge fans of hers. Her rainbows come in the form of beautiful, tropically inspired prints on bags, hats, pareos (sarongs), and of course, even our swaddles and various baby accessories. We just love her style and I’m staking claim that she is the queen of color.

I was first introduced to Jana’s work years ago when I stumbled upon her clutches in a tiny, Maui boutique. I didn’t know who Jana was at the time, but her style was so unique that it stuck with me. After falling in love with that first clutch, I started seeing her pieces in more and more places. Her aesthetic was unmistakable. 

After following her work for a few years, I was thrilled to meet her at the Honolulu Night Market, the first event I had ever done for Coco Moon. She was gracious enough to buy a few blankets from my booth and I couldn’t help but gush about how excited I was to meet her. I had dreamed of collaborating with her, but was too chicken to ask her that night. It took me a few months to work up the courage to ask to work with her. When I finally did, she agreed! I was beyond stoked to say the least. Our first two collaboration prints, “Sea Flower” and “Banana Leaf” were big hits. Our third will release in May. While we’re not revealing which of her prints we’re featuring next, I will say that it is more closely related to the sea and showcases her signature rainbow colors beautifully.

Read on to learn more about this mom boss we have admired for so long: 

  1. How did growing up in Hawaii influence your art and/or design aesthetic? 

I think it's impossible not to be influenced by Hawaii if you grew up or live here.  The shapes and colors you're surrounded by are so intriguing and special.  So even though the flora and fauna of Hawaii have been used over and over again in design, it's just hard to not use it because it's so beautiful and interesting.  I didn't even realize it was an influence on me until I started taking classes in textiles.  Even when I wasn't drawing something overtly tropical, my classmates and instructor would tell me my work had a "Hawaiian" feel.  I couldn't escape it even if I tried. 

  1. How did becoming a mother affect your approach and/or your perspective of your designs?   

I think being a mother affects everything in your life, because all of a sudden you have no time!  My business was profoundly affected before my son was even born.  I had to bring people in to help me; something I was super scared to do, but had to to keep the business afloat.  In a way I credit my son for bringing about the change and growth because if he hadn't come along I wouldn't have been forced to take the scary leap and I wouldn't be where I am today (hahaha which is still hustling, but I'm proud of the product I've been able to put out and what I've been able to accomplish post baby).

Design-wise, I'd say especially for the collection that I'm working on right now, a lot of it was conceived in the wee hours of the night or morning when everyone is sleeping and I'm half asleep myself, so it's taking on a more dreamy vibe. I think my designs are already pretty whimsical and playful, but since I had kids they've become even more so-- a lot because I'm so inspired by them.  If anything I almost have to take a step back all the time and try to remember who I am designing for and take a measured look at if my designs are too childlike or more suitable for children vs. what I am trying to accomplish.  I've done a lot of drawings of animals that I can't turn into clutches! 

  1. What’s it like seeing your designs come to life on baby essentials?  

I've loved seeing my designs on baby accessories, especially the way [Coco Moon] has done it.  You're the expert in what mothers are looking for, especially making it soft and sweet.  I'm so loud and bright in my aesthetic it's very cool to see my prints in a different vein. Plus I just want to see my prints everywhere and on everything, so it's great to see it come to fruition in one way, and to see it done so well.

  1. Is there any advice you could lend other moms trying to chase their own entrepreneurial dreams?  

To entrepreneurial moms I would say, don't get caught up in guilt when it comes to your children.  You're doing the best you can, and it's ok to have something you love and are passionate about outside of your kids or your family.  If you love what you're doing enough it will pay off for them, showing them where a dream and persistence can get them, lessons they won't necessarily get anywhere else. And on the flip side, though it's really difficult, try to take time to separate yourself from your business and focus solely on the kids/family. I really crave the moments when it's just me and my kids cuddling in bed or tickle wrestling and playing and all I think about is hearing their next giggle or laugh. It's the best.  As a designer I think its especially tough to shut my brain off though, so sometimes I try to find ways to incorporate something that will stimulate me and that will be good for the kids too, like taking them to a plant nursery- hahaha. 

  1. One of the things I love most about your brand is your incredible use of color – do you have a favorite color combo you’ve used in your designs?

Color.  I LOVE color. It's kind of what I'm all about which is why I've been kind of sticking to my guns about maintaining the hand-made printing part of my products because I can't get enough of color, and I get bored when there's only a few options.  I'm so lucky to have Kellie, my printer, who I call a color wizard-- she just has an innate color sense and skill. She has actually pushed my love for color to the point where it is, and she makes ideas come to life. So, I really can't pick a favorite combo because it changes almost daily. Though I guess if I had to had to, I'd say I'm pondering navy, forest green, lime green and corally-pink combos right now.  Those colors together are kind of holding my attention right now, and need to be expressed in some way. 

  1. What’s next for Jana Lam? Any exciting new projects we should keep an eye out for? 

We've got the printed leather thing going which has been one of my dream projects-- It's been getting a good reception so I'm excited to keep that rolling.  We've got an embroidered bag just being released right now. . .  a new collection of prints coming out asap. . . A few reboots and one pretty surprising collab up our sleeves-- that I really hope works out.  And we've got a new product line just waiting in the wings :)



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