In the studio with Jessie Harris

We chat to London based jewellery designer Jessie Harris about her so-called 'Retro Futuristic' designs and why keeping her collections playful and lighthearted is intrinsic to the brand.

RS: It is not uncommon that one creative process can influence another.

Can you tell us how you were first inspired to make jewellery while creating audio instalments at the Chelsea College of Art and Design? 

JH: I really like the thought of one idea leading onto another, where you can take a little bit of one concept and apply it to the next piece of work you do and so on. Although the audio installations were much more conceptual, and the medium totally different, I would say I've definitely applied a similar way of working to designing and crafting each collection.  I love a collection to have an aesthetic impact but also a conceptual underpinning seemingly inspired by unconnected elements... like 70s tennis games and space travel!
Jessie Harris Loop Knocker earrings
Loop Knocker earring, photograph by Iringo Demeter

RS: You are self-taught in the field of jewellery design and make each piece by hand, why is this handcrafted approach important to you and the brand?

It started as a necessity. As a fledgeling brand I had no budget to work with, couldn't place large orders with factories and my designs were limited to my capacity as a maker. As my experience as a designer/maker increased and the brand grew I quickly saw how important the 'handmade' ethos was for both the brand and my customers. In a world of fast fashion I think people get a lot of joy out of the fact that a piece of jewellery has been made by hand.

RS: You often refer to your jewellery as being playful and lighthearted. How does this shape your pieces and your overall brand ethos? 

It's something I've become aware of from collection to collection, that is now very important in the design of each piece and the brand as a whole.  As a person I like to think that I don't take myself too seriously and this is reflected in my work as it comes from quite a personal place. Jewellery is neither practical nor functional but it is there to adorn and add that little something extra so I think why not have fun with it.

Helix hoops and Tassel Curl earrings, photography by Agnes Lloyd-Platt & set design by Victoria Spicer

RS: Can you walk us through the process of creating the amazing Spiral Tassle earrings so we get an idea of what goes into making a piece? 

The Spiral Tassel earrings (below) start their life as silver sheet and silver tube. The sheet is cut-to-size, measured, marked and forged into their 'curled' shape. I then cut the tube tassels to length, assemble the jump rings and then pass them over to my lovely soldering people to assemble. They get a pre-polish, a good cleaning and then a final hand-polish for our signature high-shine finish. They are gold-plated in-house and then good to go!
Jessie Harris Spiral Tassle earrings
Spiral Tassle earring, photograph by Iringo Demeter

RS: Instead of following the seasons your collections are released once a year. Have you always worked this way, and what are the benefits?

I did try working around the fashion week schedule but always stuck to one main collection a year as it always made sense to me. It's hard to churn out genuinely considered pieces when you're trying to chase the seasons and put out collection after collection. Jewellery itself isn't a seasonal product and I feel that designers have much more power and freedom to work the way that suits them best.
Spiral Tassel earring, photography by Agnes Lloyd-Platt & set design by Victoria Spicer

RS: Many jewellery designers are very protective of their work in such a competitive industry.

You share a studio with other talented designers who are your peers, how does this impact your work? 

I've always had a strong idea of what my brand is and, although I'm surrounded by some seriously talented designers, I feel pretty secure with my own aesthetic and I'm sure they would say the same from their perspective. What is amazing is everyone's openness, honesty and willingness to help each other out. We are always discussing 'the business side of things', sharing advice about suppliers and critiquing designs, in a genuine effort to help each other do as well as we possibly can.
Jessie Harris studio

RS: Lastly, what was the inspiration behind the latest collection aptly titled ‘Five' and what was your favourite piece to design or make? 

Ha, I'm not very creative with my collection titles or piece names, I like it when they are
instructive and describe what they do! There is always a thread of retro-futurism that is wound into each collection (a 60s/70s perception of 'futuristic') but this time I set myself a rule of applying a 'loop-the-loop' motif into each piece without simply repeating a shape or technique. I wanted to create more dynamic pieces with this collection and really play around with the materials during the design process rather than drawing them out on paper.
It's often the last pieces to be designed in the collection that I end up liking the most, perhaps because they've been less overthought and come about more organically. This was the case with the Helix Bangle. I love its simplicity and how when worn appears to just hover magically over the wrist.
Jessie Harris Helix bangle
Helix bangle, photography by Iringo Demeter
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