Janet Restino in every sense of the word, an artist. She is a sculptor, painter, singer/songwriter, poet, and greeting card creator living in New York City. Restino describes her professional artistic career as “entering through the gift shop” having sold work in museum gift shops, don’t be surprised if you start to see her work on gallery walls. As someone who has been cultivating her art career since the ’70s, Restino has an extensive archive of artist works across many mediums.
GH: How do you ride the line between craft and commerce?
JR: I just put out the best product that I can. I use Epson archival ink Strathmore parchment, and I do the printing myself. In terms of pricing, I’m competing with what people are paying for a not so special piece people buy in the chain stores. I used to sell in various stores in New York City… the whole stationary business has changed profoundly over the last ten years or so, the internet has a lot to do with that. I just turn out the best product that I can and get feedback on what I’m selling at craft fairs or street fairs.
GH: As a multimedia artist, how have you cultivated a personal brand?
JR: I have a look, I have a style, I believe there’s a lot of integrity built into what I do. I’m not trying to do easy shlock. What I put out has a certain sophistication. I stand by everything I put my signature on, there’s a lot of craft and skill that has gone into it. I also do poetry, I do spoken word, and people recognize my style, it’s somewhat unique in the venues I perform it.
GH: Who would you consider a mentor in your artistic endeavors?
JR: I’ve had so many over the years, not really a mentor, but an inspiration for writing and music would be Bob Dylan. One reason being, as soon as I graduated from art school where I was a very serious sculptor, I started having dreams with Bob Dylan appearing in them. It was kind of a “what’s going on” moment, so I started recording them and taking them a little more seriously. I had always enjoyed writing, and that pushed me to take my writing more seriously and that developed into becoming a musician. I had studied piano as a kid, but with the background, I had there was no foundation for how to take this seriously. I eventually found doors opening when I moved to New York and started hanging out with people who were doing open mics, writers and musicians. Also in terms of mentors, there was David Slivka, he was a mentor to me in sculpture and he had a profound impact on my work.
GH: What advice would you give to a young woman considering a similar career path?
JR: Don’t expect it to be easy. Unfortunately, talent alone doesn’t guarantee success. Who you know, and the right time and right place and your own persistence and your own determination very much affect your career. You have to stick with it and listen to your heart before you listen to the dollar signs.
GH: Do you have a marketing team?
JR: I wish I did, unfortunately, that’s one of my missing links. I haven’t had the budget to hire people to be posting for me on social media. I am not good at that, at all. That would be a tremendous help with just creating awareness of what I’m doing. Honestly, for me, it’s the last thing I do. I’m more interested in creating and refining what I’ve created and keeping track of what I’ve created and then letting everyone know ‘hey, I just made this’ this is where you can buy it.
GH: If you could start your career over, would you change anything?
JR: That is the toughest one to answer because everything has changed. I guess I would have to say I wish I were a little more shrewd. When I was younger I totally lacked shrewdness. I wasn’t looking for openings and advances I just had my nose to the grindstone and was so thrilled with just being able to be an artist. I never thought to put a price tag on things starting out it took me forever to even approach selling anything. Part of it has to do with coming from a very repressive education, 12 years of Catholic school freedom was totally discouraged. So by the time I got myself to art school and had that, it was heaven. I was just happy to be a kid with her crayons and her clay, I didn’t think about my career and targeting it to a specific gallery.
GH: How do you see your career changing in the next five years?
JR: It would be nice to have a good gallery behind me, I need to be more proactive in shopping for gallery. On the other hand, something with music is calling me more and more to develop the poetry and lyrics I’ve been working on for years. I finally found a guitarist that I love working with. Right now, that’s at the top of my ‘what I wanna do’ list. It’s developing myself as a singer of my own songs, and maybe other people will want to cover them, and in that way, they’ll have a whole nother other life.
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