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Jan Stiles: Design that gives back

Shea Stanfield~ 1/25/2015

“When we give our respect to other living things, they respond by giving their respect to us.” – Arapaho proverb. This is the spirit inspiring local jewelry artist Jan Stiles in creating her elegantly subtle designs. 

A long way from her childhood roots in the suburbs of Detroit, Jan connected with nature during her summer visit to her grandparents’ cottage in northern Michigan. Captivated by the rhythms of the seasons, Jan grew up keenly observant of nature’s patterns.  Encouraged by the first “designing women,” her mother and paternal grandmother, Jan learned to construct her own wardrobe by the time she was in middle school and tailored a suit for her father by college. The “pieces” of life came together for her in cooking as well. Guided by her grandmother, Jan learned the essential elements of baking pies, making jams, and properly preparing the fish her brothers caught during the long summer days.  

Jan first enrolled in interior and clothing design in college. She soon switched to architecture, earning a BS in Architecture from the University of Michigan. Loving the challenges of creating on a larger platform, Jan worked in the architectural, engineering, and construction fields for 15 years. By the time her children came along, she was weary of the long hours and the constant travel that took her away from her family. The decision was made to set aside the architectural business world and move into academia. By this time, Jan had become a serious art collector, and her eye for fine jewelry was reflected in her years of experience in design.

Jan’s parents moved to Tucson in 1986 to enjoy retirement free of gray skies and snow drifts. In 1987, Jan and her family followed, moving to Phoenix. The move to the Southwest would prove to be a new chapter in family creativity. Jan and her mom renewed their interest in jewelry design frequenting gem shows.  Jan took classes from local artist Jen Hanscom at CreativeU, learning to work with sterling silver.  This opened a new phase in her jewelry design.

Asked what inspires her work, Jan will tell you, “I enjoy the colors and feel of raw semi-precious stones as well as pearls. I look for unique items when traveling to include in my pieces.”  Recently, Jan began to accent her dining room table with “table jewelry,” which has proven to be a huge hit. Jan displays and sells her during a number of events in the state: Jewels Fine Artfest in Tucson, the Artisan Market in Scottsdale, including Canal Convergence, the Scottsdale Italian Festival, the Sunnyslope ArtWalk, Litchfield Christmas in the Park, and others.

Jan Stiles gives back with her art.  Ten percent of every sale goes to the Jamaica Missions Project that goes to support construction projects in rural Jamaica.  Jan travels to Jamaica teaching jewelry making to a small group of young ladies in Bonham Spring and is helping them develop a jewelry business.  Jan does solicit donations of money and beading supplies every year to take with her for the girls.  To contact Jan about her creations, email her at

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at