It is especially where the natural world interfaces with the trappings of humanity that provokes my work. Tightly framed flora and fauna allude to the human inclination to both worship and exploit Nature—to preserve its beauty and obliterate its inconvenience. Clear acrylic angles recall power-lines fragmenting the moving sky; multi-colored vitreous enamel surfaces evoke the chimerical character of the desert cityscape; faceted gems and unpolished crystals juxtapose the raw with the refined, and let you wonder what was lost or gained in the process. The result is jewelry that challenges our notion of what constitutes a gem, and recasts what may be considered precious by inviting us to examine the everyday in an elevated way.
Like you, I have always collected the ephemeral—those things that turn to dust in time. Of course, I am overcome by all of it—this entire world full with wings and things, garden petals drying in books, sticks and stones, fossils and sand, odds and ends of this and that. Most of the wings and petals that I use come from the borderland between urban and wildspace. They are cultivated in places like my own backyard garden, lush with hose water. Or, I find them smashed onto the front-end of SUVs, sprouting from sidewalk cracks, and lifeless under streetlights come morning. Many are weeds or agricultural pests—unwelcome in Civilization. Some are collected by friends and family from home gardens and urban hikes. They show signs of a life-well-lived. Fascinating and collectible gem and mineral specimens, some of which are self-collected around New Mexico and cut in studio, are set in bespoke bezels of silver and gold. In an effort to reduce the impact of mining, refining, and manufacturing new metal, when possible, the precious metal used in my work is recycled from vintage sterling silver tableware, fine gold and silver bullion coin, or copper roof-flashing sheet scrap. The acrylic is rescued from the waste stream too. The lead-free enamel is from Thompson Enamel—a family-owned company that has been manufacturing vitreous enamel for over 119 years.
I practice my craft in two studio spaces in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Most days, you can find me tucked into a studio in the back of my rambling garden. Working with traditional jewelry making tools and techniques, I craft modern-day curiosity cabinets, meant to display object and to hold space for memory. My grandmother’s acetylene torch and chasing stamps handmade from rebar remnants inspire my work as much as the strange and lovely found objects that distinguish it. All of my enameling is done at Kristin Diener's studio where I have access to kilns and 100-plus transparent and opaque enamel colors. Most Tuesday afternoons, you can find me there, talking shop and enameling metal alongside a vibrant creative community of other self-guided artists.
As a self-guided artist, Jessica deGruyter studies her craft through workshops, books, and experimentation with unusual materials. In 2010, she learned to silver-solder under the guidance of Kristin Diener, and opened her Etsy shop, Found: in Albuquerque. She also began setting up at small markets and pop-ups around New Mexico. By 2014, deGruyter quit her day-job, pursuing the life of a full time artist. Her work has been published in Belle Amore Jewelry Magazine (Winter 2017, Spring 2018), and she was recently invited to exhibit virtually at the Society of Craft's Studs and Drops Show in April/May 2021. You can find her work in Mariposa Gallery in Albuquerque, NM or in Momo Taos in Taos, NM.