Janice Van Havermaat: Artist Extraordinaire
Janice Van Havermaat tinkers around with a number of artistic skills. Her art pieces combine bead work, needle felting, wire wrapping and yarn weaving, using an off-the-loom technique to create one-of-a-kind pieces.
That doesn’t include the handful of other skills the Los Lunas resident has, including acrylic paintings with oil painting technique, basket weaving, etching, Swedish weaving with hand dyed material, polymer clay and dichroic glass, tin work and paper batik.
“It’s something that I really enjoy doing,” Havermaat said. “I like doing it and seeing what I can come up with, because I don’t ever do something the same way twice.”
But there is one art skill Havermaat hasn’t been able to master.
“Pottery on a wheel,” she said. “I can’t do that. I can do it freehand, but I’ve tried and tried … I would get this nice form and shut the wheel off and it would (collapse).”
The 63-year-old artist began dabbling with the arts when she was a little girl. She would draw or sketch animals, landscapes and anything that inspired her on whatever sheet of paper she could get her hands on.
“My mother used to say, ‘Stop using your paper for drawings,’ but that’s just something that I just did,” she said, adding it was a gift.
As an adult, Havermaat created oil paintings — which she’s done for more than 30 years — for her mother and family. Havermaat’s mother would send her pictures she wanted transformed into paintings.
“I like things that are realistic — that you can look at and maybe feel like you can walk into,” she said.
To challenge her oil painting skills and learn a few techniques, Havermaat enrolled in a two-year course at Kachina School of Art based out of Phoenix, Ariz. Later, she would use these techniques when working with acrylic paints.
Havermaat took up her other artistic skills around 1997 after she was laid off as a shuttle driver from Isleta Casino and Resort, when she decided she didn’t want to work anymore. That’s when she decided to become an artist full time.
“I was already into this kind of work anyway, but not to this extreme, so I just started doing this,” she said.
At that time, she taught herself how to do bead work for jewelry, then basket weaving, followed by needle felting and wire wrapping.
“I thought, ‘I can incorporate this in my bead work, needle felting and in everything else,’” she said about beginning wire wrapping by bending and folding wire into shapes.
The mixed-media artist said she never gets tired of meshing together her skills to create a new piece.
“My mind doesn’t shut off. I’ll just see something and go, ‘Gee…’ and write it down right away, even if I have to grab a napkin to do it,” she said.
Once at home, Havermaat builds upon those sketches and allows them to take on a life of their own.
She gathers ideas and inspiration for pieces from everyday items.
“I’ll look at the clouds and say, ‘That’s a nice looking cloud,’ and I’ll come up with a painting for it. It’s just whatever I see,” she said.
To ensure she doesn’t forget the ideas she’s come up with, Havermaat quickly sketches her idea to build upon it when she has time. An example of this are the fan blades in Havermaat’s living room that needed replacing.
She thought it was a waste to throw them away and decided instead to incorporate them into her art.
“It’s a waste to throw the fan blades away, so what I did was trace the fan blade on a piece of paper and that’s what I came up with,” she said pointing to an outline of the blade with a kokopelli decorating the center.
But more than anything Havermaat has to be in the right mood to complete a piece from start to finish and be happy with the final product.
“If I’m not in the right frame of mind and not sure how I want to finish, that tells me I’m not in the mood to finish it and rather not finish it and come back to it later than finish it and not like it,” she said.
One such piece is an acrylic painting Havermaat has half completed in her living room of a seaside town. To finish the piece, she plans to paint her mother looking out onto the ocean, which she loved, while sitting on a bench surrounded by cats.
Letting her imagination run wild is calming. It relieves every day stresses, depression, brings enjoyment and also serves as a physical therapy tool for Havermaat.
She utilizes her art as a way to cope with the physical pain she suffered in a 2005 car accident. Havermaat suffered brain damage and damage to the right side of her body after a drunk driver T-boned the driver’s side of Havermaat’s car, while she was driving on La Ladera in Los Lunas.
The accident threw Havermaat’s 2001 Suzuki Swift more than 70 feet onto a mound of dirt a few feet away from a ditchbank.
“I only remember the date, because of the accident report,” she said. “I have no knowledge of what happened to me at all. I lost part of my memory.”
The man driving the vehicle that hit Havermaat’s was on his 16th DWI conviction and served 18 months in jail for the accident.
“I wasn’t supposed to survive that crash, not with the brain injury that I had, but I did,” she said.
And creating art is what got her through those times of learning how to live with the trauma left behind.
“At times, I have what I call a brain shut down, when my brain would completely shut down, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t do much of anything. I completely shut down and this forced me to get back into doing this,” she said.
Art not only helped her with concentration, focus and memory problems, but mentally and physically as well.
“He took away part of my memory,” Havermaat said. “When my kids were growing up, there are certain parts that are gone and there’s no bringing it back. But I decided I wasn’t going to let him take anything else away.”
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