November 23, 2017
Arts & Entertainment
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  • Jessica Graves has made art out of things most people would throw away such as old cabinets and scrap metal.
    Gracie Fairfax
    Jessica Graves has made art out of things most people would throw away such as old cabinets and scrap metal.
  • Jessica Graves has a display of handmade rings at Side Street Framers in Severna Park.
    Gracie Fairfax
    Jessica Graves has a display of handmade rings at Side Street Framers in Severna Park.
  • Jessica Graves loves to integrate her hobbies with her artwork as seen in her yoga wire art.
    Gracie Fairfax
    Jessica Graves loves to integrate her hobbies with her artwork as seen in her yoga wire art.
  • Jessica Graves stays consistent with her passion for recycling in her reusable earring packaging.
    Gracie Fairfax
    Jessica Graves stays consistent with her passion for recycling in her reusable earring packaging.
  • Jessica Graves stays consistent with her passion for recycling through reusable earring packaging.
    Gracie Fairfax
    Jessica Graves stays consistent with her passion for recycling through reusable earring packaging.

Jessica Graves Creates Art From Recycled Materials

Gracie Fairfax
Gracie Fairfax's picture
View Bio
August 24, 2017

Growing up in a family of artists, Jessica Graves always had knack for creating, but when it came time to choose a career path, she decided to differentiate herself by being a sign-language interpreter.

Fifteen years ago, her mother was doing a kitchen renovation job with tumbled Italian marble and a whole case was leftover, so she began experimenting with various media on the tiles.

With a husband who is a general contractor, she started salvaging what she referred to as “an exorbitant amount of waste that goes into building.” Through Graves’ imaginative eye, cabinet doors became pieces of art and leftover pieces from her artwork were fashioned into designs of their own. This passion has grown into Jessica Graves Designs, which she considers “eco-friendly, purposeful, useable art.”

Graves moved with her husband to Pasadena from Frederick County in recent years to be closer to the water – something that has been a lifelong love of hers.

“You can see in my art as well, there’s definitely a thematic component of water and ocean, marsh life,” Graves said.

One thing Graves stresses in her artistic endeavors is the importance of being open to new forms of artistic expression and not limiting one’s creativity to a single medium.

Always evolving, Graves soon took up working with wire. “I realized that wire is only one step away from a line drawing, but it was a 3D line drawing, and when it was finished, you had this 3D component with beautiful 2D design on the wall if you lit it properly,” Graves added.

As she continued working with wire, she ended up with many leftover pieces that she couldn’t let go to waste. For a while, Graves stayed away from jewelry because it seemed there was already a lot of jewelry at shows, but about a year ago, she started turning the metal scraps into copper jewelry. Now, when people have leftover materials, they often think to give them to Graves.

“My neighbors are sailors, and this [bracelet] is a piece of their air conditioning unit from their boat,” she said. “It was a tube and I figured out how to hammer it and I bent it all up so … I went to my neighbor and was like, ‘Look what I made!’”

Since a lot of her art is small and can be made on the go, she made about 20 rings on a recent car trip when her husband was driving, and she oftentimes takes along tiles to draw on with colored pencils before she takes them home for finishing touches.

Her belief in recycling can be seen even in her packaging. She packages the earrings she makes in small glass bottles with cork tops and tags them with paint chips leftover from wine charms. On the tag, she writes “recycle creatively” to encourage buyers to do so.

“It’s not only a great way to package your little gift for somebody, but it makes you think about using something twice and not being so disposable, because we are a completely disposable world,” she said of the glass bottles.

If she had to choose a favorite of her artworks, she would go with mermaid sculptures complete with sea glass that earned her the nickname of “the mermaid lady” in her former home of Frederick, and her pet portraits, which she draws on tiles.

“They get emotion out of people that is so touching,” Graves said of the portraits. “I remember I did a series of four for a gal who ordered them for her brother’s 60th birthday. She wrote me later and it still gives me goosebumps – she said, ‘I have never seen my brother cry until he opened your gift’ and it was every dog he’d ever owned [on four tiles].”

A believer in the importance of supporting the local arts, Graves appreciates the role Healing Paws Veterinary Wellness Center has played in promoting her work, particularly the pet portraits; she also loves selling her work at Side Street Framers & Gift Gallery in Severna Park because of their focus on local artisans. Her work made an appearance at the Made in Maryland Festival at Kurtz’s Beach and will be featured in the Wine on the Water Festival in October. On September 8, Maryland Hall is hosting Arts Alive, an event Graves has donated large sculptures to the last two years, and she will continue to do so this year. While in Frederick, she was connected with the local arts scene through the Delaplaine Visual Arts Center – a place she continues to be involved with.

As someone who has benefitted personally from tapping into her creative side, she encourages others to do so as well.

“As funding gets cut for the arts, it’s important that communities rally around and support their local arts center because creating is such an important part of living,” Graves said. “It’s really important that we don’t ignore our creative sides.”

To get in touch with Graves, visit her “JG Designs” Facebook page, call her at 301-471-2039 or send her an email at jgdsigns1@gmail.com.


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