Meet Chicago Jewelry Maker Jean Williams
Jewelry Making Opportunity of A Lifetime
Jean Williams was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. After graduating from Dillard University, she relocated to Chicago, IL, where she worked as a journalist, writer, and editor for various publications, newspapers, nonprofits, and corporations. Later on, she received an MFA in film directing from Columbia College. She said that she was in her mid-40s when she completed grad school.
Filmmaking was her desired profession, but she grew frustrated and fell into a slight depression after realizing that a film career didn’t look promising. She wanted immediate gratification from her creativity. She hasn’t given up on her film ambitions, but she followed her creativity urges elsewhere in the meantime. Little did she know that showcasing her jewelry during the Black Harvest Film Festival would lead to her designing jewelry for the film “Fannie.” She and director Christine Swanson met at another film festival and put together a screenwriting workshop years ago. When Swanson returned to Chicago, she asked Williams if she could make replicas of the earrings that Civil Rights Activist Fannie Lou Hamer wore at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, where she delivered her famed speech. “I took the challenge, and it was fun, despite the tight deadline. It was amazing to see pictures of actress Aunjanue Ellis wearing pieces I made.” Jean mentioned.
Creativity At The Core
Jean is a crafter, who is more interested in experimenting with different materials to make things besides jewelry. So far, she’s done designs using cement, metal, resin, thermoplastics, and gemstones – all through cold connections. Now she’s working with metal clay, polymer clay, and metal powders. Eventually, she’d like to acquire soldering and torching skills.
Some of her favorite jewelry pieces include a sterling silver necklace made in the likeness of a DNA strand and wire pendants and earrings, which she calls “Afro Ladies,” where she sculpts the hair using twisted pieces of wire. When it comes to making anything, Jean mainly enjoys the process of exploration.
Childhood Arts and Craft Moments
Her mother made a sock puppet, mimicking a tv character. Even though Jean was in a tot, she remembered being impressed at how her mom used an old tree ornament (with Styrofoam in the middle) to make the puppet eyes.
Another memory was when she collected pods from a neighbor’s honey locust tree in the sixth grade. She used a needle and thread to string the seeds and use them to make jewelry. Then she connected findings and beads from her mother’s old costume jewelry. Bracelets, necklaces, and even rings were made from those seeds.
Third, she remembers using cardboard and old towels to make slippers.
Future Events and Goals
Jean wants to increase productivity by outfitting a better workspace. She wants to be able to find supplies when needed and also make her space more efficient. Ideally, she wants a separate workspace where she can conduct workshops, demonstrations, and more.
In addition, Jean will be a vendor at three Chicago events this year, including, The 64th Annual Gold Coast Art Fair (June 18-19), Millennium Park Art Festival (July 15-17), and Printers Row Art Fest (August 13-14).