Jeannette's Costello has discovered the artist within
Jen Costello, who lives on the east side of Jeannette has discovered she has more than one hidden talent.
Costello has overcome some severe physical challenges in her life, but has found a new gift in the face of adversity.
In 1973, when Costello was 4, she was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor Cancer. After she had a kidney removed, the cancer continued to spread.
“I had an enormous amount of chemo and radiation. It was enough for a 300-pound man. I was given only two weeks to live, and it (the treatment) was very experimental,” said Costello, who miraculously survived.
However, she did not grow the way she was supposed to and has very little muscle in her back and a 40 percent curvature of her spine.
Costello and her wife, Deb, realized at some point she was going to have an issue with her mobility.
“I was a therapist at Western Psych, and I was always afraid of what I would do if I could not work.
“And then it actually happened two years ago, “ said Costello.
When she started having trouble walking, she was given leg braces and a cane.
“I hated the medical canes and I decided, I'm going to make a cane,” said Costello, who uses reclaimed wood for her projects.
“It is hard to have a disability and to use a cane. You don't want to go out,” said Costello, who first designed a cane for herself, and now designs them for other people.
It takes her about a month to fashion her custom-made canes. She hand whittles designs into each cane and paints them.
“It gives a lot of joy to people. It is a piece of me, and I get to know them. It (the cane) is about their life,” said Costello, whose canes reflects people's lives and their stories.
Although Costello insists she was never an artist, and has no formal training, she does admit she gets inspired when she works, and has good ideas for other projects.
“There is no limit to your imagination,” said Costello.
Costello has been gaining some local notoriety, both with her canes and her repurposing projects.
“The thing about doing this is, I'm not only putting myself out there, I'm putting my disability out there. The attention is overwhelming.
“You think you're by yourself, but then the reception you get is phenomenal,” said Costello, who was featured in a Women In Art Show at the Harlan Gallery at Seton Hill University.
“I was encouraged to place an entry. I entered two canes. I know so little about art that I had to call them and ask them what my medium was,” said Costello.
She has taken several ribbons over the last two years at the Westmoreland County Fair for her canes and took third place in a repurposing contest at Shop Demo Depot in Mt. Pleasant — a retail outlet that sells recycled building supplies and other materials.
“I don't think of anything as garbage; there is beauty in everything,” said Costello, who has made several benches from old bed frames and has a coffee table in her living room made from lumber she salvaged at Seven Springs.
The third-place project she created for Shop Demo Depot is an hourglass end table made from salvaged wood and empty wine bottles. Her table is now entered into a national contest with the ReUse People of America.
Costello credits her wife and her mother, Mary Ann Novak, for helping her with projects and making it possible for her to concentrate on her art work.
Additionally, Costello makes wooden boxes, has done some whimsical work with wine bottles and is featured on the website http://thatiswhatyouaregoodat.com, where her work is showcased and also she has a podcast.
“What a humbling experience. I never thought this would happen; especially after losing my job. Everyone needs a purpose, and to be able to make others feel good,” said Costello.
To learn more about Costello and her art, visit her Facebook page at JC Majestic Canes and Woodwork or her website at http://majesticcanes.webstarts.com.
Margie Stanislaw is a contributing writer.