Find spring in January
Jeannie Jay Martin is a force to be reckoned with, but one of the most cheerful forces you could meet.
The Rifle artist, best known as the Fabric Chef who creates realistic-looking food out of fabric and paint, has shifted her focus to photography. Her first exhibit is called “Think Spring,” and it features vibrant nature photos from John Denver’s gardens and her very own backyard. Her work will be on display at Barnes and Noble in Grand Junction throughout the month.
“I’m moving in this direction because it’s a little less stressful, and it’s still very creative,” Martin said.
Martin got her first digital camera, a Sony point-and-shoot, as a gift from her children about two years ago. Ever the creative, she began experimenting with photography and reading about different methods.
Eventually, she bought another camera, a Canon PowerShot. While she continued to experiment with it and began shooting nature photos of a newly planted garden in her yard, she was unsatisfied with the quality and upgraded again to a PowerShot SX50.
“I bought it after researching the PowerShots because they’re the easiest — you don’t have to buy extra lenses,” Martin said. “I think my photos have soul. There are these cameras that are thousands of dollars, but the photos start looking not real, cold, like posters or something. To me, this is what I like. It’s just like being there.”
Martin said she decided to call her show “Think Spring” because people are ready for warmer weather at this point, and she hopes her photos brighten someone’s day and remind them that spring is coming.
“I get so much pleasure out of sharing and laughing with people and them enjoying my work,” Martin said. “I like what I do, but I’m a total people person, and I like making people happy.”
Martin said she loves photographing all kinds of things — from inanimate objects, to pets, to people — but she’s always felt close to nature. One of her favorite places to take photos is the John Denver Sanctuary.
“I’ve always loved John Denver because he was an environmentalist,” Martin said. “It’s a really beautiful and inspirational place, and the flowers are out of this world. They’re so beautiful and thick and lush.”
Martin has led a unique life, with her creativity at play all along the way. She worked as the youngest manager of a 7-Eleven branch in Denver when she was 20 years old, and she said even there she was able to decorate around holidays and build her own displays. She was involved with the Cub Scouts and loved making crafts with the kids. She won her first award when she was 14 years old for an oil painting she made in high school.
Then, of course, she found her claim to fame as the Fabric Chef. Her pop art creations can be found around the country and the world — and in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not: Special Edition 2015.” Her fabric foods are in the Ripley’s museum in Panama City, Florida, and one piece was just sent to Denmark. That one, a platter of pastries, is now next to a statue of the “World’s Fattest Man” at the Guinness World Records Museum.
“It’s always been such a kick because people have tried to eat them,” she said of her shockingly realistic creations.
But in 2011, the faltering economy and medical issues led her to put her Fabric Chef projects on hold. While she has gotten back into that facet of her creativity, it is an expensive and time-consuming venture, so she’s sought other artistic outlets like photography.
From there, she has also begun creating her own greeting cards using her photographs, and she hopes to start selling them in local shops.
No matter what Martin does — from managing a convenience store, to creating food from fabric, to photographing nature — she does not do it halfway.
“It’s an interesting life I’ve had,” she said with a laugh. “I can’t stay bored.”
This year’s theme is “Marble Mash” in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Memorial, which was built from marble mined in the nearby Crystal River Valley town of Marble. Among the day’s events is a statue contest.
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