Reprinted In Its Entirety With Permission From The Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Spirit of Italy and Texas captured in man￿s work
By Angie Summers

Source:  Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Credit:  Star-Telegram staff writer
Sunday,February 3, 2008
Edition: ArlingtonS, Section: Advance Metro, Page BB1

* The Rome native loves art but spent most of his working life as a boot and shoe designer.

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ARLINGTON ￿ The soft golden tones of Tuscany, the brilliant blue along the Amalfi Coast and the rich jewel tones cast from canals in Venice reflect the passion both in Claudio Janni￿s artwork and in his life.

The Rome native has loved art "all of his life" but spent his professional life as a shoe and boot designer. Only after his retirement from Justin Boots in 2001 could he devote more time to painting.

It wasn￿t a life that he envisioned while growing up in Rome ￿ until he met a young Pan American stewardess in 1963. Arleen Janni had a two-day layover in Rome. She spoke no Italian, and he spoke no English. But they were young and idealistic.

"We fell in love, and we had seen too many movies," he said.

The couple faced some obstacles. Janni was working with the Merchant Marine and was into one year of a two-year contract when they decided to get married.

"I asked the boat captain if I could leave so I could move to the United States, but he said I had to honor my contract," he said. "So I jumped the ship."

The couple married in Sicily. After a brief absence so Janni could get his paperwork to leave Italy, they were reunited in Arleen￿s native New York. The couple lived in Brooklyn, where he worked at the Parsons School of Design building in the fashion industry. That job led to Nashville in the early 1970s, where he worked with Lucchese Boots and Wrangler Boots before moving to Arlington in 1981 to work with Justin Boots.


Did you enjoy working as a boot designer?

Oh, yes. I got involved designing Western boots with Sam Lucchese. When I was with the company, I got to meet lots of different people for whom we designed custom boots, such as actors John Wayne, Maureen O￿Hara and Dale Robertson. I also met Mickey Mantle. I offended him because I thought he was a truck driver. I didn￿t know anything about baseball then.

What type of concepts do you look at when designing a Western boot?

Some of it is geographical since cowboys aren￿t the same in different areas of the country and don￿t use the same type of boots. You also look at whether the items are working boots or show boots. Finally you have to look at the tannage of the leather, then coordinate the colors or contrast in the design and any techniques such as hand tooling or embossing that you want. You also need to look at the stitching on the boot.

What are your interests since you retired?

Painting and cooking have always been part of my life, but my son introduced me to golf. Golf has drawn me in, and it￿s a new passion.

What type of paintings do you produce?

My paintings are all oils of landscapes in Italy. I do about seven to eight a year, depending on the subject. Many paintings are inspired by Venice and its canals, plus scenes from Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast.

How do you choose your subjects?

I go to Italy at least once a year, sometimes twice a year. I sketch and take notes about the time of year or the colors I see. Sometimes I take a photograph so I can refer to it when I￿m painting.

How would you describe your paintings?

They have a strong focus with light and contrast. I use realistic detail in my paintings.

What advice can you give people?

Never give up, no matter what you choose to do. And if you have a good heart, you￿ll be OK.


Claudio Janni

Age: 68

Occupation: Artist; retired as director of product development for Justin Boots, Lucchese Boots and Wrangler Boots

Education: Studied at Conte Verde School of Art and attended Nuova Italia Art Institute in Italy

Unique honor: He explains how to make boots in a video display at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Artwork: His paintings have been featured in exhibitions in Rome, Venice and Florence, plus in the Banks Fine Art and Florence Art galleries in Dallas and in the Milan Art Gallery in Fort Worth.

Family: Married for 42 years to his wife, Arleen. They have two sons, one daughter and six grandchildren.  ANGIE SUMMERS, 817-548-5405


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image: When Claudio Janni worked at Lucchese Boots, he met celebrities like John Wayne and Maureen O￿Hara. "I also met Mickey Mantle," he says. "I offended him because I thought he was a truck driver."

S-T/Bruce Maxwell

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image: Claudio Janni has retired from boot companies and spends time painting and playing golf. Janni, who is originally from Rome, lives in north Arlington. His advice? "Never give up, no matter what you choose to do."

Star-Telegram/Bruce Maxwell


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