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Meet Jan Wetstone, the Woman Who Invented Mod Podge in Her Garage

One of her very first experiments involved decoupaging a Volkswagen Beetle. 

Jan Wetstone
Photography by: Plaid Enterprises, Inc.

If you tend to feel overwhelmed with impatience mid-craft project, you're not alone. To prove that point: One of the most versatile products the craft world has ever introduced is the result of one woman's dedication to speeding up the once-laborious art of decoupage — because who has time to apply and sand multiple layers of varnish? Janet (aka Jan) Wetstone sure didn't. That's why, in the 1960s, the Atlanta-based antique shop owner and do-it-yourself maven channeled her frustration into developing the ultimate time-saving adhesive: Mod Podge. (And in her garage, no less.)


Short for "Modern Decoupage," Jan's invention changed the way crafters viewed the delicate art of gluing paper cut-outs to surfaces for the better. Armed with a newfound efficiency (Mod Podge dries quickly and requires zero sanding), creatives could actually enjoy the artform. Amazing, right? And that's why everyone with a passion for crafting should know more Jan.


A true Southern belle, Jan grew up in South Carolina — she was born on April 19, 1928 in Spartanburg to parents Louis and Ella Meyerson — before moving to Missouri to attend the University of Missouri. She then relocated to Atlanta, where, as we know by now, her career really took off. 


[EDITORS' PICKS: The Best of Decoupage]
mod podge
Photography by: Plaid Enterprises, Inc.

Jan loved decoupage and would often practice the super popular craft on the antiques in her shop. After developing her now-beloved product in her garage, Jan used the back room of her store to test it, experimenting on various objects, including an old Volkswagen Beetle adorned with old sheets.


Naturally, Jan's customers were curious and eager to learn more about her innovative new technique. And so the iconic Mod Podge kits were born. A department store promptly purchased the exclusive rights to them. From there, Mod Podge quickly gained traction within the crafting community. It was named one of four best products by Chicago's Housewares Show in 1967.


As the proud owner of two patents — one for Mod Podge (obviously) and one for a subsequent molded frame-maker kit — Jan moved to Sarasota, Florida in 1982, where she started the children’s arts festival at the Ringling Museum before returning to the city that sparked her rise to fame in 2009.


[DID YOU KNOW? The Aristocratic History of Decoupage]

Sadly, Jan passed away on February 20, 2013, but her legacy and crazy-good invention, which has been sold by Plaid Enterprises since 1979, lives on in craft supplies around the world. It even inspired Martha's own formula, Martha Stewart Crafts Decoupage.


Feeling inspired? Celebrate the arrival of spring throughout your home with these trays decoupaged with beautiful blooms: