Justine Brooks has been doing Vancouver Community College proud ever since she graduated from its jewellery art and design program in 2009. The Whistler-based designer has been racking up awards, evolving her skill set, and (perhaps most importantly) making a living from her art—no mean feat for any creative type. A big part of her ongoing success is the fact that she has so much to offer in terms of selection.
Under the label Justine Brooks Design, Brooks has a line of bold, layered semiprecious-gemstone pieces called JB Rocks as well as a more refined, naturalistic collection called Silver Earth, which is carried at Twigg & Hottie (3671 Main Street) and Dream Apparel (356 Water Street).
“JB Rocks does really well in Alberta,” says Brooks, who recently sat down with the Straight to talk about her spring 2014 collections. “It appeals to a different clientele. It’s more sparkly, and the pieces are bigger.…and it’s a really fun one for me because that’s what gets me going to Asia each year, like I’ll go in January for one month and buy stones for it.”
While our next-door neighbours to the east seem to really dig these bolder statement pieces, the rest of us are partial to Silver Earth’s fine array of metal castings of organic objects such as acorns, twigs, and leaves.
This year, however, Brooks kicked it free-style with many of her designs. The Crab Necklace, for example, was hand-carved (rather than being cast from the actual organism). You can get this oceanic pendant in goldy bronze or silver-plated bronze with a gold-plated or sterling-silver chain, respectively ($140).
“I get inspired by what I’ve been doing,” she explains, “and my husband—new husband, so I’m superexcited—has a cabin over on one of the islands, so I got [the idea for] this crab there.”
Another highlight of the collection is the Rose Double Deer Antler ($190). This elegant small-scale replica sits beautifully on the chest. The antitarnish piece is cast in bronze, and the chain is sterling—both are topped off with a rose-copper finish.
But the two absolute standouts have to be the bronze Dream Catcher earrings ($190) and the Butterfly Necklace ($398). For these two boho-chic beauties, Brooks was just as interested in the process as she was in the design.
“This season, I was trying to branch out a little more, because I was normally just doing straight-up organic objects like pine cones,” she says. “So the Dream Catchers were sort of new for me because they’re laser-cut, which is something I’d never done.”
With the Butterfly Necklace, the world traveller really spread her own wings by using the Korean Keum-boo gold-heating process, which lends a stunning ombré quality to the white-bronze piece.
But this collection wasn’t all about Brooks pushing herself in terms of technique; she also had fun with a few sentimental pieces. To wit: as an ode to her better half, the latest Silver Earth collection includes a hand-carved, silver-plated Femur Bone Ring ($130).
“My husband is actually a physician—he works in the emerg, and he’s always fixing broken femur bones and stuff like that. And he’s always like, ‘You got to get one inspired by me,’ ” explains the glowing newlywed, adding, “So yeah, he loves it.”