Authenticity. Quality. Sustainability. These are the values underpinning every piece created by Sydney-based artisan jewellery brand, Jika. Combining sustainable processes and recycled materials with traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design, Jessica Dalton and her partner Sam create simple yet striking jewellery inspired by nature, myth and dreams.
Jessica grew up in the Philippines and travelled extensively before moving to Orange, NSW, to finish high school. She studied design at UNSW Art & Design (formerly known as the College of Fine Arts), then sought to round out her education with a more practical, material skillset, training with a trade jeweller back in Orange. Soon after, she launched Jika from her shed, armed with her new skills, the tools her mentor gifted her, and a passion for imperfection.
“So much of the Western jewellery tradition involves seeking perfection,” Jessica says. “I try to resist perfection and symmetry, to cultivate conditions where the metal finds its own natural shape – and people seem to respond to how unique and alive this feels. Maybe because if it’s imperfect, it’s more like our bodies and more like our lives!”
Along with her partner Sam, who helps design and hand-make pieces, Jessica is also passionate about sustainable, ethical small business practice. She cites the exploitation of resources and workers in less developed countries as a key reason for keeping things hyper-local and super-sustainable. “Sustainability is central to Jika and our mission, but also integrated into our lives,” Jessica explains. “For us, this isn’t a buzzword or a marketing term – it means that we want to build sustainable relationships to our ecological context, but also to our community.
We committed very early on to run an ethical and sustainable business, which we are proud of having accomplished.”
So what does this sustainability look like in practice?
Locally sourced, recycled and refined metals, reclaimed and recycled packaging, and a lot of secondhand tools, to name just a few things. “Everything we can source from our area and from small businesses, we do,” Jessica says, adding that she and Sam have felt particularly lucky to belong to various communities that share their values and support their business.
There’s a rawness and simplicity that comes from this sustainable way of working, and it’s reflected throughout the whole range. Jika pieces draw on inspiration from nature as well as the patterns, motifs and language of traditional cultures, particularly those of Jessica’s motherland, the Philippines. Understated style and natural shapes abound, and there’s an almost primeval sensibility to the designs – a nod to another of Jessica’s passions: the age-old tradition of jewellery as an expression of culture, connection and self. “Jewellery is a fascinating medium to work with because it’s a tradition that stretches deep into human history,” she reflects. “People from almost every time, place and culture have adorned themselves with things precious and beautiful. We trust, on a deep level, that jewellery does more than make us beautiful; it can protect, inspire and connect us across time and space.”
Combining culture and creativity with the meditative nature and hands-on practicality of jewellery-making is something Jessica treasures. (As is the opportunity to work from home accompanied by her dog, Zeus!) But it’s the response from customers that makes her job truly special. “The feeling I get when someone tells me how much they treasure a piece I made, how they wear it every day, or how it connects them to something or someone special is incredibly uplifting,” she says. “Jewellery should last forever, so knowing that someone has received Jika for their eighteenth birthday and might one day pass it on to their daughter, or that two people in love will be wearing Jika on their fingers in a retirement home – that I can contribute to these special connections is humbling.”
Find a piece of Jika jewellery for yourself at the next Olive Tree Market, or explore the range online at www.iamjika.com Upcoming market dates include September 7, October 5 and November 2 at Civic Park, Newcastle. For more information visit www.theolivetreemarket.com.au