jess hannah

Stay tuned for musings on the nail color you might wear “for when you’re (mentally) sidled up to a perfectly cozy Parisian wine bar ordering a jammy Beaujolais,” technique, artistry, and some philosophical antidotes to the perils of oversimplification. The basics. :)

Jess, we’re thrilled to connect with you this month. You have such a marvelous line of jewelry and nail polishes informed by art, earth, and form. Some things feel innate, like we were born to do them, or we just can’t imagine life any other way. Did you know from a young age that this was a path you might take as an adult, and either way, how did you find yourself here?

I certainly don’t feel I had a straight path, but in a way my creative trajectory now makes sense in the rearview…my mom is an artist in her own right, and her outlook led me to explore and develop my own tastes early on. I also think inheriting my grandmother’s vintage pieces was a turning point in opening my eyes to the intricacies of fine jewelry and to begin understanding it as a tangible practice. In this way, it’s nice to consider that my work is in part the result of two very important women in my life.

I studied graphic design in college and was more of a jewelry hobbyist, diving deep into metalsmithing to keep my hands and brain occupied. Since I couldn’t afford the jewelry I was lusting after, I figured I would try my hand at making it myself…and ended up becoming completely seduced by jewelry’s materials, technique, and wellspring of rich history. After that a bouquet of apprenticeships, self-teaching, and formal training became the foundation for J. Hannah.

Today the brand has organically evolved—we mostly design now in CAD—but I deeply value the perspective and education I gained in learning to craft pieces by hand. At the same time, in removing myself from the actual construction of pieces I’ve been able to see where my strengths are best suited within design, art direction, marketing, operations etc…and here we are.

When you’re feeling uninspired or lackadaisical, what avenues do you turn to for renewed inspiration? What can you tell us about your inspirations in life and as a creator? If you have any favorite, storied, or beloved jewelry pieces from your own collection, we’d love to hear about them.

We’re just about to launch a new collection in partnership with The Met and in some ways it feels very full circle — museums are certainly one a fallback source of inspiration for me, alongside other places I go to revel in the aesthetics: Craigslist, flea markets, bookstores, etc. And while all of these are definitely top-tier pastimes, I ultimately believe inspiration isn’t something you find when you’re looking for it. Part of my work is just to keep my eyes open and be aware enough amid my day-to-day that inspiration isn't lost on me when it arrives

Sentimental objects from friends and family matter most to me, especially my grandmother’s jewelry — much of which was recently stolen. There’s always that question, “what would you take in a fire…?” Having things taken away has made me profoundly appreciative for what I do have (and turns out, most of that isn’t material anyway). That said, two of my grandmother’s pieces remain and I'm grateful for the burglar’s oversight.

Here at ARQ, we try to welcome flux and what it brings. Some changes can feel almost insurmountable, some are more than welcome, and some might even be necessary. How do you embrace changes in your life, outside of work, in a way that gives you a chance to show up differently, grow, or improve?

Adaptability and movement are important in my work — perhaps more than anything else — and that is of course true outside of it too. Naturally it’s the case that the less expectations one has for how things will go, the more at peace they will be with what comes. I’m not saying I’ve mastered this — but I’ve had experiences which have taught me to embrace change more readily.

Understanding the concept of dialectical thinking has also been a very impactful tool in helping me to broaden my framework and explore new outcomes, challenge subconscious ideologies, and dive into complexities rather than reverting to simplification.

If you could distill the essence of your most cherished moments into single colors, which might you choose to share with us? Yes, we’re asking you to plug your favorite colors with stories on the side :-)

Perhaps this is not the answer you are looking for here, but I'm going to run with it…

For when you want to match your cat’s nose: Himalayan Salt (the color is based on the actual color of my cat Olive’s nose).

For when it’s nearing winter but you’re a summer worship-er at heart: a trio reflective of a subdued Neapolitan ice cream, Hepworth, Marzipan, and Agnes.

For when you’re tempted to wear crocs, might we suggest a deeper dive into the fine line between the grotesque and the refined: Compost.

For when you’re (mentally) sidled up to a perfectly cozy Parisian wine bar ordering a jammy Beaujolais: Gamay

For when you need embellishment but you’re scared of glitter: Akoya

Jess on Instagram: @jess_hannah
J.Hannah online:
J.Hannah on Instagram: @j.hannah

Photos by:
Maddy Rotman