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Meet Lady J, Brooklyn’s Indie Design Champion

In an Amazon-world of mass production and online shopping, Jessica D’Amico is a champion for independent and local designers in Brooklyn. In fact, her shop in Crown Heights, Lady J + 1, opened in 2012 as the first ‘Brooklyn-only’ showcase featuring indie local artists. There is a strong sense of community that influences Jessica’s work. Pulling influences from cultural events in Brooklyn and personal interactions with her customers, community is reflected in both the shop and her designs.

There is no denying that Jessica’s metalwork is one of a kind. Mystical and modern in aesthetic, her use of raw materials, stones and vermeil plating draws a deep connection to the earth. Jessica also prioritizes the use of silver, gold and semi precious stones sourced from reputable and conflict-free areas.

 

rings and geode in case
Jess at work table

Ladyjjewelry.com launched in 2002, and after having two children, D’Amico launched her studio-in-a-store, Lady J + 1. Inspired by her path, we asked Jessica to share more about her process, influences, and being an independent artist in one of the largest creative hubs of the world.

 

How did you start designing jewelry?

I started designing jewelry as I was attending Pratt as a painting major. I tried a jewelry/metals class to fulfill a sculpture credit and I was hooked! Working three-dimensionally with metal and the use of color from natural stones really spoke to me as an artist. It’s kind of the perfect merging of design and fine art.

 

jewelry shelves
clothing rack

Working three-dimensionally with metal and the use of color from natural stones really spoke to me as an artist.

What is generally your process in creating a new piece or collection?

It all starts in my sketchbook with some really rudimentary doodles. I always set aside some time for experimentation, whether it’s in wax or at the bench so in essence a 3D sketch is made. My hope is that my 3D sketch will become a model or possibly a modular unit. I can get really into textures and patterns when I’m designing. There’s repetition in a lot of jewelry studio tasks like filing, for example. When I was constructing the settings for the 5-Prong Labradorite Studs exclusively for AOS, I spent hours filing each prong to a pointy perfection, and in this task of filing, things can get to an almost meditative state for me.

 

hands at work
overhead view of work table

You're not only an independent artist; you're clearly a big advocate for them. What do you love about being an indie artist and business owner in Brooklyn? What are some of the challenges?

I love being an Indie artist, for sure! Honestly, I’m worried that if the non-conformists and creatives don't have a space to sell and create, we will live in a homogenized culture. If everything starts to look the same or if you don’t get a sense of what someone else's style or aesthetic is, the landscape of people will look pretty boring. For this, I try my best to encourage other designers and makers who sell at my shop. I’m worried we could live in a mass-produced Amazon-world mostly because it’s convenient. This is my biggest challenge, having some internet presence in this Amazon-world. One of the things I have going for me in operating a brick and mortar store is that I get to know my customers on a personal level. I can better serve them this way in addition to becoming part of the community. It’s not all business all the time. I love supporting my customers in their endeavors as well—like art openings, yoga classes, dance performances and more.

 

Speaking of, Lady J + 1 is Brooklyn’s first fashion boutique founded exclusively to cultivate indie local artists. How do you discover and select these artists to showcase in your shop?

I rely on my community for an intricate network of makers/designers. In Brooklyn, there are lots of pop-ups and fairs. I have had luck at these types of venues in finding small batch makers. Some of my favorites are Fad Market, Renegade Craft Fair and Bust Craftacular.

 

Every full moon, Lady J + 1 has a tarot reading party in the shop. How did this idea develop? Are any mystical elements reflected in your designs?

The Tarot readings at the shop started as a special event around November of 2017. I had a good response from the neighborhood/customers and Stephanie, my assistant, had the idea to make it a ‘Full Moon Tarot’ event once a month. Since we had been selling different Tarot Decks from various artists, it seemed like a great service to offer. There were many customers coming in and asking me questions about Tarot that I did not have the expertise to answer. Hiring a seasoned reader seemed the next logical step. I do think flipping through the several Tarot Decks that we have at the shop have influenced my designs. There’s no denying there is a deep history to Tarot and the reinterpretation that each artist presents with their deck can be consuming in a long, unplanned journey sort of way. Tarot can be transformative and I hope my jewelry is, too.

 

jewelry display
candles and incense

Your David Bowie collection was released in tandem with the Bowie exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum this past year. Do cultural events and happenings in Brooklyn often inform your work?

Yes! The David Bowie collection was my most recent collection. After David Bowie’s death I felt like I wanted to pay homage to the artist in the only way I knew how, in jewelry. Not only are his songs, lyrics, customs and personas inspiring, but he did a lot for gender-bending in modern times. In all honesty, it was a really nice coincidence that the Bowie show was to be housed at the BK Museum at the same time I was releasing my collection. So many people have come in since that time who were moved by what they saw and heard at the exhibit (it was fully immersive), and it has been a great way to connect with customers on another level than just the standard transaction.

 

Lady J store front

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My biggest influences are:

Music. I spend a lot of long hours in the studio and listening to tunes. Art and architecture. I feel so fortunate to work so close to the Brooklyn Museum and live in a city that's overflowing with contrasting architecture.

Currently on my playlist:

Recently I’ve been re-listening to The Cramps. Arcade Fire is always a good listen. Also Toro y Moi, TV On The Radio, Blonde Redhead, Margo Price, The Kills and Computer Magic, just to name a few.

Favorite slice of NYC pizza:

Emily (pickled jalapenos on your pizza will change your life).

Favorite Brooklyn watering hole:

I like WeatherUp for their mixology style cocktails and Doris is a close second

I'm dying to visit:

Trolltunga or Croatia

 

Jessica profile pic