×

Art Maker: Janna Ugone, craftswoman, and Justin Thomas, production manager

  • Janna Ugone, founder and designer at Ugone & Thomas in Easthampton, pieces together a hand-crafted lamp in her studio. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Janna Ugone, founder and designer at Ugone & Thomas in Eastha, matches a hand-crafted lamp shade titled "field chart" with a vintage base in her studio. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Janna Ugone, founder and designer at Ugone & Thomas in Easthampton, shapes a model finial, a structural element on top of a lamp, in her studio. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Janna Ugone and her business partner Justin Thomas are seen with their hand-crafted lamp shades including "Twigs," at front right, in their Easthampton studio. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Janna Ugone, founder and designer at Ugone & Thomas in Easthampton, pieces together a hand-crafted lamp in her studio. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Janna Ugone, founder and designer at Ugone & Thomas in Easthampton, is seen with her hand-crafted lamp shades including "Twigs" at front, which is set on an adjustable height steel base, at her studio. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Janna Ugone, founder and designer at Ugone & Thomas in Easthampton, displays handcrafted lamp shades at her studio. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Janna Ugone and Justin Thomas join forces on a range of decorative home furnishings, including lamps, tables and mirrors, in their Easthampton business. Image courtesy of Janna Ugone


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

After opening her Easthampton lighting studio in 1987, Janna Ugone handled the business herself for many years. But in 2009, she joined forces with Justin Thomas, a former University of Massachusetts Amherst student who’d interned with her, and today the two say they’ve formed a strong team. “I do the design, manage the image library, marketing, create systems,” says Ugone. “Justin oversees production, customer service, web management … By combining art and utility, we’re hoping our customer engages with design through daily routine.”

Their business, which designs decorative floor and table lamps, lamp shades, clocks, tables and other furniture, has also had a longstanding art/business internship program with Northampton High School; students learn Photoshop, production, trade show preparation and other aspects of the business. “We hope they leave with their eyes wide open, so they can combine their art talent with essential business skills,” says Ugone.

The company’s products can be seen at their Easthampton location and at Pinch Pottery in Northampton. 

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Janna Ugone: We just launched our 2018 gallery collection. This process begins with my sketches and sculptural models; once we move to hands-on work to make sure the ideas work in reality, I start painting. I hope that when our pieces are out in the world, they become part of a new creative expression.

H.L. What do you draw inspiration from?

JU: Creating community through creativity. From our staff to our customers to our welder and UPS guy, I love that our work brings together so many wonderful people. In an arty way, I’m inspired by, among other things, street art, maps, backyard birds, falcons and hawks, woodlands with native species.

Justin Thomas: Things that are done well. Either made well, like a lamp, a loaf of bread, or done well, as in good service. You can tell when things are done well because their intentions are clear; they follow through on their mission.

H.L.: Have you ever had a “mistake” — a project that seemed to be going south — turn into a wonderful discovery instead?

JT: We make mistakes all the time, and that’s important, but usually we say “Get this disaster as far away as possible!” The discovery is that you can almost always fix it and make something failed better.

HL: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

JU: Bertel Bager, nature photographer. His work is a gorgeous portrayal of simple nature. And the lighting designers, Gerry and Thelma Moss, from the ’50s. Together they made the craziest fun lamps.

JT: The painter Charles Burchfield, and the ceramicist Lucie Rie. Her work is beautiful, very simple.

HL: If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d be?

JU: A residential architect. I love designing/organizing small construction projects. 

HL: What do you do when you’re stuck?

JU: Ugh, it feels like mud. I can jump out, go for a bike ride to get reinvigorated, but if I have deadlines and I need to deliver, I push really hard: make coffee, put music on, flick through past sketches, books, images on line. Then I sketch, sketch, sketch some more. And finally, I start painting.

— Steve Pfarrer

Ugone & Thomas will be participating in this year’s Open Studios event at 1 Cottage Street in Easthampton on May 5  from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and May 6 from noon-5 p.m. The company’s website is ugoneandthomas.com.