Jason Ree’s passion for jewellery design has seen him become the recipient of the prestigious Jeweller of the Year Award twice over. We talk to Jason about his many inspirations and the finer points of his craft.
> Where were you originally based before moving on tobigger things in Sydney?
Originally from Forster on the Mid-North Coast. I started making jewellery there before continuing my training in Sydney with various craftspeople.
> What initially drew you towards designing jewellery? Why did you choose it for a career?
I first made the decision to become a jeweller after seeing an incredible exhibition of jewellery by a French artisan called Lalique in Amsterdam after I finished high school. He was producing jewellery in the Art Neuveau period and had a great mix of metals, gemstones, enamel and subject matter. The designs were very inspiring and beautifully proportioned. I had always enjoyed working with my hands and felt an innate need to build things. Jewellery combines the ability to use tools and get your hands dirty with the finesse of a luxury product like a diamond ring revolving around the desire of the customer and their needs. I was really lucky that my father was a jeweller and taught me a lot of what I know today. It also made it an easier career choice by having some insight into the industry.
> For two consecutive years, you have won the prestigious JAA Jeweller of the Year Award. How did it feel to receive such an esteemed award?
I would say it is a real highlight of my career. To win an award I used to only imagine winning as an apprentice, is something of a dream come true. It also helps to give some confidence in my designs knowing that industry peers rate them so highly. Designing the winning pieces is difficult in the sense that there are no limitations and absolutely anything is possible. When designing for a customer you get immediate feedback and have certain boundaries that can actually make the designing process easier.
> What would you say defines your style? Or rather, what makes your pieces unique?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one. Different items of jewellery have certain needs. For example a diamond engagement ring is generally a ring to be worn every day for the rest of your life. Therefore it needs to not only be beautiful, but also have a practical side. It’s always difficult to create a design with enough simplicity to age well but also to be an interesting object. On the other hand a dress ring that might signify a particular occasion in one’s life and may not be worn every day, will usually present a greater range in appropriate styles and proportions. It can tend to be a bit more indulgent in that sense and allows a greater freedom of expression. It is probably the fact that I don’t have a defined style, that represents my style.
> Do you design according to your own experiences and knowledge of the industry, or do you find that you design according to what seems to be in vogue at the time?
Experience and ideas are always necessary when designing any piece of jewellery and I tend not to follow what is popular at a particular time. In fact I tend to make an effort to push what is considered conventional as much as possible. Ultimately the biggest factor in designing a piece of jewellery is the customer, their hands, their sense of proportion and style.
> Do you focus on particular metals and stones when creating or do you experiment with a diverse range of materials?
I love experimenting with metals and techniques. It’s a type of alchemy when combining different coloured metals in a Mokume style for example. Making a tension set ring requires a lot of experience in understanding the workability and range of different metals. Making the ring in platinum as opposed to yellow gold involves a completely different range of techniques. The design must also be sympathetic to the gemstones being used – diamonds offer enormous potential with regards to cutting edge designs, while coloured stones offer a unique personality which must be accounted for.
> Tell us about your range “Mokume Gane”.
Mokume Gane style was developed in Japan in the late 1600’s and was primarily used for the handles of Samurai swords. It is created by combining several alternating layers of differently coloured metal which are fused together. The way the mix of metals is then forged, results in a variety of different patterns and textures. It often resembles a wood grained pattern which is always unique and no two rings are ever the same.
> Do you design with a collection in mind, or do you design ‘as you go’?
I always design with the customer in mind, they are always the best judge of what is attractive and appropriate for them. I have my ideas of how those desires are going to translate into jewellery but ultimately it is driven by the wearer.
> What sort of process do you go through when designing a new piece of jewellery?
I always like to think about the shapes being created. Do the proportions sit well, how can I create some contrast in the ring or how can I blend some really nice complementary colours or textures together. This is what creates interest in a design. It always needs to be adjusted to a particular person’s hand, however the function of texture and shape remains. From my customer’s point of view it is also a lot of fun, trying on lots of different jewels and discovering their own likes and dislikes. It’s a real thrill for them when they first see a new ring that three weeks ago was just ideas as a sketch on paper. It’s the best part of my day and great to know that they will wear it for the rest of their lives.
> Tell us about Jason Ree Design’s speciality in personalised jewellery design?
We are a little unique in the sense that we don’t actually try and sell our customers anything. The focus is always on listening to what our customers tell us they either want or really don’t want. It requires a lot of patience but the result is always the perfect ring. In fact we guarantee it since there is no obligation to purchase the jewellery until it’s finished and the customer can be satisfied that it’s perfect. If they would like to make any changes we do so at no extra charge.
> The old saying “Do what you love and the money will follow”, seems to apply to your work. Do you believe that your passion for jewellery design is what leads you to produce such stunning pieces?
Yes, for sure. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Even if I didn’t have to earn a living I would be sitting here designing and making jewellery just for fun.
> Thank you for your time Jason.