When it comes to travel, there really aren’t many countries that Justine Brooks has not visited. Taking nearly a year off to travel and discovering a love for jewelry making on the way, we talk to this exciting and passionate designer about her love for all things raw.
My parents are British but I was born in a suburb of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and lived there until I was 18. I was privileged enough to have a father that worked for the Airlines, which gave me the golden ticket to fulfill my curious and passionate soul.
My first solo trip was at age 16 When I spent the summer in England; after finishing high school at age 18, I spent the year in Australia working my way around. I then moved to various cities in Canada for Art school. The mountains, rain forests, and ocean make Vancouver feel like “home” for me every time I get off the plane. Each year I try to make room for two months of travel to get inspired and collect new materials.
I had graduated art school major in ceramics and realized I had a strong conceptual background, but I wanted to broaden my knowledge of different jewelry techniques and design concepts from other cultures. I was also eager to explore every nook and cranny of the world, as it makes me feel alive. I can’t imagine a better afternoon than wandering through a crowded Egyptian bazaar exploring endless isles of precious gems. I chose to visit countries that were known for having rich cultural art backgrounds. I was in search of inspiration from textiles, pottery, and architecture, fashion and jewelry.
I started my trip in Istanbul, Turkey. I had no set itinerary or timeline, but lots of passion. I felt Turkey was an excellent place to start my trip as I had heard so much about the famous Grand Bazaar. I wanted to see where East met West and the path that many precious jewels had once taken along the Silk Road. I spent several weeks travelling through Turkey and met some amazing people that helped me plan my next few steps of my journey. I then travelled to Greece, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa.
In South Africa I visited several museums, in which I learned more about the gold and diamond industry in Africa. From Johannesburg, I flew to Dubai where I was in shock from the contrast of life in Africa. I wandered the famous Gold Souq and admired the emerald and diamond studded iPhone cases that seemed surreal.
At first, I was making jewelry for my friends and family out of mussel shells I found on the beach. I had always loved making beaded jewelry when I was young, so I guess it has always been in me. I loved the shell jewelry I was making, but I wanted to be able to make something more permanent. The double mussel pendant was one of my first Silver Earth pieces, inspired by first explorations of accessory design.
I am heavily inspired by life on the West Coast of Canada. I love the relaxed, healthy approach to life. Since nature is literally at my doorstep, I am continually going for hikes and being inspired by the flora and fauna. I often collect pockets full of neat leaves, twigs etc. when wondering through the West Coast rain forests. On New Years, I was lucky enough to be invited to a remote Gulf Island where I found on the beach a perfect barnacle to make “barnacle stud earrings” which I will launch this spring!
I enjoy having the freedom to travel and get inspired by things that are important to me. I couldn’t imagine doing anything different. I love dreaming up a bizarre idea such as Anchovy bracelet or Fly pendant and turning that into a reality.
As an emerging designer I find it difficult to balance between studio time and the paper work! I have worked hard to create a healthy balance of how I schedule my time for my business and personal life.
Raw. Precious. Natural. Organic. Bold.
I was lucky enough to discover a unique jewelry workshop in a small Indian town called Manali, tucked away deep in the Himalayan Mountains. I was in shock and inspired with how low tech the equipment they used was and how they still made the most detailed work. I couldn’t put down the ore of silver that had come straight from the earth that was still in its raw form. I try to keep this feeling of rawness in my work by casting from real organic natural objects.
I have been really interested in bones and anatomy lately. Keep your eye out for an anatomical heart launching this summer.
I love the clean layout of Boticca as I feel it truly allows the work of the talented designers to shine. I am also excited that Boticca has introduced my line to a new European audience. I appreciate that Boticca curates designers from all over the world, allowing for a broad range of designs and goods. I am grateful to be part of such an inspiring online community.
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