This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
. . .
Jo Haemer is a jeweler. She welcomed us to her shop in May, apron on and hammer ready. As she deftly worked platinum ingots, she talked with us about mid-century art and Midwestern tattoo shops. We admire her and her ability to find balance in life as she continues to do more of what she loves.
By the time you were in high school, you were metalsmithing and making jewelry, so you must know a few things about persistence and longevity. Life pulls us in a lot of directions, so what can you tell us about routines and finding balance as we pursue our passions?
The world doesn’t owe me a damn thing. I never take for granted that I get to make art for a living. I believe that possessing grit and good solid skills is WAY more important than talent, money, and a college degree.
How do you prepare yourself for work? Do you have any rituals?
I’m an early riser. First thing every morning I make a cup of coffee and then go to the studio to see what I need to do that day. I turn on the lights, machines, and music. I love my work enough that I always seem to get sucked in. By late morning / early afternoon when my stomach tells me to eat, I look up at the clock and realize that I’m STILL in my PJs and slippers, haven’t bathed, and what remains of my coffee is cold.
How do you unwind?
At the end of my work day, I treat myself to some Danodan in tea, hop water, soda water, and once a week in a shot of vodka on ice. My body has taken a serious beating from working in metals for over 50 years. CBD has given me the gift of being able to, at the age of 70, still carry on doing what I most love to do. (My current favorite Danodan product is Recovery Hemp Flower Infusion with willow bark, turmeric and ginger – all great for recovering from a hard day’s work.)
You were raised surrounded by art, which seems to have influenced your journey. What else, outside of work, do you find beautiful or compelling? If you have a process, are these things part of it?
I love music, hiking, and gardening. Nature is my main inspiration. Walking in nature always calms my body and stimulates my mind and imagination.
You worked on the Portlandia statue as one of few people able to work copper and the only woman on the team. It seems that you’re as much a part of Portland as she is. What does it mean to you to be part of a community?
I love this city. I moved here over 40 years ago because of the arts scene and because Portland was small enough then that I knew that I could make a difference in the quality of life here. I love having had the honor of watching my early days art, music, and literary compadres mature and grow into icons. And I especially love participating in the community as we old farts mentor and encourage the next generations.
Jo Haemer, left, and Greg Pettingill in front of Raymond Kaskey’s Portlandia sculpture. Photo provided by Jo Haemer.
You’re a true individual and someone who inspires us. You also talked to us about the importance of valuing one’s own work. Why are these things important?
I was taught by my father, a painter, that the whole stereotype of an artist suffering for their art and having a defeatist attitude is total bullshit. Never race to the bottom. The more I value my art and the more I charge for it, the more both myself and the public respect my work.
How would the world look tomorrow if more people did what they were passionate about?
Well, we are finding that out now. After the pandemic so many folks have had the time to reflect on what is truly important in their lives. So many are changing their lives to follow what matters most to them. I hope it’s all for the better.
Can you tell us what you’re working on right now that excites you?
I’m semi-retired now and I have been exploring vitreous enameling. After so many years of working in metals, which have a limited color palette, I have been delving into the bright colors of enamels. I have also been making ridiculously extravagant eyewear.
On Balance is a new series from Danodan Hempworks featuring members of the Danodan community. These people and their stories inspire us. For more articles like this one, check out our blog, subscribe to our newsletter below, and follow @danodanhempworks on Instagram and Facebook.
Check out Jo Haemer’s recommendation: Recovery