“We’re passionate about Woodstock being an arts colony. Jared and I are trying to help perpetuate that by bringing awareness to jewelry and art being made right here,” said Joanna Bliss, pointing at her and her husband’s workplaces behind the warmly lit jewelry counter.
Joanna and Jared Bliss opened their studio and shop, J Bliss Studios, in Woodstock in August 2016. By combining the worlds of hand-crafted jewelry and meticulously inked drawings, the Bliss’s represent a new generation of Woodstock crafts people joining the revolutionary return to small business and emphasis on locally crafted products.
The husband and wife team offers an array of items in their shop, which is tucked slightly off the main drag of Tinker Street. Joanna designs and crafts jewelry, taking on custom designs projects including stone re-settings and redesigns of customer’s pieces. She also manages repairs, equipped with all the tools to fix anything from broken clasps to poorly sized rings. Both Joanna and Jared are passionate about maintaining an aspect of sustainability in their business; Joanna sources most of her raw materials from refineries who re-purpose old or broken gold and diamonds.
Photo by Colleen Stewart
“There is enough out now that you don’t need to be mining new material, we can just reuse what has already been made,” said Joanna.
Jared’s work follows a similar path as the subjects of many of his ink drawings are natural. For sale are variously sized, custom-matted and framed pieces, as well as hand-drawn greeting cards. Jared also makes himself available for custom work, including illustrations and invitations.
Although their mediums differ, both Joanna and Jared have been floored with the community’s response to intertwining both of their work in the shop. “We were surprised how the well the jewelry and drawing have gone together. People get it and really love it. Both of our work is very detail-oriented and customers have really seemed to appreciate it,” said Jared.
After enrolling in an eye-opening metals class at Kingston High School, Joanna knew jewelry making was her path in the art world.
“There were certain things I didn’t feel I could do in art, like I can’t draw for instance. But when I took metals in high school I fell in love,” said Joanna.
Photo courtesy J Bliss Studios
The summer after high school, she interned with Woodstock jeweler and artist Shelley David. By the end of the internship, David suggested she enroll in the acclaimed metals program at SUNY New Paltz. Joanna did and upon graduation, entered into the world of commercial jewelry, taking a position as a designer for Tiffany & Co.
“I only lasted there for two months. I didn’t love it, which didn’t make it bad, it was good to see that side of the jewelry industry. It was just too factory and that wasn’t me,” said Joanna.
Following her experience in commercial jewelry, Joanna spent five years working under local jewelry designer Adel Chefridi in Kingston. There, she not only perfected her craft, but learned a great deal about the business side of owning a non-commercial store.
Joanna brought much of that knowledge to her and Jared’s business. “I would definitely suggest learning under someone, getting that practical experience working for a small business and working for someone who is doing what you want to do. And maybe you have good experience and really get a lot out of it or you have a bad experience and learn what you don’t want to do. It is always about learning, understanding that you’ll have to work hard and make some sacrifices,” said Joanna.
Joanna maintains an attention to detail and desire to make sure each piece is perfect, whether it is her own creation or someone else’s custom design. She often mixes metals, adding flares of gold and silver or even copper to create approachable and interesting pieces.
Recently, her and Jared collaborated on a few sets of necklaces and earrings, etching some of his drawings into the copper elements of the pieces. She describes her style as organic, employing natural lines, but also symmetric when it comes innately to the design of the piece. “Sometimes I’ll work in a motif inspired by a flower or something that feels springy or choose stones that have a naturally-inspired look. A lot of times, for both of us, it’s about going outside, taking a walk, and getting some fresh air. We noticed that we need to do that to re-charge,” said Joanna.
Unlike his wife’s career, which seemed to have been set in stone, Jared never thought of himself as an artist. He maintains that he never really knew what his calling was, although his love and desire to create led him to fill notebook after notebook with drawings and sketches starting at a very young age. With influence from his father, a painter turned graphic designer, and a confidence boost from Joanna to pursue his craft, Jared abandoned his degree in Literature and Philosophy at SUNY Purchase and devoted himself to his drawing. Before J Bliss Studios, he worked in graphics with Catskill Art & Office Supply, while perfecting his craft.
Mainly working on small format pieces, Jared’s media includes ink, acrylic colored ink, and watercolors. He often uses techniques like stippling and his style takes many cues from pointillism. His drawings often intertwine the natural and the science-fiction worlds, producing pieces that twist the mind with familiarity but also invoke wonder in their intricate details.
For the couple, collaboration is key. Jared will often consult Joanna on colors, while Joanna will turn to Jared for advice on choosing stones and other design elements. The two artists push each other, coming together to create a truly unique experience to those who explore their studio.
Photo courtesy J Bliss Studios
“Jared’s drawings bring an aspect of comfort and approachability to the shop; some people can get intimidated by the jewelry, so being able to showcase them really adds to what we can offer,” said Joanna. This support between the couple proves to be a part of their success, both as artists and as business owners. “We both push each other, I push Joanna to do more with stones and bigger pieces. She pushes me to do more with color and to draw in a larger format,” said Jared.
The couple’s respect for each other’s work and individual dedication to their personal crafts translates into a desire to support the art community they live in.
“We’re both drawn to the smaller, simpler businesses. We aren’t looking to be a big studio with a bunch of designers. We want to keep it local, doing things directly with our customers. We like the challenge and satisfaction of working directly with people,” said Jared. Joanna, smiling at her husband, adds “We’re happy here. We’re always open to change but we’ve learned it’s about keeping balance and just knowing what you need to do for your business and yourself as an artist.”
Photo by Colleen Stewart
Both Joanna and Jared are in the studio, crafting Friday through Monday. Appointments are welcome but walk-ins are also encouraged. Jared’s framed drawings start at $25 and Joanna’s simplest pieces begin at $50. As Joanna puts it, “if you have an idea, come in, we can help you out.”
J Bliss Studios
39a Tinker Street, Woodstock