American jeweler Jess Tolbert reconsiders manufactured everyday products to create jewelry that balances the duality between the industrially-made and the handcrafted, as well as our nostalgic versus our imagined relationship with labor and the built environment. Utilizing commonplace objects, such as staples, she transforms mass-produced items that we habitually take for granted into objects of grace and beauty. Her timely investigation focuses on the “merits of reinvention and reclamation as a creative act,” asking us to regard the source along with the human role in the production of things.
Tolbert received a MFA (Magna Cum Laude) in Jewelry and Metal from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Since 2015, she has been a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Head of the Jewelry + Metals program at University of Texas, El Paso. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, including Beijing International Jewelry Exhibition, held at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology, Beijing, China and Duality of Presence, super + CENTERCOURT, Munich Jewelry Week, Munich, Germany (both 2017). In 2015 she participated in Beijing International Jewelry Exhibition, as well as 9th Cheongju International Craft Competition at the Cheongju International Craft Biennale, Cheongju, South Korea, in which she was awarded a Special Citation. Tolbert was a 2016 recipient of a Project Grant from Crafthaus for Duality of Presence. In 2017 she received the Artist Incubator Program Grant, Museum & Cultural Affairs Department, El Paso, Texas from The Rachelle Thiewes Endowment, University of Texas, El Paso.