Meet the creative mind behind FP fave Ax + Apple Jewelry
On a sunny afternoon a few months ago, I happened to glance up from my desk and found myself face to face with someone I had known for years, yet had never officially met. The internet works in mysterious ways. Jamie of Ax + Apple and I first crossed paths in the early days of blogging — earlier still in the history of Instagram — she was one of those special souls, her creativity and passion for her craft spilling forth from every image she shared and every spectacular piece she crafted. Years passed, lives ebbed and flowed, and all these years later Jamie’s business has grown, her gorgeous studio now housed in a sunny white space in LA, and her work has evolved and transformed, each piece a keepsake.
Fate crossed our paths all those eons ago, just as it did again this past summer, when I was able to catch up with Jamie face to face and ask her about her work, her inspiration, and the incredible cross country trip she happened to be embarking on at the time. Scroll on for the interview and to take a peek into her LA studio (hint: that blue couch is the stuff of legends)…
Hi Jamie! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk – I’m so glad we were finally able to meet this summer at the Navy Yard after years of Insta-love.
Girl I know! I saw you across the room and was like… “OrchidGrey!?”. Funny times we live in… funny times.
Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself? Where are you from originally and how did you come to land in LA?
I am originally from South Florida. I started moving around a lot right out of college. The world always seemed so big and I knew I was going to want to experience a lot of different places. I moved to Costa Rica for a year after I graduated college, then to San Francisco, Savannah, North Carolina, Austin, and now LA (with some jumping around in between working on location doing film work). I started Ax+Apple in a little garage apartment in Austin. As it grew so did the space and eventually it was me and my best friend Jessica working from a two bedroom house. It was actually our first order with Free People that made me start feeling like working from home just wasn’t appropriate anymore. We were mid-production on the order and there were necklaces hanging from every lamp, picture frame and door knob. I remember when we were negotiating the order I said to myself, “if we get this, I will move the company to LA”. And we did! It has been a relationship made in heaven ever since.
South Florida to Texas to LA – that’s a big leap. Do you get to visit Florida or Texas often? What do you miss most about living there?
My family is still in Florida so that will always be home as long as they live there. But “home” also has a lot of connotations for me at this point in my life. Austin was the last place I felt very connected to, and since I started Ax+Apple there, a lot of my original inspirations are rooted there. I miss the ease of the people. The laid back vibe. I miss girls in dusty cowboy boots. You know… the good stuff.
What do you love most about your neighborhood in LA?
Oh man… a lot. I live in Los Feliz and it’s just so charming. I love the plant life the most. Every corner just bowling over with succulents and flowers. The architecture is really special too. Lots of Spanish influence, stucco archways and decorative iron gates. It’s just so pretty.
Before starting your jewelry business you worked as a props person on several period and indie films. What was your favorite part of that job? Were there any unexpected challenges?
I LOVED the shopping. It’s just really exciting to read a script and envision what all the pieces will look like, and then when you find them it’s like finding gold. I can’t tell you how many times I’d be in a thrift store with my team and we’d all die over a mid century lamp or the perfect rotary telephone. It’s exhilarating. Being on set is the best, too. Seeing the object you found in a dusty corner of an estate sale become a hero prop on a feature film is really rewarding. Probably the most challenging thing about film work is the schedule. The days are REALLY LONG. 12 hours is normal but you find yourself going overtime most of the time, and the hours are all over the place. You’ll wrap at 10pm one night and have to be back at 6am. It can be really grueling.
Did prop sourcing play a part in your decision to pursue your jewelry business?
Definitely! I was working on Marley and Me as the props assistant, and the props master had a drool-worthy drawer of old pocket watches including the chains and lots of interesting Victorian fobs. That might have been the first time I really became aware of what a pen knife was and how beautiful they were. I became obsessed with Victorian jewelry. Around the same time the production designer I had done most my work with bought me a bag of old coins while he was shopping and I just started drilling holes in them and putting them on chains. I started combining the coins and the knives and that kind of became my thing. The one-of-a-kinds I was making gained a lot of interest and that’s when things really started rolling.
What is a typical workday like for you? Give us a glimpse of your morning to night routine…
One of the things I love the most about my job is how I get to change up my routine whenever I want! Typically, I work pretty late. I think it’s interesting the pressure society puts on having a productive morning. For me it’s the opposite. I think a lot of creatives are that way. There’s endless creative energy swimming around in that night sky. That being said, I usually work from home in the mornings. Roll out of bed and answer emails on the couch with my cat, George Michael. I head downtown to the studio around noon to avoid traffic, and from there it could be anything. All the jewelry is built to order and is assembled in-house so a lot of times I am at the workbench filling orders. When I have any break from that it’s either working from the computer keeping all the business stuff in order, or it’s design time. I feel really lucky to have such a beautiful space to design in. I always think about the quote I read while visiting the Eames House in the Pacific Palisades, “it was a laboratory of creative thinking”. I like to think of my studio that way as well.
OK, change of topic: You just completed an 8,000 mile road trip, in four weeks, with two friends — insane! What inspired the trip?
I know RIGHT!? Crazy. We had been talking about it for a long time. We all needed to break away from our routines. And we were all kind of at a breaking point in our personal lives… in a way that you feel like you just need to fling your body into the great wide open and see what’s really going on in your head when you remove yourself from all the noise. Living in a big city can be deafening in terms of drowning out your inner voice. I had lost a little bit of that and needed to re-center. To that note though, I think everyone needs it whether they realize it or not.
Did you go into this road trip with hopes that it might inform or inspire you creatively?
Definitely! As an artist working in the same medium for 5+ years you can easily tire of yourself. It’s hard to always feel fresh and new and I am always looking for that next big shift. Traveling and antiquing have always been like church to me and to my friends. I knew I would find just what I was looking for on the road. It’s always out there.
What was your route? Were there any tools you used to map it out that were particularly helpful?
The route. Where to begin? Well… we began in Philadelphia at URBN headquarters! From there we bounced around the south a bit, hit Appalachia, Savannah and Nashville, then we darted across to Denver. I had never been to Wyoming or Montana so I was excited to get up there. We were on the road for 28 days and only stopped for more than one night twice so there were a LOT of places. And to be quite honest… we didn’t really map it! We used the National Parks as our major destinations but the in-between was whatever we wanted it to be. We tried a little planning before but it was just so massive and we were just too busy to get together on it. It actually gave me a lot of anxiety leaving, but once we were moving it was kind of a dream. Imagine waking up everyday and asking yourself, “what in this country do I feel like doing today?” It was an amazing exercise in following our inner compasses. Luckily we are soul mates and our compasses always seemed to point in the same direction. I have to say Google was super helpful. We would seriously just google “coolest places in america” and ran into a lot of resourceful lists. Friends are always awesome tools. Just ask people. They love to share. Roadside America is also a great app that helps you find quirky attractions around you.
So many people dream of taking a road trip like that, but never pull the trigger. Do you have any tips or tricks to pass along for making road trip dreams a reality?
JUST GO. Seriously. You can camp in all National Forests for free. There are 155 National Forests in the US and if you steer clear of the official campgrounds you can pitch your tent anywhere as long as you are 150 feet from the road. A lot of people don’t know that. So if you’re down to camp you can do it for pretty cheap! Like I said we didn’t even really spend a lot of time planning a route or anything. The big hurdle is just setting aside the money and the time. So, I say just set a goal and pick a date and let your job know you are leaving (that makes it official). Then when the time comes just put your foot on the gas and drive. You’ll do great. I promise.
What was your favorite stop along the way? Were there any detours that surprised you?
Oh man there was so much beauty out there it is really hard to say. But if I had to pick one, I have to say Utah has my heart. Monument Valley has an energy that just makes you feel alive — the lightning storm we caught at sunset didn’t hurt the cause either. Moab was just about as charming as a desert town can get. Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands were unexpected stops that blew me away. And apparently Dead Horse is where Thelma and Louise drove their car off the cliff (spoiler alert!)… so it had a lot of sentimental value for us, being the huge fans that we are!
Have you noticed a difference in your work since returning?
I don’t know if I’d say I notice a difference in my work as much as I notice a difference in myself. I feel so refreshed and motivated. Ready for what’s next. And ultimately I think that is exactly what I was looking for. The muse is “with me” as they would have said in the old days. It’s a really awesome feeling.
It’s been amazing to see your work transform over the years. While it’s changed a lot, I feel as though you can still look back on older designs and recognize them as yours. What’s next for the line? What do you hope to accomplish in the next year?
Wow thank you! That’s a huge compliment. My focus right now is to carve out time to work on more couture pieces. Big body pieces for editorial or stage. I’d love to bridge into costume work. It feels like a very natural progression for me so hopefully I can work some magic there. In the next year I am hoping to work more with fellow Angeleno artists on collaborations and I’d love to start hosting multi media events at the studio. I’ve been here a few years and it feels like it’s time. Community is huge for me and I’d love to help connect people as much as I can. Stay tuned if you’re around LA!
Thank you Jamie!
Photos by FP Joanna, Follow Joanna on Instagram