In this interview, we spotlight a multi-talented Nigerian lady, whose love for science and art has merged into one, to become an avenue for growth in the creative sphere. Janet Temitope Adegoke hails from the Western part of Nigeria, Kwara State, but she is not confined to that region alone. She has a zest for travelling, having toured several parts of Nigeria, including the Northern, Eastern and Western parts of the country.
Throughout her years of schooling, Janet mostly studied in Nigeria, until she went to the Benin Republic for a brief tertiary education. However, she went back to her home country to complete her University education at Bowen University, Osun State, Nigeria.
Seeing Janet for the first time, one encounters a pleasant and bubbly personality which snags your attention, making you want to know more. As one who studied Human Anatomy, and teaches passionately, it comes as no surprise that she’s always on a quest to know more.
What is most surprising however is how she manages to draw, sew, bake, crotchet, illustrate, write and teach without ever experiencing a burnout.
Janet Adegoke is an epitome of creativity, proving that one can really do it all, and well. In this interview, Gabriella Opara speaks with the poet, and lover of art, asking Janet how she does it all:
You crotchet, you sew, you bake, you write, you draw/illustrate, you teach – have you always wanted to do these things or you stumbled on them?
I have been drawing since JSS 1, that’s since 2005, but I wasn’t really taking it seriously. I just had this attraction to it, a passion. At one point I was always like, “God, I wish I could draw.”
So I started drawing anything I see. I drew cartoons, comics, motifs, patterns and so much more. I tried my hand at anything, but it was mostly amateurish, not professional.
When I was bored, happy or sad I’d just scribble, and I loved calligraphy a lot.
My baking? My aunt had a bakery, she made bread but I wasn’t allowed to go to the bakery, so I couldn’t learn bread making. But, at home, she’d make cakes for people, so I learned to bake cakes by watching her and helping out.
Crocheting is something I always wondered about, it was like magic to me. My curious mind had to ask, “Ahn ahn, how do people do this thing?”
Eventually, I learnt to crochet when I was 18 years old, or thereabout. I got the hang of crocheting by curiosity, questions and my ever-present need to know.
Did sewing lead to fashion illustration or vice versa?
Actually, it was the fashion illustration that led to sewing. Although, when I finished secondary school in 2011, I wanted to learn sewing. But, I didn’t, my mum was skeptical about getting a good place I could apprentice at. She said, “They’d use you. You’ll cross the road. They’d gossip.”
Fashion illustration started for me in 2017; before then my art was mostly just cartoons. I have always loved fashion drawing, and compliment people who do them. So, I decided to try fashion illustration and keep improving at it, although I never knew I would get this good at it. When people see my work now and say, “It’s good!” I laugh and think, “If you see how I started.”
In 2019, during my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), I took up sewing as my skills acquisition, because I always wanted to sew. I learnt the basics, which is something I can build on now.
In terms of fashion illustration and sewing? I’m better at fashion illustration.
I will just say that one thing for me was that flair, passion, attraction, and also a determination to learn and be consistent. I don’t give up, I just keep trying. I make a lot of mistakes, try again, until I get it.
How have you managed to stay inspired?
I just always like going through other people’s work for all the things I do. My baking, my crocheting, my art and sewing.
I love researching a lot; I compile photos, I go through them, study and analyze them. Practice, practice, practice. It keeps me inspired.
You know it’s said, “You become what you look at.” So I’m always constantly looking at my research. I also love talking to people, hearing their stories, and get ideas when I’m listening to them.
I stay inspired by studying people’s work and listening to people’s stories all around me.
Your schedule must be crazy, how do you find time to do all of these and stay on top of it all?
I’m actually used to my schedule. I know I have so many interests, so I have adapted to it. It’s not like I have a written timetable, but subconsciously I kind of just have a way of balancing everything out. Sometimes, I sew; other times I crotchet.
Okay, this year I haven’t really drawn. I drew from January to March, before the pandemic, but when it started I began crocheting more. So, I subconsciously have a way of doing one thing at a time, even though I’m doing many things as people would think.
Poetry is something I don’t do every day; I only do it when I’m inspired to write something. The crotchet work is not something I finish in a day. I might just start a project, stop, come back, stop, until I’m done. That’s how I even it out.
The pandemic really hit everyone hard, how were you able to cope and deal with your mental health, and finances?
Hmm, the lockdown. How was I able to cope? Well, honestly, the way everybody coped in this pandemic, that’s the same way I coped. The grace of God.
Concerning my finances? I’m a teacher, so my salary was cut by 50%. They’ve been gracious to us, by giving us half salaries, so I’m really grateful for that. I’ve been able to use it to manage myself, and be economical.
About my mental health, I just try to do things that make me happy. In fact, that’s why I indulge in my creativity because they give me a sense of peace and tranquillity. I’ve been crocheting, reading, studying, doing all the things that I love. That’s how I maintain my sanity.
It hasn’t been easy, it’s been rough for everybody, but you just have to hold on, and keep telling yourself that God is in charge.
One thing I always tell myself is, “You’re not the person with the worst-case scenario.”
I know that people are going through the worst things than me, people being affected in the worst ways. So I don’t really whine about it or be ungrateful to God. I actually try to always be optimistic and have a positive outlook no matter what.
What was your creative process like during the lockdown period?
My creative process during the pandemic was actually good because I had a lot of time to focus, I wasn’t going to work or anything.
Even my art, I didn’t draw but I had lots of ideas that I wrote down. My creative process was a form of retreat, I had time to go back, search within myself, and think of ideas.
Have you always wanted to teach?
Yes, I’ve always wanted to teach. I actually wanted to be a medical doctor, and then go into academics by becoming a medical lecturer. So I’ve always had a desire for teaching.
I’ve been teaching since secondary school, I taught my mates.
When I was in the Benin Republic I did tutorials, when I was at Bowen I did tutorials. I actually have a gift for teaching, I teach children around me. I was even a Sunday school teacher in the Benin Republic. So, yeah, its something natural to me, I find myself doing it easily.
Sometimes, someone will ask me something and I will start explaining, and they would say “Ah Janet, you explain too much!”
I have an attitude of always wanting to break down (simplify) things for people to understand.
What’s life like now as a teacher in Nigeria during the new normal, how do you boost the morale of your students?
To be honest the students are happy to resume because they are tired of staying at home. It’s like a dream come true for them to resume.
What are your dreams or aspirations?
My dream is for my art to be known all over the world. Also, in the professional terms; my dream is to go for my masters and PhD and become a lecturer.
Basically, the summary of my aspirations is to impact positively. I want to be the best I can be, to impact as many people as I can in one way or another; whether through my art, my crafts or as a lecturer.
Do you make money from any of your talents?
Currently, I don’t. I just do them.
(Laughs) I really hope to make money from them, because it takes a lot of time to create things. But I’m hoping that in the future, my art will be bought and appreciated by people worldwide. I guess I’m just a work in progress, I’m in a constant phase of learning.
Gabriella Opara is a student and freelance content writer based in Lagos. She is passionate about creativity and self-development, moonlighting as a poet and amateur artist by night.
Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @glamogen