Taking one of designer Russell O. Jones' necklaces or earrings in your hands can evoke an inherent feel for the ocean or desert—strands, bundles, and delicate droplets of tiny translucent stones that appear to have been worn down to size by water or wind.
Jones, who studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design (and later landed a gig as assistant art director at Philadelphia magazine), took a hiatus from illustrating for the likes of Esquire, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe, to pursue a career in new media and web design (he's currently the creative director of Horsesmouth, an educational network for financial advisors). These days, when Jones finishes up at his day job, he heads to his small work studio in Park Slope. The room, painted China Town red ("my favorite color," he says), is decorated with the designer's many inspirations: fossils he found as a child, seashells and beach stones as well as Asian antiques. "All my books are here, too, my personal reference library of art and design. It's organized chaos," says Jones.
Perhaps, but the chaos seems to agree with his elegant brand of jewelry-making, a medium the artist dabbled in at RISD. "I start by selecting beads and stones. I have enormous respect for the stonecutters," says Jones. "I feel like I work in collaboration with them." Jones gathers much of his stones from New York's Diamond District as well as India. "Very often the design process changes as I'm making the piece itself. Translating from a 2-D sketch to 3-D changes the design." In addition to using hand-cut gem beads and stones, Jones works with 14-karat or 18-karat gold "because it's such a pure material, it behaves in a predictable way," as well as oxidized silver.
The designer prefers subtle metalwork, which, he claims, better showcases the presentation of his delicate gems. The result is understated elegance. "I like to think the pieces are sensual, that they move with the body," says the designer. Every piece is unique and handmade, and illustrates the varied gradations of size and color in the stones. Jones uses organic shapes found in nature like berries, flowers, and beach stones to inspire his pieces. And, of course, his wife, Angela, serves as a reliable test subject. "She tells me when to stop and when to keep going," Jones says. "As I'm working, I'll bring a piece around to show her, and if she really likes it, she'll wear it the next day. That's when I'm done with that piece. That is, until she gives it back to me."
Lure jewelry is available at the Brooklyn Artisan Gallery (221 A Court Street) and at www.lurejewelry.com.
Park Slope-based artist Russell O. Jones may spend his days working at web design, but his new collection of organic-inspired jewelry called Lure could suggest there's another calling afoot.