All That Glimmers

Gemma Lacey

Jess Hannah is known for her deceptively simple jewellery which fuses elegant forms with sophisticated details. We spoke to her about style, inspiration and the sentiment involved in her methods and each piece. She also told us about her nail polish collection and new colour ‘Eames’ which launches on April 18th.

The juxtaposition of modern and timeless seems to be a theme in your work, can you tell us more about that?
I often look to the past for design inspiration – Many of our pieces are a nod to history, vintage references that are carefully pared down. The goal is for everything to be versatile and easily incorporated into our customers’ routine and aesthetic. There are also ​many traditions aligned with jewellery that are not just decorative. Historically, signet jewellery represented a physical marker of identity – used like a stamp to mark documents or add a seal of significance.
By placing certain restraints on the extra ornament and decorative aspects, and focusing in on the traditional and functional aspects of these historic designs, ​I try to create timeless pieces that aren’t anchored to a specific era or style.
Jewellery is a very personal thing because it’s worn so close to the body – is that a big factor in your design in terms of form and material?
Yes, we design jewellery for how it should be worn – never taken off. It must be comfortable and versatile above all else, and I consider all this very carefully when designing the collections. We also get a lot of very personal customer emails – anything from clueless significant others who need advice on a gift for their loved one, to avid collectors who want to make sure that the piece they choose will harmonise with jewellery they already wear. We find ourselves in many intimate conversations about how to best symbolise relationships and personal milestones with our designs. I cherish these exchanges, because they really help inform what J. Hannah means to our customers, and why we design these pieces.
You share a diverse world of imagery and inspiration in your journal, how do you research and discover new things? What makes you excited to share these?
I assiduously monitor Craigslist, and I’m a dedicated patron of all the local flea markets. Sometimes I will find something inspiring that I want to share with our readers. This is to provide context and create more of a community. Add extra points of connection and conversation that circle around the brand. Yes we love jewellery but we are interested in so many other things that we feel it’s important to share.
What inspired you to begin making jewellery?
​I discovered my love for jewellery early on, after inheriting some of my grandmother’s vintage pieces. In college I liked making things with my hands, so it was a natural progression to decide to learn the craft, as I couldn’t afford the things I was lusting after. I began apprenticing with a retired bench jeweller out of her garage, and later started making pieces independently in my bedroom.
Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created?
I’m pretty excited about the new Glacé hoops – They’re​ physically substantial yet optically light. Their clarity is a statement when worn, but never overbearing.
What are you listening to in your studio right now?
Black Panther soundtrack!​

“Jewellery for how it should be worn: never taken off”

Do you have a favourite piece of jewellery- either your own or one you’ve bought?
I have a really wonderful oval beaded necklace that belonged to my late grandmother Clara. To me, it embodies the charm of a different era, which piqued my interest in the craft and elegance of vintage jewellery. ​The Clara collection pays homage to her, and outlines the J. Hannah origin mythos. It’s very understated but the clients that get it, just get it.
If you weren’t designing jewellery what would you be doing?
This one’s easy – procuring the best of
C​raigslist and flea markets and​ selling everything in a carefully curated shop.
You recently started a line of nail polishes, how did that come about and what’s the connection between nail polish and jewellery?
It mostly started out of personal need. I was having so much​ trouble finding good colours at my usual nail salons. I decided to fill the void I saw. J. Hannah polish is not about having every color in the rainbow, rather a small edit of effortlessly wearable colours.
You live in LA, is it your home town and what do you love the most about it?
I was born in Canada but I grew up in Sacramento (cue lady bird references). I have been in LA for four ish years now. ​The most amazing thing about LA is that you don’t have to sacrifice open space for city living. I have a backyard, and I live in a neighbourhood, and I can see the sky. I have a serious case of seasonal affect disorder, so being sun-drenched and soaking up the vitamin D is also a huge bonus.
Are you a cat lover? Do you have a cat and if so, please tell us about him / her?
Absolutely, 100%. I have two cats and a dog. Olive is my sweet baby angel, my first born, the apple of my eye. She is very doglike in her demeanor. We got her in college and our room mate at the time had a very docile and humongous pitbu​ll that became Olive’s BFF. Remy is more of our odd gal out. She sits in the hallway and stares as Ruby (our husky mix) and Olive are glued to our sides. She only cuddles on her own terms and enjoys chasing bugs and spending time amongst my sweaters in the closet.
What are you most excited to do in the next few months?
J. Hannah just got a new studio, so I am excited to exercise my secondary passion and furnish it with flea market and Craigslist findings. ​I would also really like to plan some trips. It’s been a while since I’ve had a proper vacation. On my list: Mexico City, Japan, South America.