We are so thrilled to feature our first jeweler in the Artist Spotlight, Jess Johnson. You might guess by viewing his work that Jess is from Zuni Pueblo and is a master in the Zuni Petit-Point technique. Jess comes from a family of jewelers and is at least the third generation to continue the tradition. A popular favorite and highly collectable, Jess was the first among the large group of artists to sell out his entire collection during the 2016 Zuni Show. Jess incorporates a range of different Petit-Point and inlay techniques with amazing results. His pieces can usually be identified by his signature small “snake-eye” stones enclosed by a teardrop shaped embellishment along with his hallmark stamp of JJ with a rain cloud symbol.
The multi-step undertaking of creating petit point inlaid jewelry is certainly a labor of love, endangered by the time and materials intensive process. We often use the term “wearable art” when describing Jess’s work but the legacy of his pieces are so much more than beautiful items. They are a visual communication of, as well as a loving testament to, culture, tradition, skill & creativity that is passed from generation to generation. A connection that keeps Jess rooted while giving him the courage to branch out and nurture his own style.
In his own words:
Jess Johnson- Zuni Artist
I am grateful to be from a family of jewelers. I thank my grandparents for teaching me the values of patience, acceptance and willingness to learn the hidden skills of becoming an artist. I thank my parents for continuing the journey and supporting me to understand why I should carry on the skill and family tradition.
Over the past 18 years, I have been designing and hand making Zuni style snake eye petit point inlay jewelry. I find a peaceful connection to work with various types of natural turquoise. The color, texture and patterns within the turquoise has a sort of language that speaks to me on what design it would like to be. Turquoise has been a sign of strength for me as a Zuni artist. It has blessed me and led me to connect with many people around the world.
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