JESS MAJELLA WORTHINGTON
ILLUSTRATOR / DESIGNER / JEWELER / GARMENT ALCHEMIST / PODCASTER / INSTRUCTOR / MAKER ALL OF ALL THINGS CRAFT / SCULPTOR / CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVER / PAINTER / DANCER / STORYTELLER / MULTIPOTENTIALITE
I am forever exploring the concept of how we create ourselves and present ourselves to the world through our personal adornments. Not just the clothing we wear, but how we accessorize (or not) with jewelry, hair, make up, tattoos and how all those things are styled together to create your visual persona.
This relates to my usage of symbols. Symbols are beautiful to me because they are mini stories that convey an enormous amount of information in a blink. Using symbols creates a complex visual narrative (why I love using them!). It is also how we present ourselves with our personal adornment. So much of what we wear is symbolic: a wedding ring, a necklace of the emblem of our faith, a tattoo of the moon, a power suit for that interview, your sweetheart’s jacket…
We are essentially living symbolic narratives and we tell stories just by looking at one another. This is one of the reasons I love to use clothing as my canvas; your visual story is richer and the world is gifted with your beautiful story when you select your adornments with intention.
I find personal adornment, especially jewelry, fascinating. It is such an intimate thing with such an enthralling history. For me, one of the most intriguing historical concepts is that worn objects can be imbued with properties beyond physical ones (think talisman, amulet) and that these objects can bestow protection or transformative elements to the wearer.
All of these ideas and concepts creates a very exciting transaction for me as a maker of things meant to be worn. While I am the designer and creator, it will be you, the wearer, who ultimately tells your story with it.
I’m Jess Majella Worthington, and I’m a multidisciplinary creative (or multipotentialite) whose focuses are: contemporary jewelry design and fabrication; papercut illustrations; designing and teaching creative classes; refurbishing clothing and accessories; and (coming soon!) podcasting.
How I started doing what I do
In true multipotentialite form, my original majors in college were graphic design and then painting and then film and animation production and then… Sculpture was finally decided upon because it was one of the few creative degrees that was not medium or process specific, and I was able to utilize all of my skills to create fully immersive installations and interactive objects.
As part of my degree I participated in a summer long work-study at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN. This work-study allowed me for further explore methods of making traditionally associated with crafts (felt-making, book making, glass casting and slumping, ferrous and non-ferrous metal working and raising) and translate that into my sculpture work. I continued my studies of traditional crafts throughout and after college and taught myself how to crochet, knit, weave, and embroider.
I received my BFA with a concentration in sculpture from the University of TN, Knoxville in 2007. After graduating I started my own jewelry business and began teaching jewelry making and mold making in Knoxville.
What I’ve been up to and exploring the last few years
In 2010 I moved to Roanoke, VA where I rekindled my love of design and illustration and discovered papercutting. This technique became my signature illustration style and was my first commercial illustration success while working for Parkway Brewing Company. I created all of the art for their branding and identity which was applied to beer labels, packaging, t-shirts, posters, and vehicle wraps for both their “Brew Bus” and distribution semi-truck. (I also dabbled into mural art, conceiving and painting a huge mural on the outside of Parkway’s warehouse.) This gained me some local attention and another Roanoke business, Uttara Yoga Studio, intrigued by the papercutting process, hired me to create the logo and art for their astrology business, Nuit Astrology. It was a unique project that incorporated papercutting with logo design and produced some of my favorite commercial work to date.
During my time in Virginia I honed my graphic design skills, creating logos for my own evolving jewelry company and posters advertising the craft nights I began hosting at Parkway Brewing Co. After moving back to my hometown, Knoxville, TN in 2015, my previous illustration and design work for a brewery translated into a job designing the logo and branding for the Maryville, TN brewery, Round 6 Brewing. I also designed and painted a series of panels for the exterior of their warehouse.
What my work centers around and where I am now
Throughout of this exploration of mediums, processes, and techniques there have always been two common threads in my personal work: I make things that are to be worn on the body and symbolism. My love of personal adornment (the symbols we wear) and the history of what people have put on their bodies (and why) is what led me to create my own jewelry line and pursue a refurbished garment line in response to the fast fashion crisis. These are also some of the topics that will be discussed on my in-the-works podcast, Sequined Jumpsuit Society, debuting Autumn 2019.
Currently, I run my illustration/jewelry/reimagined garment business from home and teach weekly art classes to 9-14 year olds at a Montessori school. And, of course, I’m always learning a new creative technique while working on another dozen projects at a time.