Sculptural, glistening, classic - these are the adjectives that come to mind when looking the J Hannah jewellery line. Nothing is shocking, or particularly unusual - instead her pieces are so balanced and simple, they are the treasures you never want to take off. We met with the equally beautiful maker behind the jewels, Jess, to talk about her world and where she finds inspiration for her brand.
How would you describe your relationship with fashion and does it influence your work?
Jewelry design exists in a space somewhere between fashion and industrial design. It's meant to adorn the body in a sartorial sense, but at the same time it's hardware—it's made of precious materials, and it doesn't quite mold to the body in the same way clothing can. I think for this reason it has a double identity as an art object which is attractive in a different way.
Many of your pieces are architecturally inspired, who are your favourite architects?
I love the work of Eileen Grey and Paul R. Williams. Both made careers out of their passions despite the discrimination they faced—neither were invited into the discipline due to the standard exclusionary cultural attitudes during the time they were working. All their designs speak for themselves, they had to work extra hard and produce beyond-amazing work in to be recognised and accepted in their field. While they didn't achieve wild success in their lifetimes, their work has been more recognised and appreciated with time. Sometimes legacy is more important than immediate recognition. It's tragic they couldn't have both.
Where did you grow up and does your upbringing translate into your work?
I'm originally from Sacramento. I can't say the city had a huge influence on my design ethos, but there are definitely other aspects of my upbringing that were formative for my aesthetic training. For example, my mother painted and always encouraged us to explore our creativity in all forms of art.
What metals and stones are you obsessed with at the moment?
I've been eyeing pastel colored stones like blue chalcedony, which is said to promote good will and benevolence, it's all new ideas. I use color very sparingly. Even the nail polishes are toned down hues, so the milky blue-grey of chalcedony fits right in with the collection. I have some other secret stones up my sleeve as well, all will be revealed soon.
Where do find get inspiration for new collections?
I try to look for inspiration both in and outside of the jewellery world. In my free time I relish scrolling through furniture on 1stDibs and Craigslist, this practice is a light obsession. I also find that museum collections, particularly modernist and ancient sculpture and art are rich sources of inspiration. I share the very best of these influences on my Instagram so that my followers can get a sense of what I'm paying homage to, or get a glimpse at ingredients that get the J. Hannah designs cooking.
What is your most loved piece of clothing in your wardrobe?
My navy blue vintage Prada trench coat! I also love a white button down – vintage or a crispy new one.
For work or play, where are some of your favourite places to travel to? Where is next on your list?
It's hard for me to let go and get out of town, I'm very hands-on with my business. I did just treat myself to a short trip just a couple weeks ago to Mexico City. I planned it down to the hour because there was so much I wanted to see. I was lucky to visit two Barragán houses, as well as hit most of the restaurants on my list such as Pujol and Rosetta.
Jewellers are often called upon to commemorate some of the happiest and most important milestones of our lives, do you have any favourite customer stories/journeys?
Jewellery is such an emotional purchase, and that's something I love about being in this business. You're always in on someone's secret! My favourite situation is the nervous significant other who doesn't know much about jewellery, or the gift recipient who lost their piece and want to replace it before anyone notices. Our customer service can be deeply personal at times. It forges a very real relationship with the customer, they want to come back because you are sharing in their history. This is the foundation for making heirloom jewellery, it's interwoven with lives and personalities.
Do you have a personal piece of jewellery that has great sentimental value?
I inherited a few pieces from my grandmother, one of the most special pieces is a necklace that I wear almost every day. Its a midcentury piece with delicate oval bead.
My Clara collection was named for my grandmother, and each design is centred around the oval bead from this necklace of hers with variations in the construction and placement of the beads.
Can you tell us about your bridal collection Ceremony?
My partner Chelsea Nicholson and I just launched Ceremony. We don't use the word "bridal," but I'm glad you did because that is exactly why we started the company. We wanted to create a collection of commitment rings that felt more authentic to real relationships. It's a spectrum of designs that leaves room for the customer to decide how to mark and signify their love, whatever that looks like. We didn't separate the collection into men's and women's categories, and you don't need to be getting married or engaged to wear one of our rings. We tried to avoid design semantics that would explicitly gender the pieces or render them static. It's an invitation for the customer to freely consider a multiplicity of styles, and oust any predetermined boundaries that would drive someone away from what they might be otherwise drawn to wearing.
You recently collaborated with your friend and fellow jeweller Becca of Winden jewellery, can you tell us a bit more about this?
Becca is one of my best friends! We collaborated a few years ago on the "Fine" necklace, it was only natural since we are both fine jewellery designers. The best part about this particular piece is that I began to notice people ordering doubles—it's a low key friendship necklace for adults!
Who is your favourite jewellery style icon?
Without question, Suzanne Belperron. Also, Jeanne Toussaint the woman behind the Cartier Panther.
Your signet ring is a cult favourite, how do you feel about reaching cult status?
Honored, but I can't take all the credit. The signet ring lends itself to being a cult object. Its original purpose was to signify membership (to a club, family, etc.). I am glad that through making my signets I'm creating my own club!
Who are some of your favourite people to see wearing J Hannah jewellery?
We love that you are so committed to ethical and sustainable sourcing, has it ever been challenging to work this way?
Its a challenge that is always worthwhile. We live in such a rich city for all kinds of production, and it would feel wrong not to take advantage of that. For jewellery, quality is paramount and I don't cut any corners because it's worth supporting people who do amazing work.
We’ve been eyeing off your nail polishes, how did this line come about?
It's something I decided to do purely out of a lack I noticed. I was always searching for softer hues that weren't disruptive and could coincide nicely with what I wanted to wear. I settled on eleven relaxed shades to start. It was important for me that they compliment all skin colours and could blend with anyone's style.
What inspired the colour palette?
There are hints in some of the names—Blue Nudes is a Matisse reference, Hepworth is named for sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Saltillo was the color of the tiles we chose for our kitchen—there's inspiration in unexpected places.
Can you share with us some of your favourite places to eat and drink in LA?
Wood Spoon in DTLA, owned by a dear friend of mine and has amazing comfort food in a cozy setting + delicious sangria!