Jessica Speckhard is an artist and jewelry designer working from the Jefferson Street Artists Studios in Fall Church, VA. WE BELIEVE IN THE DMV, and we're so excited to share her work today in our ongoing INTERVIEW series. From her largescale digital collages to her most recent, F/W 2015 jewelry collection, we loved getting to know Jess (and her can't-miss spots in both Northern Virginia and DC are bookmark-worthy for sure). It's a great read before kicking off for your Holiday – have a great Thanksgiving, everyone!
"I AM A fine artist and a jeweler. In my work as an artist, I make digital collages out of photos I have taken, and then I print and mount them on Plexiglas. A lot of my work deals thematically with a search for self, the confusion of youth, sexuality, and travel as a metaphor for our own personal journeys. I have developed a number of techniques in which I use the photos to stitch together a piece almost as one would paint, with a certain palette of colors – my palette is the photos. I have a new body of work that I’m developing that focuses more on the darker aspects of sexuality and the passage from childhood to adulthood. While trying to address issues that relate to the human condition, I have also always made my pieces really personal through the use of mostly pictures of my own family and friends.
I love working on a large scale. I think I’m just drawn to larger pieces and feel they have more power to envelop the viewer. I know that smaller pieces are more marketable (it’s hard for many people to find a space for such large pieces), but my eye is just drawn to the larger scale. I think that the collage element and layering may relate to how I conceptualize pieces. A lot of it I think comes from my subconscious – themes within my own life that I pick out from the photographs I’ve taken. Some of the photographs I take specifically for my work, but some of them are just natural shots of family and friends that I’ve taken over the years. It’s interesting to sift through them and pull things out, and it’s a very emotional process in some ways. The collages come together almost like memories do – in bits and pieces here and there."
I AM ALSO a jeweler. I started my jewelry business, Second Daughter, in 2011. I have always loved design and sculpture, and jewelry is kind of a fusion of those two. I think it’s beautiful that jewelry is always next to the skin and that you can have pieces that you never take off. Jewelry is often a gift between lovers or friends, or given for a monumental life occasion, which I find really fascinating, and there’s a lot of room for experimentation with material and production. I draw from a vast sea of influences for Second Daughter but am often inspired by nature, art, and contemporary shapes or shifts in style that I see on the streets. I also allow the process to take over sometimes in collections. I like to allow ‘mistakes’ to shape the collection and I also want all my pieces to be very personal, like the art. For that reason, I often leave fingerprint marks in the pieces before I cast them. Materials are also a big thing for me and I have done a lot of experimenting with acrylic and ceramic. I’m working on a fine jewelry collection at the moment. Up until now, I’ve been working mostly in brass, but there is a desire from clients to see some of my pieces in silver and gold, so I’m expanding in that direction.
I ALWAYS HAD an interest in fashion, but was turned off by what I thought was a fast-paced trend and then throw-away culture. I saw jewelry as something that moved a bit slower in terms of ideas and would allow for me to make pieces that would be visually relevant for a long time. Not that clothing can’t be that way – there are obviously tons of clothing designers that do just that, I just always saw jewelry as something that more intimate. I also liked the idea of jewelry being an extension of the body and felt I had something original to say within that realm. I ended up studying for a year at Parsons in New York under two amazing women: Jasmine Takanikos and Bliss Lau and that really was the foundation of my company. The things I learned there continue to inform my decisions on a daily basis. A couple of things that stick with me is that your brand needs to be true through and through: everything in the product I create, from the research, the manufacturers I work with, to the packaging and marketing materials, needs to be intentional and consistent with my vision and my clients’ needs. What I also learned there, and it makes me so sad when other designers don’t feel this way, is that sharing your resources with other designers and working together with your ‘competition’ is a wonderful thing.
Something I want to mention is that while women are my biggest client base, I do like to think of Second Daughter as unisex and a lot of men do buy and wear my designs. There are so many DC men with super inspiring and totally original style, and these are people that I am both inspired by and want to create more for in the future.
I JUST OPENED my studio in May, and I am absolutely loving it! It’s part of the Jefferson Street Artists, which is about 20 studios of artists from the area. Previously I had my studio/office in my home and it’s been such a cool experience moving to a place where people are constantly stopping by to say hello or give me their take on whatever I’m working on. I also love being neighbors with some other great artists. I use the space to take appointments from art collectors, or people that might want to commissioned artwork or jewelry for a special gift. Some of my favorite spots nearby are this coffee shop that just opened called Village Sweet – they have the most amazing baked goods, I also frequent an amazing Turkish restaurant right across the street called Yayla, they are family owned, super authentic, and totally affordable. For a mental break I will go to the local bookstore One More Page Books: they have a really wonderfully curated store and always have interesting guests and little notes from the staff on all their suggested reads."
Your work has been featured some really incredible places! I was really excited to see our orbit collar in Numero a French Magazine that always has really interesting editorials. The piece was shot by Billy Kidd, a photographer I’ve always loved! Getting one of my cuffs in Elle magazine also felt like a big accomplishment. In the DC area, I love working with Homme in the Anacostia Art Center. Amir, the owner, is so supportive of a number of small brands. As a designer, it’s a dream to work with someone who wants to support the little guy and encourages you to create things that might be experimental or not necessarily so sellable. I can’t say enough good things about this space and I will definitely continue doing trunk shows there.
LOVE the current collection. What inspired it? Thank you!! The current collection was inspired by the inherent beauty of the new materials I wanted to try working with. I was working with a number of natural stones for the first time, like turquoise, malachite and mother of pearl the colors and natural beauty were sort of the jumping point for the designs. I wanted to create organic shapes to house these pieces in and so I just started sculpting. I ended up with a number of loosely floral shapes which felt very fresh for fall. I also was inspired by my client and thinking who would wear my pieces and how one would style them which resulted in a lot of open collars, upside down cuffs, and hand pieces.
You're in the city at least once a week for your silversmithing class. Can you tell us about that? I study silversmithing at Jewelry Class DC, in the O St. Studios, under an extremely talented and knowledgeable goldsmith Dan Valencia. Dan’s classes are amazing and anyone who is interested in learning fine jewelry should take one! It’s great to develop my metalsmithing skills and to learn more about stone setting and casting. While I have said I love experimenting and the innovation that comes from sort of jumping into something blindly, jewelrymaking is also a very old art form and I do want to make sure that I am moving forward, and that I am offering the most well crafted pieces to my clients. In order to do that I need to keep learning, growing, and working closely with experienced crafts people.
What other spots do you frequent in DC, for inspiration or otherwise? I am a huge fan of all the museums. I visit the national gallery almost on a weekly basis. It’s my safe place for recharging and getting inspired. I also am a regular at one of my favorite DC artist Margaret Bakke’s studio. She makes amazing prints and paintings. I’m there so often that she’s dedicated a desk for me within her studio and I go there to work once a week. It’s nice as an artist to not always be working alone and I enjoy seeing what my colleagues are doing while it’s in the process. I also love all the shops and places at the Anacostia Arts Center.
Fall/Winter projects? My current focus is on developing Second Daughter fine jewelry and continuing working on my new collage series! Also, I’d like to open my studio more and more to the public and possibly create some kind of community around that I’ve been flirting with the idea of bringing in speakers once a month, or doing jewelry workshops for those who might be interested. I love to constantly be in dialogue with my community and I feed off of the energy of those around me. I have gotten so much support from friends, clients, teachers, etc. over the years, and I am so grateful. I want to make sure I am always giving back and being a helpful member of my community.