Member Stories

30

Jane Reiter – Textile Artist, Zentangler

Jane Reiter 

 
 “Basically any plain surface is ripe for tangling. “I’d love to do my car, but my husband would freak out.” —Jane Reiter
 

Patterns and colors 
Ever since she was a little kid, Jane Reiter has wanted to be an artist. “My father was an architect, and my mother was a librarian and a seamstress—not a professional seamstress, but she always sewed, our clothes, her clothes, curtains and tablecloths, she sewed a lot!” That love of sewing and fabric naturally rubbed off on Jane. “My mom taught me how to use her sewing machine, and I made clothes for my dolls and my toys,” she says. 

 
Jane grew up in Haslett, Michigan, along with three other siblings, two older and one younger. “Our parents always encouraged our creativity,” Jane says. “And we always had a big box of crayons—lots of coloring—lots and lots of coloring.” 
 
By the book
Because of their supportive nature, Jane’s parents made sure Jane could attend college and study the art she loved. So she headed off to Indiana University in Bloomington, a college she chose due to their strong textile program. “My interest has always been tactile—fabric and yarn,” says Jane. “So I got my bachelors of fine arts in weaving and textile design, and later my masters because I also wanted to teach.” 
 
After graduation, Jane began her job search, but unfortunately, her field was not as open as she had hoped. After five years of searching for work in textiles and coming up empty handed, Jane went back to school in 1990 and got a graduate degree in library science and soon after, her career as a librarian took hold and lasted for 20 years. 
 
A layered life
During that time Jane was living in New Jersey and met her husband, Timothy, also a librarian, and despite a full schedule, she made sure to make room for what she loved, making art. When she wasn’t busy with books, she was busy exploring her artist's side. She loved making repurposed art. “I made collages, mixed-media style out of paper and fabric, beads, bottlecaps and doodads.”
 

In 2000, Jane and Timothy moved back to Lansing, so Jane could be near her parents, and she worked at Lansing CommunityCollege and then Olivet College as the library director. Then her position at Olivet College was downsized, and even though she had always been doing art over the years, it began to take up a more prominent place in her life, and Jane started focusing on some different aspects of her art. “In between hunting for a librarian position, I worked on beefing up my art activity and tried to find teaching situations,” says Jane. 

 
She also created an online Etsy shop, featuring her line of handmade fashion accessories scarves, necklaces, bracelets and hats, and began plans to do shows in order to connect with people face-to-face. “I was focusing on mandalas and radial designs and also exploring the spiritual aspect of the mandalas that I discovered while doing collage,” she says.
 
Tangled up in cool
 It was while researching mandala art that she discovered Zentangle and “zendalas.” Zentangle is an art technique that uses drawing as a meditative practice. “It is drawing—you’re using tools, but you’re mind is really engaged in the process, so it becomes a practice. It’s like a meditation with a pen or pencil. It’s a repetitive stroke that helps you to be centered and calm. It’s really cool!”
 
While Jane was used to exploring different mediums and materials, her love of Zentangle took her by surprise, as drawing and painting had never been her thing. Once she got hooked, however, she couldn’t stop, and that’s where the Arts Council became important. Jane’s friend Zahrah Resh had received an Arts Council Individual Artist Grant to do an art exhibit at Olivet College. Zarhah also gave a presentation in Olivet’s library on her art work, and she spoke a great deal about the grant. “She spent a lot of time on campus,” says Jane, “And she was very encouraging and vocal in promoting the Arts Council to me.” 
 
Jane says it took her a couple years to get around to joining the Arts Council. “I tend to procrastinate, but I knew that they were friendly, encouraging and supportive.” Shortly after becoming a member, she applied for the Chris Clark Fellowship. “I did my Zentangle teacher training last September with my Chris Clark fellowship funds,” she says. “I wanted to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher.” 
 
An artist in transition
While Jane’s art has had many incarnations, this recent transformation has been more spiritual. “It was the right thing at the right time. Last year I was working really hard and that had benefits and rewards, but I could feel myself getting burned out and wanting to do something differently.” 
 
Jane says that the best benefit of Zentangle art is that it lets people experience the joy of creating art without being labeled an artist. “It’s accessible to people of all ages and provides a meditative practice along with the joy and confidence and reward that comes from creating your own piece of art.”
 
The Zentangle training seminars were very revealing for her. The openness and calmness to the approach really resonated with her, and she knew this was how she wanted teach. “It was so different from art school. There’s no mistakes, no right-side-up, no erasers—you just do it, and if you don’t like it, you create something new.” Now, when Jane teaches art, she helps students learn to relax and enjoy the process, telling them, “There is no concept of perfect. The process is as important as the end product.” 
 
A big adventure
Currently Jane is helping with summer art camps at Reach Studio Art Center, and she is doing some other camps where she teaches Zentangle. Her adult offerings include classes at her friend Dusty DeHaven’s SmittenDust Studio in Dimondale. Jane is also having a show at the end of the year that combines her new love with her passion for repurposing what’s already there. “This exhibit is a totally new thing for me,” Jane says. “It’s an adventure—all the preparing—the community piece—the installation—it’s really big.” As part of the project, Jane enticed community members to draw zentangles that she will incorporate into the exhibit along with her own drawings and photographs of abandoned or vacant Lansing buildings. 
 
Jane is extremely excited and grateful with the way the training has changed her own teaching, and she is so happy she can share the art and the spiritual practice along with it. “The spiritual element of art making –I just love it, love it, love it.” 
 
Fun Facts
Jane makes a lot of her fashion accessories with recycled silk saris from India and silk sari yarns. The silk sari yarns come from a business-owner out of Maine, who works with cooperatives from Napal, India that support women.
 
Two of Jane’s favorite and inspiring artists are Yayoi Kusama and Joesph Cornell.