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Friday, April 4, 2014

First Friday: The Art of Metal and Stone, Jessica Weiss

I first saw Jessica Weiss's creations at the TACA Festival in Nashville about three years ago. We now live in the same city and I had the pleasure of visiting with Jessica in her Knoxville showroom to learn more about her work. While in her store I was unable to find a single piece that I wouldn't love to own. I don't wear a ton of jewelry and mainly because I have forgotten how to accessorize; however, relearning this forgotten skill would be made easy with Jessica's pieces. 

Jessica's work is completely handmade. Minus the stones of course. She turns to mother nature and a very special store in North Carolina for those. What store you ask? Her lips are sealed. She wouldn't even tell me "off the record!" The chains she makes for her pieces are so beautiful. The piece in the image below is one of her most difficult pieces to create. The multi-loop chain is solid gold and formed by hand. I can't get over how incredible it is. And I feel so cheesy saying incredible but it really is.  

You may notice a cohesive color palate in Jessica's work like I did. "The beach," she responded when I brought it up. Malibu is Jessica's happy place. I am ready to pack my bags and hop on a jet plane for Malibu after talking to her about it. 

Enough of my jabber. Here is what Jessica has to say:

I want this bangle so bad. This is a newer piece of Jessica's that she design with ladies in mind that may have a harder time finding bangles that work due to larger hands and small wrists. She designed a new type of clasp/opening that allows any lady to wear this lovely bobble. 

PP: What sparked your interest to attend Penland School of Crafts after perusing a degree at the University of Tennessee (remind me...was it a fine arts degree?)? 

JW: I had just graduated with a degree in drawing….yes drawing and I had NO clue as to what I was going to do with that. My parents encouraged me to go to Penland as I’d always been interested in craft.

PP: And why did you choose jewelry making? 

JW: Jewelry was interesting to me because I like making people feel good about themselves. I always loved doing makeup when I was younger and jewelry is the same in that it enhances beauty…and lets me have an artistic outlet.

PP: Is there a certain aspect of the process that you particularly enjoy? 

JW: The more tedious the better. It allows your mind to quiet down and be totally in the moment.

PP: Does your current work reflect items you made during your days at Penland at all? How has it changed? 

JW: I used to only work in silver that was blackened and really chunky and gnarly. I've always maintained an ancient look that I still have today.

PP: Your body of work is massive, are you creating new designs on a regular basis? 

JW: Constantly! As I go along, I’ll eliminate the pieces that don’t sell well (or that I just get sick of making).

This necklace is currently Jessica's favorite. Handmade gold "beads" separate the seafoam-colored stones.
PP: How much do the stones you choose dictate the design you build around them? 

JW: Good question…I don’t really know. My general attitude is “simple is best” so I prefer to either feature metalwork or a pretty stone.

PP: When you find stones you like do you buy as many as you can or are you envisioning a design for them when you find therefor being strategic about the number you buy? 

JW: There is no planning here. Sometimes I end up with a million stones that I found really pretty when I saw them. Oftentimes, these are the stones that sit in my box for a very long time. I just buy what I like. If I come up with a brilliant piece, I make it until the stones run out. It makes it more special for the buyer.

PP: With some of your solid gold and silver pieces I see hints of greco roman or byzantine there a period in history that you draw inspiration from? If so what is it about that particular time period that draws you in? 

JW: Thank you. That’s the best compliment anyone could give me. YES, there’s no real specific time period that I draw inspiration from but I do love ancient jewelry from Rome and especially Egypt.

PP: Is there a certain place in the world that you feel most inspires your work or you color palate? What is it that inspires you so much? 

JW: I never feel so at home as when I’m by the ocean. I can’t really explain it except that when I’m by the sea, I feel absolutely complete. I think my stones reflect that desire to be near water. Now ask me what I’m doing in the mountains?!

PP: Do you make custom pieces for clients? If so, what is the best way for a client to get that process start with you? 

JW: I do tons of custom work. The first thing is, you have to like my style. After that, the client just needs to have a little trust. I try to have a dialog so I can get a feel for what they want. A lot of times, when someone approaches me for a commission, they have a pretty good idea of what they want (ring, necklace, etc). I’m good at helping to steer them in the right direction so that we’re both on the same page.

 You can find Jessica at the following art shows this Spring:
April 6 Rossini Festival: Knoxville, TN 
April 25-27 Dogwood Arts Festival: Knoxville, TN  
May 3-5 Harding Art Show: Nashville, TN   
May 9-11 Artisphere: Greenville, SC 

You can also purchase her work online

On a given work day, you can find Jessica Weiss hand-crafting unique, wearable pieces of jewelry in her cozy Knoxville, TN studio. After having honed her craft for over 10 years, Jessica continues to draw inspiration from the natural world that surrounds her every day at her mountain home.

Jessica's passion for her work is also motivated by the energy of an enthusiastic customer base who describe her award winning jewelry, made with a variety of metals and stones, as having an organic, rugged aesthetic that maintains a feminine elegance, perfect for special occasions or everyday wear.

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