My name is Jessica Graham, I grew up in rural British Columbia, Canada. My family owned and operated a tree planting company; this is a story all on its own. The shorter version – it was a summer camp for 20-year-olds where you work hard and play harder. In my 20’s I worked as the camp cook for the summer season, hair in a scarf, food on my apron and crocs on my feet! During the winter, I took fashion classes, wore high heels, Seven jeans and worked high-end retail on 4th Avenue in Vancouver.
I have been passionate about fashion for as long as I can remember, which is a tricky thing to develop when all you have is the Sears catalogue and Fields. For those of you who grew up in a small town in the 80’s, you know what I mean! So I learned to sew at a young age. My dream was to be a fashion designer until I went to art school where I ended up in the jewellery studio.
In 2007 I received a certificate in Jewellery and Small Object Design from the Kootenay School of the Arts in Nelson BC. I started a clothing company in 2010 which led me to Vietnam, I established myself as a sourcing agent and production manager for fashion labels, dabbled in textiles design and finally back to jewellery. I lived in Ho Chi Minh city for 4.5 years where I developed my current collection, studied online business marketing and built my website. In May of 2015, I moved back to Canada.
This story is like a lot of other passion business stories, with many twists and bumps along the way. Since this, all began I’ve moved from Canada to Vietnam and back, built my website, bought a laser engraving machine, redesigned my packaging and added to the collection. It’s been crazy at times and seemingly impossible at others but mostly super fun.
Arris began in Vietnam in 2012 after the ending of J’ampe, a clothing company I had with three friends. The Nightrider earrings and Nix earrings, as well as the concept for The Collector and Savannah cuffs, are original designs created for J’ampe. The cuffs were designed to be shoulder pieces for some of the dresses and tops that could be removed and worn as cuffs. When we decided to dissolve the company due to lack of funds it was wildly sad and one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I learnt a lot and decided the best thing to do with the hands-on crash course in fashion I had survived was to honour it, use all that goodness I had received for something that combined my love of fashion and jewellery and so Arris was born.
Your body is a canvas fashion is a medium.
Arris logo design by 2Jx Design.http://www.2jx-design.com/
Work Shop & My Process
I’m a very visual designer, I’d love to say I’m a fabulous sketch artist and have beautiful leather bound journals filled with whimsical sketches and ideas but that would be bullshit. I sketch on occasion to get an idea down quick so it doesn’t run away and hide but it’s much more of a scratchy mess than a book of “art”. Instead, I make models out of paper a carryover from pattern making in fashion design which I’m much more comfortable with.
Once I have a shape I layout the rivet pattern, sometimes this happens quickly and other times it’s a slow process depending on the concept and the size. When I’m content with the piece I mark the rivet holes on my paper pattern and then scan it into illustrator where I trace the holes, outline and set the file so it is ready for the laser printer.
I select a piece of leather that is the correct size for the project and cover the surface with a low tack pre-masking tape to help with burning and curling of the edges. Once cut I clean the pieces with hydrogen peroxide to remove any ashy residue left by the laser.
After cutting and cleaning I polish with a buffing cloth and a mix of coconut oil, citrus oil and Carnauba wax for the edges I use Edge Flex on the edges to get a nice clean sealed finish. At this point, the piece is ready for assembly and riveting.
Where things come to life! I use an Arbour press that has been modified to fit the Dies for the denim rivets. Currently, I’m using six sizes of rivets (4mm to 20mm) in two colours the matte black is brass based and the gunmetal is copper based.
Starting with the 4mm I beginning the riveting working from smallest to largest, inner to outer.
- 1/2 ton Arbour press
- 40 watt C02 Laser with air compressor and ventilation
- Denim rivet dies, 4mm, 6mm, 10mm, 12.5mm, 18mm and 20mm
- 4lb sledgehammer, cause sometimes you need to manual smash!
- Pliers and cutters and various other hand tools.
Before I found jewellery making or it found me I was focused on a life in the fashion industry. I learnt to sew at a young age and was always into clothing and dress up. I studied fashion throughout my 20’s and at 24 I moved to Nelson BC to go to art school which led me to meet three amazing women who invited me to join them in creating a fashion label.
J’ampe, an anagram using our names Jessica, Andreza, Mav, and Paula with an “e” added to the end for exciting,(That’s not true we just liked it better with the “e”) was started in 2010 with Andreza as our Designer, Paula as our Branding and Styling, Mav as Sales and me as Production Manager.
We started the sampling and pattern making in Brazil because Andreza and Paula are from there and are familiar with the market, the plan was to manufacture there as well but that didn’t happen.
We did some work in Los Angeles, which was wild and I learnt a lot fast! Funny story, we had ordered fabric from a Korean textiles manufacturer and the factory that was to make our fabric blew up, for real exploded, poof sorry no fabric for you. You know when there are “signs” about things you only see in hindsight? Anyway, we had to rethink again as LA was proving to be too expensive for us and there were many obstacles, so we looked to Asia.
Andreza and I sourced fabric, zippers thread and rivets in Hong Kong and China, madness! Then we travelled to Vietnam to find a small factory to make our collection. I had been there years earlier and had seen the amount of small mom and pop style workrooms there were, that and the Vietnamese are great tailors. We found a small sampling house in Ho Chi Minh city to make our samples and it was on!
While we were designing and working on patterns Mav and Paula were busy in Canada and LA working on branding the label and sales. We had some pieces used in editorials in fashion magazines as well as worn by celebrities. A personal “WOW this is crazy” moment for me was when Sofia Milos wore a dress that I made the fabric for and sewed in my basement with the help of a friend. It was all very exciting with heaps of promise in the air.
In reality, we had the orders but no money to move forward. It was a terribly difficult decision to make, we all cried a lot and made the choice to end it. It’s one of those “I wouldn’t change a thing” situations, it led me to a new life and to Arris. I gained friendships, knowledge and a whole new perspective on fashion and what it takes to make it happen.
Fashion Merchandising and Styling as well as organizing things have always been a passion of mine. When I was a little I would rearrange the knick-knacks on my mom’s window sill and set up little scenes with all the tiny objects I liked to collect.
This interest has stayed with me, I studied Fashion Merchandising in my early 20’s and luckily I found myself falling into jobs that allowed me to channel that passion.
Starting at Moulé on 4th Avenue in Vancouver where I had the most wonderful boss that encouraged my interest in working in fashion. I began merchandising the interior of the store and soon after was doing the windows and that was it I was hooked, it’s the most fun to create a little dream world.
Currently, I do the windows at Bia Boro Boutique in Kelowna BC.