Global Young Designer Spotlight: Jessie Harris
Harris’ background in audio design brings a recognisable aesthetic to her collections, with the curved metals, sharp lines and tiny balls seeming to carry the same fluidity and rhythmic qualities as sound.
14 March, 2017
Through her jewellery, designer Jessie Harris emphasises the simplistic beauty of minimalism. Before founding her eponymous brand in 2012, Harris attended Chelsea College of Art and Design and graduated in 2010 with a major in Fine Arts. While at university, she focused her attention on creating sound instalments.
It wasn't until leaving the classroom behind that she found her calling in jewellery design, but her time at school was certainly not a waste. Harris' background in audio design brings a recognisable aesthetic to her collections, with the curved metals, sharp lines and tiny balls seeming to carry the same fluidity and rhythmic qualities as sound. During the transition from working digitally to physically, Harris pushed her creativity and defined her brand's style. Five years later, she's crafted several unique collections and participated in two successful collaborations, one with clothing designer Marina London and the other with accessories designer Danielle Foster. From the comforts of her East London studio, the designer shares with us her design ethos, favourite local hangouts and love for London.
Type of brand:
Lighthearted, sculptural jewellery.
Where can we find your designs?
At the Barbican Gallery and at independent boutiques Parla, Clerkenwell London, The Wearer and Our Daily Edit.
Who is the ideal Jessie Harris customer?
Someone who likes their design minimal but fun.
How did you go from focusing on audio instalments to making jewellery?
As much as I loved the work I was doing at Chelsea Art College, it would have been a tough path to take to make a living. I was also predominantly computer based and was desperate to create physically again.
Jewellery has always been an interest of mine and I had a clear idea of the style and type of pieces that I liked but I was unable to find them anywhere. Eventually, I decided to try and make them for myself. After a couple of short courses and a lot of experimentation, the business came from quite a personal place and then seemed to grow organically as more people became interested.
How does your background in sound influence your designs?
When I was at art school, my work had a strong conceptual focus which I've incorporated into my jewellery practice. I love taking seemingly disconnected references and making the jewellery become the thread between them. My latest collection, for example, was based on traditional Japanese Obi belts combined with retro-futuristic shapes and forms and took references from early Star Trek episodes!
Since you've had significant experience in both, can you explain the different creative processes of working digitally versus physically?
Working physically definitely presents larger obstacles to overcome creatively which is what makes it so interesting for me. Though my role now is very physical I wouldn't say practicality is a defining trait of mine! I like the challenges of my work and would say as a self-taught jeweller, my technical limitations probably had a strong initial influence on defining my style.
Where do you get the materials for your jewellery?
Pretty much everything is sourced from Hatton Garden in London, whether it's silver wire and sheet, earring posts or diamonds. I love that it is one of the few remaining areas in the city which is used predominantly for one industry. I'm there at least twice a week running from supplier to supplier and popping in for a chat with my setter or CAD designer.
What tools do you create with?
A jeweller's best friend is always their saw and their soldering torch, one for chopping things up and one for putting them together.
Can you explain the significance of imperfection in your pieces?
Unless you are working on a super intricate engagement ring which requires micro-precision to get every element perfect, I like to see the a human hand behind a piece. This can probably be seen mostly in my chunkier, wax carved rings that are based on simple shapes. These could be easily machine made but thanks to their handmade nature they will never be 100% precise - I find this rather satisfying.
How do you communicate the ethos of your brand through your campaigns?
I'm so lucky to have worked on the brand imagery with one of my best friends Agnes Lloyd Platt, an incredibly talented photographer, from the beginning. We like to echo the fun and playful nature of the designs with the campaign images; embracing colour, working with unconventionally beautiful models and unexpected visual arrangements. We also enjoy mixing still life with editorial shots - something we are looking to explore more with the next collection.
How would you describe the creative energy in London?
I love the boldness, vibrancy and pioneering nature of Londoners. I know so many talented people who are dynamic, entrepreneurial thinkers as well as creatives and this is why we have some of the most progressive and exciting shops, spaces and companies popping up all over the city.
What makes London different from other places in the world that you've visited?
As a born-and-bred Londoner, I may be a little biased in saying that it's my favourite city. I've lived North, South and West but have now settled East. I love that each corner of London is like a mini city in itself. Each area very much has its own tone and history.
Tell us about three of your favourite spots near your studio.
We are lucky to have the fantastic new pizza restaurant/cocktail bar/art space LOVENpresents inside our building, conveniently located just down the corridor from the studio. Clapton is pretty nearby and I would recommend My Neighbours the Dumplings to anyone who loves modern dim sum, while Yield N16 in Stoke Newington is a great deli/off license/casual bar.
How often do you release a new collection?
I work towards one main collection a year that I release at the end of each summer and then one smaller collection that offers something a little different. At the moment I'm working on an exciting collaborative project, a men's collection and a fine collection.
How do you channel your inspiration and create something new each collection?
At the end of each collection I always worry that after all the energy I've put into designing it, there will be none left for the next one. The reason I like designing one main collection a year though is that there is time to breathe between each one and time for the ideas and inspiration for the next collection to sink in organically. There always seems to be a visual reference from one collection that feeds into the next - normally an idea that I feel I can explore further. This is combined with fresh sources and references which push the collection in a new direction to allow original ideas and designs to be formed.
What is the role of slow fashion in today's industry?
Longevity in design and fashion is really important to me - I would say that it is the nature of jewellery to not be a part of throwaway fashion. In addition to the value of raw materials, customers value the time put into creating pieces.