The Art Behind Jen's Jewels
More Than Beautiful Baubles
By Kayla Anderson
Photo by Erin Claassen
Right off of Highway 273 in Redding lies a unique jewelry/art retail shop with a workshop in the back. As you walk in the door of Jen’s Jewels, an intricate sculpture of a metal tree trunk in the shape of hands adorned with vibrant orange and red gems catches your eye. Called “Gift of Her Hands-Fall,” Jen’s Jewels owner Jenifer Lynn made it while taking bronze casting and sculpting classes in college.
“It was a team effort — you need a $100,000 facility to make something like that,” says Lynn. “In bronze casting something like this, you are using a crane to pour metals at 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit while wearing a spacesuit-type thing. It’s kind of unnerving,” she says. The finished piece is includes wire-wrapped carnelian, citrine, agate and coral gemstones as the leaves.
Lynn graduated from Shasta High School and moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. When that didn’t work out, Lynn started taking art classes at Shasta College and eventually received a bachelor's degree in arts and 3D design and metal from California State University, Long Beach.
Ten years later, Lynn sculpts and bejewels bracelets, earrings, necklaces and paintings that decorate her shop. She shows off a crazy dipping spoon made of hammered forged metal which she calls the “sniffer.”
“I had to make a ladle in art class but I didn’t want to, so I created this Monty Python torture device,” she says. “I learned the most from community college — we raised metal into bowls; we had to do it to get a degree.”
As part of her Earth, Water, Fire, Air series, Lynn created wearable artwork in an attempt to show how elements react with the skin (one of these pieces was a 19-stone necklace that just sold). While taking art classes, Lynn realized she wanted to make jewelry. But that wasn’t entirely supported by her professors.
“They told me I needed a purpose behind my art,” Lynn says. She couldn’t stop making jewelry, though. When the students put on an art sale at the end of the semester, Lynn brought and sold all of her jewelry in record time.
“I sold more than all of the students combined in the art department,” she says of the 90 rings, 40 necklaces, and a handful of earrings that she had available.
After seeing her success at the student art sale, her professors wanted Lynn to pursue teaching and work on getting an master's degree, but by then, Lynn was focused on starting a business. She made jewelry for Sundance Catalog and was able to apprentice under a woman who taught her all about gemstones.
Along with being an artist in Southern California, Lynn worked as a server, hosted karaoke, bartended and DJd, but when she started selling jewelry at the San Pedro Market, she dropped everything else to be able to focus solely on her art.
“If you have a mind that is constantly creating, when all of a sudden you can’t do that, it can feel suffocating,” she said.
In January 2015, Lynn and her husband decided to move back to her hometown and establish stronger roots. She started hosting jewelry parties as a way to network, which were well-received. A retail space opened up on Buenaventura Boulevard in Redding and Lynn decided to establish a storefront. She and her dad did a bit of remodeling, opening Jen’s Jewels in January 2016.
Even though Lynn’s first focus was launching her business, she always had it in the back of her mind to teach. “First I had to learn how to be efficient, which isn’t taught in school,” Lynn says. “I went through all of these extra steps that I didn’t need to take.”
In late February, Lynn started hosting classes which circulated via word-of-mouth. She started out with about 50 students, but only about a quarter of them pursued it.
“Making jewelry is a lot more difficult than you think,” says Lynn. Her 1A jewelry-making class teaches people how to make stacker rings, form metal, texture, solder and bezel set stones with finishing. Her next class teaches students how to make a mixed-metal pendant.
“In the 1B class, students create a one-inch disc design and learn how to saw, file, sweat soldering and finishing,” she adds. After students have completed the 1A and 1B classes, they can go through one more class to make a gemstone pendant or ring with their own design.
“I get inspired by my stones and then I do my work around them. Gemstones are natural, it’s so cool that they can be pulled from the earth,” she says.
Lynn makes new pieces every week. “Something may sit on a shelf for years, but there’s one person out there who it’s perfect for,” she adds. “The hardest part is getting new clients, but I’m particular about who I sell to. Every piece is unique, so letting it go is like giving away a piece of myself.”
However, Lynn feels lucky to be able to launch her business in her hometown. “Everyone is really supportive; I’m proud and surprised that the doors are still open without a lick of advertising. Networking has really helped,” she says. “Redding is big but there’s still this small-town attitude of people who want to shop local. I love finding those clients who appreciate gems as much as I do.”•
Jen’s Jewels • 1872 Buenaventura Blvd #3, Redding
www.jens-jewels.com • (310) 903-7917
Tuesday through Friday Noon to 6 pm;
Saturdays by appointment
One year anniversary event/new beginning party
Saturday March 3, 5 to 8 pm