Jess Tolbert’s practice reconsiders manufactured, everyday products and materials as wearable and intimate objects. This duality considers how the industrially-made and the handcrafted challenge our nostalgic, imagined, and actual relationship with labor, the built/maintained environment, and identity. Utilizing and inspired by the seemingly commonplace, Jess bridges the gap between disparate modes of making in order to consider the role material, process, and people play in the production of things and spaces.
Jess Tolbert is a contemporary studio jeweler, visual artist, and Assistant Professor of Art and Head of the Jewelry + Metals program at the University of Texas at El Paso. They received their MFA from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and her BFA from Texas State University, San Marcos, both with a focus in jewelry and metalsmithing. Jess’ work is recognized nationally and internationally and has been selected to exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, France, Brooklyn Metal Works, Beijing Design Week, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and the Society for Contemporary Craft to name a few. They have participated in multiple artist residencies including a yearlong appointment at the Southwest School of Art, Haystack Mountain School of Craft’s Open Studio, Arrowmont’s Pentaculum, and Casa Lü in Mexico City. Jess has been selected for numerous prestigious awards including the Preziosa Young 2020 award based in Florence, Italy, and as a Finalist for the Loewe Craft Prize 2020. They are a co-founder of the curatorial group Secret Identity Projects, which has curated exhibitions for Munich Jewelry Week, the Society of North American Goldsmiths Conference, New York City Jewelry Week, as well as the Rubin Center for Visual Arts. Jess’ work is represented by Gallery Loupe (Montclair, NJ) and Gallery 2052 (Chicago, IL).