Jessica Robin Thomas is a jewelry maker and lover of all things sustainable, local and hand crafted. Her jewelry pieces are inspired by the dichotomy between nature and industry and by the shapes of ancient cultures. Jessica uses hardware pieces mixed with organic findings like crystals and stones. She is obsessed with quality and strives to create timeless pieces that will last and last.
Sean met Jessica when she worked for OZ Architecture in Interiors as a designer, but Sean tells me that she has a past: as in she hasn’t always been an Interior Designer and mastermind behind Crow Jane Jewelry. According to LinkedIn: Jessica spent 6 years, 11 months as “Owner, Neuromuscular Therapist & Instructor Body Harmony Massage Therapy & Pilates.” While no longer at OZ, she still does contract work in Interiors, looking to dedicate more time to her craft and business. Did I mention she is a wife, a mother, a minder of two dogs, and a keeper of a drift of bees. She’s a camping enthusiast, travels with her art, and makes time for her friends (e.g. encouraging & advising Sean with his brushes). I think she also plays guitar.
When it comes to her jewelry, she is a preferred seller at both local markets and out-of-state venues, exemplifying community, craftsmanship and design savvy.
s | b: You’ve been making jewelry since you were a child, what were your preferred materials? What, if any, of those childhood expressions, can be found in your work today?
jt: Always beads and thread before I started metalsmithing. However, I do remember some pretty cool headdress pieces made of tin foil!
I really like to incorporate beading in to my work still. I like the softness, color and contrast of the beads against the hard metal and love to figure out how to engineer them in to my designs.
s | b: The industrial material smithed into delicate yet definitive lines and curves evoke early and native cultures; could you share a favorite story/culture that has inspired one of your pieces?
jt: I think all of my pieces are inspired by a very important transition in my life- leaving a small, midwest town and moving to New Mexico at age 16. It was sort of a magical Jim Morrison-like experience that opened my eyes to a lot. My mom liked to visit the Reservations quite frequently and while I was inspired by their artwork, clothing, architecture, etc., I had a severe case of white-man’s guilt for all their people have gone through and didn’t care for these visits and to see how shrunken their worlds had become. I have always wanted to honor their culture and like to pull inspirations from Southwest Native Americans in to my designs in modern ways.
s | b: You mention on your Etsy page that you are “constantly” sketching and engineering pieces, that you “get bored easily and love to move on to new pieces, new designs and new challenges- jewelry making is my addiction!” Do you place a limit on the quantity of a particular design, especially as demand for your jewelry increases? How do you combat tedium in the fabricating of a popular design?
jt: While I do get bored easily, I don’t mind the fabrication process- it’s sort of meditative for me. I do like to create new designs regularly to keep things interesting and to stay inspired but at this point I am not only a designer, I am an assembly line worker in my own sweat shop. It’s all part of the fun of owning a business and I just go with it! My sales tend to organically move towards my new designs because that’s what I’m excited about and pushing.
s | b: You left the full-time office job in January of this year to dedicate more time to the business, design, & fabrication of your jewelry. How long has Crow Jane Jewelry been working toward a more self-sustaining enterprise?
jt: Again, it’s really grown organically. I started selling wholesale in 2011 & I feel fortunate to say that I am now in 17 brick and mortar shops* around the country and have deals with several online sites as well as the shows that I participate in- so I stay very busy.
s | b: Is it wrong to assume that passion and pragmatism always compete?
jt: I’m a gemini so I feel that these two things exist in me naturally and peacefully- they are two sides of the same coin for me. I’m also very grounded and don’t feel that I’ve ever gone over the top with passion without sticking to reality when it comes to my business. Maybe that’s the mid-westerner in me- level headed and taking things as they come without getting too excited- just trying to see how it all works in the bigger picture.
s | b: Do you have family history of arts and craft?
jt: My parents are both musicians and my dad used to draw comics with friends when he was younger. I think they’re both very creative people. I grew up without much money as an only child and had to be very creative in how I used my time to stay entertained. I never really watched tv- I always listened to music and created. That was very much encouraged in my household.
s | b: Your son earns gaming-money as a shop assistant, travels with you, what kind of example are you and your husband hoping to set for him? What sort of skills are you intentional about instilling?
jt: Never become a designer! Hee hee! No, we joke about that because my husband is a graphic designer turned creative director and I’m an interior designer by trade and both can be very challenging & demanding with little reward sometimes. We both have very strong work ethic and are very driven and we definitely try to teach that to our son. He is also very passionate and loves to work with me. He is quite a creative, innovative young man and I am so excited about what the future holds for him. We also like to instill in him that anything is possible- take chances in life and you will succeed. You can’t stay in the same place forever and stay happy so don’t be afraid to follow your hopes and dreams- as long as you stay focused, driven and passionate you will succeed!
s | b: What kind of support have you come to depend on within your immediate household?
jt: Well, we just talked about my son who is infinitely patient with me and always helpful. My husband is also very supportive- we call him “shipping and receiving” and sometimes “accounting” and he can polish a ring with the best of ‘em. So yes, I have wonderful support that I am very grateful for.
s | b: What are the immediate and/or future aspirations for Crow Jane Jewelry? … And for Jessica Thomas?
jt: Take over the world one piece of jewelry at a time….. just kidding! I intend to continue to let my business grow organically and have noticed that every ounce of effort that I put in to marketing, promoting, etc. comes back tenfold. I intend to keep that momentum going and am moving in more of a one-of-a-kind art jewelry direction with my statement stone rings and necklaces. My husband and I have a dream of retiring as beekeepers (we just started beekeeping this year and are madly in love with it) and artists (he is also a very talented oil painter) and traveling around to various art shows, selling our wares, around the country and possibly the world. Who knows what the future holds but I’m excited about it and after taking the leap into running my business full-time and seeing the successes that have come about from that choice, I know that anything is possible. My aspiration is essentially to be happy and to love what I do! I love my job and I love being able to create things that make people feel good about themselves when they wear them and that is all the satisfaction that I need- I’m happy because I love the process, and they’re happy with the end product. What more could you ask for in your job?
*do feel free to contact Crow Jane Jewelry for a listing of shops carrying her work. follow her on-line for updates on new jewelry, deals, shops and upcoming shows/fairs.