If you are in need of a dose of handcrafted beauty and the great outdoors, meet Jessica Lewis, the artist behind Ruby & Revolver. Jessica creates authentic and unique handmade metal jewelry. We have designated her as a Mark Maker because of her simple approach to living life in the moment and spending her time in the splendor of nature.
One way that she leaves her mark is by hand-making pieces of jewelry that are unmistakably her own. She is conscious of the environmental impact of sourcing metal and stones and takes great care to ensure she leaves a minimal footprint. Her pieces are a mix of reclaimed materials and both old and new stock stones which, she says, can limit the kind of pieces she can create, but helps to offset the toll mining can take on earth. At Ruby & Revolver, reclaimed materials and her inspiration from nature combine to create hardware for the soul.
Learn more about Jessica and the unique pieces behind Ruby and Revolver in our one-on-one interview.
What does your busy life consist of these days?
The family piece is easy because that’s definitely something that’s taking up the majority of my time right now. I have an eleven-month-old daughter; her name is Indie. She’s a really busy kiddo, so she is kind of what’s happening in my world right now, to be honest with you. My husband and I built a little house together up in Bitterroot Valley---actually, we built it before we knew we were having any children. Indie wasn’t really in the plan. But, yeah, we just kind of designed a little house around my studio space, so it’s just a two-person bungalow. We have a climbing wall in the living room, dyed concrete floors, a ladder to the loft, and a wood burning stove in the living room...and lots of power tools...in short, it’s not super kid-friendly. We’ve actually sold this place and are currently in the process of building a little something else that we can fit our family in.
We read that your dad was a welder and you grew up exposed to his craft. Can you talk about the influence that had on your life?
I think that my family is pretty artistic in general. My mom is a maker in her own way and in a variety of mediums. My dad and I have more in common when it comes to our aesthetic, and in terms of the craft, we have both chosen. My dad is incredibly talented, and while I’ve actually never had the chance to learn from him directly until just the last year, I was always around it. Growing up I was surrounded by big, old machinery and was always fascinated by it. I was able to watch the processes, the old school metalsmithing and forging, combined with modern technology. It was always really intriguing to me. My dad was a welder by day but actually did a lot of gunsmithing on the side. That’s where I get the name “Revolver” for Ruby & Revolver. It’s an ode to my pop. He did a lot of old style revolvers with embellished handles and beautiful rifles with hand-etched stocks. They were true works of art. I definitely think being around my dad and having his creative influence shaped me and stuck with me a little bit you know? It just made sense. I had always made art, but when I started working with metal it just sort of stuck.
For those who aren’t familiar with Ruby & Revolver, can you talk a little bit about it?
It was a long process, actually. Like I said, I had always been fascinated by metal fabrication, metalwork; the interest was always there. When I decided to start this process, my dad wasn’t living in this area; he was traveling for work (he’s a bit of a gypsy, really). At the time, he was in Alaska, and I just didn’t have access to someone to teach me or show me the way. There weren’t any classes locally or even any shops to supply the basics. I had a sort of vague knowledge of some of the machinery required, but pretty much no money to purchase any equipment. I just started really slow and put my time in. I began by reading books... lots of books. And then I started scouring the local pawn shops. I started with the most basic, rudimentary blacksmithing tools---some of them I still use to this day. Certainly nothing fancy, most were the same tools used by metalsmiths of the past. Tried and true. I slowly increased my tools of the trade and I just spent all my free hours messing around. It was just a lot of trial and error… with an emphasis on the error. Even so, I was hooked immediately. Absolutely fascinated by it, I just kept going, but there was a steep learning curve initially and a fair amount of frustration in the beginning due to the fact that my tools and my knowledge base were so limited. And at some point, I was able to create some things that I felt were passable as art.
What was it like before you made this a full-time endeavor?
I began to submit my work to craft fairs and got into a few local shops, which was a pretty exciting thing for me at the time. But, even so, my craft remained on the back burner and I kind of assumed it always would. I had a professional career and it wasn’t until about ten years later after much dithering that I finally decided to take the plunge. By that point, I had built a pretty solid clientele and felt like I might be able to make the leap and do it full-time. I now had a few more tools and a little bit of a bigger audience, but I was still pretty small. I was living in a tiny studio apartment with two dogs and my guy while making my metalwork in my kitchen for many years...which is really kind of gross.
How long have you been creating?
My whole life really...but with metal work, I think it’s been about twelve or thirteen years. It has been a while now, but only about two years doing it full-time as work and supporting myself with it.
Do you have favorite pieces to make?
I’m not sure why, but I always find myself wanting to create rings for some reason, which is silly because they’re like the only thing in jewelry that actually has a specific fit. I tend to wear pretty simple necklaces, simple earrings, and then sometimes I like to bust out a really crazy ring.
Is there a favorite stone you enjoy working with?
I really love turquoise. I just do. Desert Jasper is one of my absolute favorite gemstones. There are so many stones I’m drawn to, and new ones I discover daily. I just got some really beautiful dendritic Montana agates that I’m really excited about. I love the earth tones. I really try to use pieces that are old stock (gems that have been extracted years ago) when I can. Obviously, mining is really rough on the environment and can be especially devastating in developing countries where it may not be as regulated. So I try to limit my own impact where I can. I’m doing my best to use stones that are ethically-sourced, which can limit certain stones I can use. I’m really drawn to earthy stones like the Jaspers, while I still like the bright blues of turquoise. Generally speaking, I can still source a lot of quality old stock in both of these stones. Often times you can get an idea of where a turquoise stone was sourced from by its particular coloring or matrix, and it sort of has its own history. There are so many exceptional stones out there---it’s like nature’s art, right?
Can you elaborate on your philosophy “do more with less”?
It’s interesting you bring this up because in the morning I tend to spend a little time and just journal. I write whatever is on my mind. The journal post I wrote just this morning was about this very thing: spending more time on less. I think right now my life feels pretty full in a lot of really good ways. Having a kiddo and a business and trying to build a house feels like a lot sometimes, maybe even too much. I’m often overwhelmed, but not necessarily in a bad way. There’s just a lot on the plate right now. I’m trying to find ways in my life right now to streamline and give my all. I want to do what I’m doing well and with less distraction.
It’s a hard thing to do with a business, but I’m trying to reduce my time online and on social media and cut down on my time spent behind a computer in general. The idea behind this is simply to spend the limited time I have well. I want to have more time with my family, more time outside, and more time on the things I feel really fill up my cup. There’s an element of necessity that comes with computers and doing all of that stuff and I think a big portion of that can be incredibly time consuming and distracting. It can really take away from our being in the moment and connecting with people face-to-face. It’s been a big focus for me lately; just pulling back a little bit so I can spend more time being present in what I’m doing at the moment whatever that is. I think you can allow yourself to be pulled in too many directions. I know I definitely can. Doing more with less can also lend itself to the idea of possession. I actually only have a few pieces of jewelry; a few that I really love. We don’t have much furniture and what we have is all hand-me-downs. I guess I just don’t think that having more is necessarily better.
Your jewelry is stunning! Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
Often I’m just directly drawing from the environment that I live in, the one I experience daily. It’s really easy to be on a hike and see this incredible ridgeline and to want to try to recreate that in some way or to want to take that with me, essentially. My mountain pieces or any type of wildlife pieces that I create are not necessarily my easiest, technically; but their inspiration comes the easiest for me as they are very literal. Where I draw from is very much my backyard, very much Montana, very much my life.
Do you have some upcoming projects you are excited for people to see?
I do. I have a lot of pieces kind of swirling around in my mind that I haven’t quite figured out how to make them come to life. I probably have fifteen unfinished pieces on the bench right now that I’m trying to make come to fruition, but they’re just not quite there yet. Timing hasn’t yet been right, but my husband and I purchased this little utility trailer that we are ripping apart and turning into a mobile studio for Ruby & Revolver. We hope that we can take our family on the road and be able to continue to support ourselves while doing so. We want to be able to take this little business on the road. I would love to be able to show Indie all these wild places, and just be out a little bit more before she’s in school and we get a bit more locked down.
We appreciate the time Jessica set aside for us to learn more about the origins of her metalsmithing and from where she pulls her inspiration. If you’d like to see more of Jessica’s handmade, one-of-a-kind jewelry, follow her on Instagram. Her mindfulness and deep appreciation of nature will inspire you to step outside and live in the moment. Also, keep an eye out for new and unique listings in her Etsy shop.
Got a Mark Maker in mind? We want to hear about them at email@example.com.