Wild at Heart
Coming under the spell of John James’ enchanting jewelry designs.
Projecting an unmistakably sensual and powerful femininity, the jewelry (if that is what one may call it) of John James is absolutely stunning. Sculptural in lines, they flirt brilliantly between function and ornament. James’ creations are strong and sinuous and redefine a new sense of contemporary sophistication and aesthetics in jewelry design. Finding their inspiration in familiar elements of nature, the animal world, the tribal and the fantastique, theses hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces should be seen as wearable couture art statements as they explore new interpretations of materials – for the truly confident and adventurous.
Gazette: John James? Who is the enigma behind your name?
JJ: I am simply a person who is driven to seek truth and to live through beauty, honesty and creativity.
Gazette: You have had so far quite a scope of disciplines in your professional and career life as an art director in the digital field, as an accomplished graphic designer and illustrator, and as a successful artist. In the midst of all these accomplishments what brought you to jewelry design? Tell us about your personal “trajectoire”.
JJ: Crafting armour, or as many people deem it “jewelry”, came about as a therapeutic practice. Initially I began creating pieces for myself as a way of reclaiming my sexuality and well being following years and instances of transgression. Through the architecture of these initial pieces, I found my inspiration in a circle of women who encouraged me to move forward with my exploration. From them my first collection was born.
Gazette: Tell us a bit about your background, cultural heritage, and travels. Do they play a part in your design vision and what motivates you to create?
JJ: Geographically, I am a child of both the prairies and the tropics. I was born amidst the golden wheat fields and expansive azure skies, but am rooted in the lush jungle and salt-flanked islands of the Philippines. Since those beginnings, my work has brought me across Canada, through the United States and on a few stints across the pond. Travel is a huge part of my inspiration. Exploration of cultures outside of my own is one of the strongest platforms for my design practice. As for what motivates me to create…well…it is an outlet of love – a way of maintaining constancy and sanity in the chaotic flow of life in a way that only love can.
Gazette: Your strong, powerful one-of-a-kind statement pieces certainly command attention. What inspires you in your creativity process?
JJ: As mentioned, sources of inspiration come in many forms, mine tie strongly into exploration of power, self and cultural behaviour. The process itself is a way of making sense and bringing form to the intersections of the conscious and subconscious mind. The outcome, my pieces and their commentary, is the product of trying to find reason or solution to perceived situations, encounters and fragments of the world that I may not understand, but am curious about.
Gazette: What type of stones and materials do you fancy most in your designs? How do you invent these forms?
JJ: Most recently, I have been playing with juxtaposing materials that are natural and unnatural – pairing roughly hewn crystals and semi-precious stones with shards of brass or the rough texture of burlap or patterned nylon cord. To me, the relationships between these forms and textures relate to a duality that plays so strongly in how I view and experience life. I do not have what you would call conventional training in setting stones or casting, so the way that forms are brought together is often unexpected.
Gazette: How would you describe your “inner world”?
JJ: Wilderness – where the riot and the serene meet.
Gazette: You recently went to Paris to present your collection. What are your dreams?
At the moment, I am in the unique and very lucky position of having met the majority of my dreams to this point. So much so that it has caused me to change my perspective of what dreams are.
Now, it isn’t a matter of reaching toward the seemingly impossible; it is a matter of assessing what it will take to make the impossible happen. Because of this, a very tangible dream state runs concurrent with my reality.
I guess that is a somewhat cryptic way of saying that my dreams are very close to the way that I live.
Gazette: What’s next?
JJ: In a word – Armageddon – which will be the embodiment of partnership, creative truth and collaboration of many minds behind a singular vision.
Gazette: Thank you John.
By Emmanuel St. Juste
Photos by Brian Cyr