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FARMINGTON — Maine native Janet Herbert began her college studies as an art major, focusing on painting, but she switched to elementary education when she felt herself growing more and more unsatisfied with the results she was getting from her work.

Herbert stuck with education, eventually finding work in the Four Corners area through the Shiprock office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But rather than abandon art, she simply changed her focus in the early 1980s from painting to beaded embroidery, creating intricate jewelry pieces that also feature shells or polished stones.

“One of my frustrations with two-dimensional art was that I couldn’t represent the textures I saw out in the world,” said Herbert, whose work will be featured in a show opening this weekend at the Feat of Clay artists coop and gallery in Aztec. “When I saw beading, it allowed me to do that.”

Herbert never took a class in beading, honing her skill on her own for the past three and a half decades by reading books and studying techniques from around the world. She has never shown her work publicly until now, so the 50 or so pieces she plans on display at Feat of Clay will represent her coming-out party as an exhibiting artist.
“This is my first attempt after all these years at showing anything,” she said. “I’ve been really nervous about showing my work. Until now, I’ve always given it away to friends and family. So I’m very nervous about it.”

Despite her lack of experience in sharing her work with the public, Herbert has always taken her work seriously. She spent much of her time during family vacations back in Maine combing the state’s shoreline for polished stones or shells to use in her work. She’s also fond of using turquoise or lapis stones she finds in bead stores, as well as beads she collects from all over.

“Everything is natural,” she said of her work. “There’s no plastic.”

In addition to having found an art form that has allowed her to work with the textures she finds so important, Herbert said she finds the beaded embroidery process very quieting and meditative. There’s also the payoff of presenting a carefully crafted piece to someone she cares about.

“When I give it to friends or family, I enjoy their response to it,” she said. “That’s been very rewarding.”

Also showing her work at Feat of Clay is Bloomfield painter Guadalupe “Lupe” Martinez, a native of Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua, Mexico. A member of the Four Corners Art Association, she took up painting three years ago and prefers to work with oils on canvas.

The show remains on display through Nov. 12.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

If you go

What: Opening reception for a new exhibition by artists Lupe Martinez and Janet Herbert

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28

Where: Feat of Clay artists coop and gallery, 107 S. Main Ave. in Aztec

For more information: Call 505-334-4335

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