In The Studio / Jasmin Sparrow
Inspired by her grandmother’s love of jewellery, New Zealand designer Jasmin Sparrow has an ability to tap into the elemental in her crafted pieces in silver and gold. With her finely calibrated eye for detail, and a nuanced approach to design, her work deftly combines the organic and the sophisticated. Walking the tightrope between timeless and contemporary it is easy to understand how the brand conveys instant cool to her local and international customers.
I love that you talk about your grandmother’s ‘vast collection’ of jewellery as an early fascination. What type of pieces did she collect and how did it make you feel, as a child, observing her passion for adornment through jewellery?
She always wore classic solid gold pieces, beautiful chain links, layers of gold bangles and bracelets, and rings set with precious gems covering her fingers. They were all timeless and my mother, sisters and I all inherited her pieces when she passed. They’ve become our staples. What I remember most as a child was her taking me into that world with her, she’d take me along to the jewellery store she worked in and let me choose charms for my charm bracelet. I still have all the pieces she bought for me as a child which I’ll pass on to my daughter.
Was jewellery design always your chosen path or did you consider, or try, other creative pursuits prior to this one?
No, I think I could have gone in any creative direction, and I certainly entertained alternate paths prior to jewellery. I’ve always had quite an entrepreneurial mindset and throughout high school I’d take on graphic design projects and painting commissions. I did a few papers at uni in graphic design, fine arts and photography, and then enrolled in jewellery school and never looked back.
I am loathe to ask about inspiration because it is such a predictable question. But I can see an organic quality in all your work from the materials you chose to the sculptural forms themselves. What drives your design process?
I grew up at the beach and have always been so drawn to nature. I think this is reflected in my designs as I love fluid, organic and sculptural shapes and forms. I certainly have a clearer mind when I’m in nature and often retreat to my parent’s house at the beach when I need to reset and design.
A sustainable and ethical approach to materials is a laudable core belief of JS. Has this been a hard path to follow in the industry you are in and how did you set about achieving this goal?
I think growing up in New Zealand and having a young appreciation for the world and its wonders, I naturally want to do what I can to protect it. I began making everything by hand, as soon as demand within the business grew and I needed to outsource production, I inherently knew I’d only work with companies that shared my values. We have a supplier code of conduct we have everyone sign before working with them outlining our values and expectations. If a company can’t adhere, we simply won’t work with them. I think it’s what’s expected of brands now, so it’s certainly becoming easier.
We do run into supply issues trying to produce in a responsible way, with packaging in particular, cost of production and minimum quantities seem to be a lot higher. I feel lucky I’m in the jewellery industry where we don’t require a large range of materials as it’s not hard to access recycled gold and silver. Bespoke has become a significant arm of the business and we’re working with more and more lab grown diamonds and gemstones - which is an amazing alternative to mined stones. There’s currently so much conversation around sustainability, my hope is that this will soon become something expected of all brands rather than something that is celebrated.
"A large priority for me is maintaining a sense of joy on the journey; ensuring the growth is harmonious and balanced with my family and life outside of the business."
It is one thing to be able to design but it is another to develop a brand with an attitude, an aesthetic and a loyal following of local and international customers - did this aspect come easily to you?
Everything within the business has happened quite slowly and organically. It certainly doesn’t feel like we are where we want to be just yet and we have ambitious goals in place for the next few years. It’s nice taking it slow, learning as we grow and ensuring we have strong foundations and support in place. A large priority for me is maintaining a sense of joy on the journey; ensuring the growth is harmonious and balanced with my family and life outside of the business.
The women you feature in the journal section of your website have a certain insouciance - a sense of devil-may-care ease - about what they wear and how they adorn themselves. The jewellery is somehow an integral part of them. How do you want people to feel when they wear your pieces?
I feel so lucky being able to adorn people as I think jewellery is approached slightly differently to clothing. It’s so sentimental. People buy jewellery with longevity in mind as it carries sentiment and intent. I have inherited my grandmother’s jewellery, my daughter will receive the pieces I treasured as a child, there’s depth and purpose and I think that aspect is really beautiful. I design with this in mind and hope that it resonates with people when they purchase a piece of JS jewellery.
You have a thriving business, a partner and two small children – what does home mean to you?
Home is wherever my family is. I’ve built the business alongside raising children, which I think has helped me maintain a sense of balance - kids help keep things in perspective. I have a very supportive partner who carries a lot and allows me to dive into work when I need to. I do miss adventures with my family as we travelled a lot when we were able to. We want to move overseas and explore the world as a family when the universe allows.
Do you find your design aesthetic translates to your surroundings at work and at home? And do you consider yourself a collector of things?
I definitely appreciate nice things. I appreciate quality and craftsmanship. I love supporting local artists and we have a growing art collection, most of which comes from artist friends or people we’ve met. I love good furniture and we have a few great second-hand pieces in our home. I also have a soft spot for a designer chair.
What matters to you most in your clothing choices? And do you have a go-to outfit and piece of jewellery?
In clothing I look for quality, material and fit. I tend to invest in pieces I know I’ll wear season after season. I’m ok spending a lot on a piece I know I’m going to love. I love buying second-hand and always scroll through Vestiaire and The Real Real.
When it comes to jewellery, I get all of my pieces made in solid gold and never take them off. I’m quite pared back and I layer a few organic shaped rings and earrings. I always wear nanas gold bangle and love a pair of statement earrings when I’m in the mood.
How would you define how you live your life in 5 words?
Empathetic, loving, driven, instinctive, adventurous.
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