NJMOMpreneur: Jillian Manno, BareHands Artisans


After working odd jobs and lending a hand with her husband’s restaurant, Jillian Manno, our NJMOMpreneur of the week, was inspired by her “greatest work of art” (her five children) to open her own collective fine arts studio called BareHands Artisans in Belmar, New Jersey.  BareHands Artisans is a design studio meant to inspire, create, and push boundaries through claymaking, macrame, calligraphy, weaving, and so much more. We’re inspired by her commitment to bringing families together to get creative as well as her drive to feed the homeless at “Community Dinners,” (feeding anywhere from 400 to 600 people!). This NJMOM loves to dance like nobody’s watching, and she’s positive she can write a book about the soccer fields in New Jersey (?? five kids). She sat down with us to discuss her plans to do more custom work and improve the studio, as well as her favorite places to visit around New Jersey with her family, like The Herbary at Bear Creek Farm in Howell.

NJMOMpreneur & Creator of BareHands Artisans, Jillian Manno

NJMOMpreneur Jillian Manno and her family

NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Jillian: BareHands Artisans is a design studio meant to inspire our students. My love of interior design along with the structure and style of the space lends itself to more than a studio but an experience. The feedback rings true because people often tell me “it feels good here,” upon entering. I refer to the studio as a “collective Fine Art studio”, because the vision and desire is to create a place to be, create, learn, congregate, escape, and push boundaries. The collectiveness is encouraged by collaborating with different instructors whether it be one or two times for a workshop or class for more submersion into a particular medium. Emerging out of this cohesiveness and inviting atmosphere are the artists in waiting, the ones picking it back up and looking to change their daily life. The vision is happening. This studio is more than a pottery studio.

It’s taking tough situations or unexpected results and seeing them as a gift, a challenge, an opportunity, a chance of growing – that just need another angle for a solution.” – Jillian Manno, NJMOMpreneur

NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Jillian: What inspired me to get into my line of work is first and foremost my fine arts degree. The BHA studio came so many years after that because of starting a family and my other half being in the restaurant business. I truly feel motherhood inspired and created what I am today. My husband would always say, “our kids are your greatest work of art,” and those words rang true. I believed them, but in the midst of pregnancies, breastfeeding, etc., I would find my way back to studios or other artistic endeavors to keep that part of me real.

There was a point over the years I chose to believe in the journey and my essence (what makes one themselves). As my confidence grew as a woman so did my patience as a mother. I patiently admired the success of other women and I kept busy in small projects of design. Three years prior to opening the studio I came up with the name. I wanted to learn other mediums of work that I admired but knew clay was my mainstay. Why not have a collective studio so I can still be a student? If it was not for being a mother, I would have been seriously limiting myself! Learning patience and quiet admiration was a gift from my children.

NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Jillian: My favorite part of the business so far would be the interactions with clients and buzz I hear while people are working on things. If I’m teaching a workshop and I see someone convince themselves (whether it’s an adult or child) that they can’t do it, I love seeing them they push through. It’s amazing to see a super quiet client that is taking an ongoing class, have a break from her norm and now become chatty and start to socialize! People talking loudly, “this is fun, I haven’t had this much fun lately.” It’s so wonderful to have clients that are signing up together from the same family spending time together, being competitive and laughing. I also love my children taking workshops, as well! Sure, there are other aspects that could compete for being my favorite, but the intention of this place being a gift to others means the vision is set right.

via Jillian Manno

NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Jillian: Well, that would be in the background of a very successful business Giamanos Ristorante. My husband was the chef and owner (we have since closed it to develop the property after he personally ran it for 20 years along with his sister and mother). Yes, I was in the background … I helped with odd jobs (the remodel etc and off-premise design help) but I had a unique positioning of listening and watching someone work his ass off for years. I model so much of the language my husband has used to book parties and to experience a business that is not fit for the faint of heart. Neither is 5 kids! My mothering skills and mastering a “controlled chaos,” well, that’s really my business experience.

NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Jillian: I don’t necessarily think that I have had a career yet. I have specific goals and layers/of BareHands Artisans that are timely and important to me. So at this phase, only really open since June 2018, I am most proud of the execution, design, and opening of the studio. To see something come to fruition out of my head, step out of my comfort zone, and align myself with good people to help carry out the evolving vision of this collective studio makes me proud indeed. There is a bit of manifestation going on here in more ways than one, which feels special. My family, friends, and new important influential people have come into my life to encourage and support me. The unconditional love feels that I must have been a good person along this path.  

NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?   
Jillian: I think I’m an incredible dancer in my head and do not care what it looks like. I love to dance while out at concerts and random spontaneous places like the food store and even in my kitchen. My evening is complete if there is dancing and laughing. And as for my dancing companions, the weirder the better.

Jillian’s kids practicing weaving via Jillian Manno

NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Jillian: Professionally, more of a body of work now that the studio is up and running. I have some goals set for some phases of the studio to roll out. I also want to do more custom work and be a part of shows at a larger format. Overall, there are many ideas I have had to wait on executing to make the studio better, more professional and more synergistically creative.

Personally, my goal is to improve on some of my weaker traits due to inexperience and get more of a balance between my personal life and professional life. The summertime will mark, a significant growth period of one year and I am excited to get some new aspects up and running by then!

NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Jillian: Coming from the food background, as a family we felt passionate about feeding the homeless. We created a different version of a soup kitchen and called it a “Community Dinner” in Asbury Park on Thanksgiving for 6 years and Christmas day for 14 years. We fed anywhere from 400 to 600 people during each Community Dinner Event, that was full of live bands and various giving efforts including countless volunteers and community members gifting and donating ahead of time. We met every Christmas morning with our crew and got to know the families that were on the receiving end. The whole thing was quite an orchestrated operation. It was special. Volunteers you would see every Christmas became like family.

Gathering the community together via Jillian Manno

NJMOM: Who is your role model? Why?
Jillian: My mother, she has had a lasting effect on me of unwavering strength including handling situations and pressing forward with undaunting confidence. Pulling solutions out of nowhere because it was a necessity.

NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom (or parent/role model) ever gave to you?
Jillian: As bad as things seem, just take it one day at a time. That’s all that is humanly possible anyway. Start again tomorrow.

NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by? Why is this quote so important to you?

How is this happening for me?

It’s taking tough situations or unexpected results and seeing them as a gift, a challenge, an opportunity, a chance of growing that just need another angle for a solution.

NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Jillian: We love doing anything outdoors including riding bikes to the beach as a family at any time of day or of the year. Attending my children’s sporting events (I could quite possibly write a tourism book on all of the soccer fields in New Jersey). We are big foodies in our house, so going out to eat is something we do often.

NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Jillian: I enjoy all of the different personalities under one roof and all the funny things they say. Seeing perseverance and courage when they have pushed through and accomplished something they may have been previously afraid or fearful of. They are my greatest accomplishments! They are my legacy.

Time for a workshop at BareHands Artisans via Jillian Manno

NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Jillian: For my daily coffee, I love going to Rook in Wall. Other fun places we enjoy as a family includes Talula’s in Asbury Park, Good Karma Cafe in Red Bank, Stay Gold Cafe in Belmar, and The Herbary at Bear Creek Farm in Howell. 

NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Jillian: If I am talking to a mom, she has most likely gone through a huge transformation becoming a mom already. Work really hard on specific ideas to be planned out as a future phase. Be willing to get a few hours of sleep on a specific night or two to bang out ideas or work etc., so your daytime can be different even if you’re tired (you will get more done at times and will be more available to the kids). Your time is very valuable, be mindful of how you spend it and with whom you spend it. Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people for yourself and your family.

NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to add?
Jillian: BHA studio has been in collaboration thus far with incredible instructors whether it is for ongoing classes or a guest workshop. We are so appreciative of this and want to thank Mary Leather, Joanne Traskiewicz, Kate Eggelston, Kate Grady, Pam Hastings, Jess Moore, Juliana Iglay, Brittany Raimo, Lauren Bogosian, and Steffan Manno. We look forward to more collaborations of different mediums and social creative events. Last but not least, we thank our web designer and talented artist Julie Gannon of GoGannon graphics.

For more information on BareHands Artisans, follow along on Instagram and Facebook.

About Author

Erika is a yogi, writer, coffee enthusiast, and world traveler. If she's not at the beach or chasing the sunset, she's looking for the best iced coffee she can find and planning her next adventure. Her favorite NJ spots include The Saint, Island Heights, and Lava Java House.