“I’m detail-oriented and I love making things with my hands, so making jewelry felt natural for me. They’re essentially tiny sculptures. I started making my own bracelets with string and lanyard at summer camp, and then in high school my mom bought me a book on wire-wrapped jewelry at the craft store. At that point, jewelry was still very much a hobby.
I went to college at Cal Poly Sal Luis Obispo for graphic communication, which is just an ambiguous way of saying print and digital media studies. I couldn’t afford the jewelry that I was lusting after, so I started to wonder how I could make things like that myself. At the time I was really into Catbird. I started walking into jewelry stores and asking how I could learn how to do what they do, which looking back sounds so funny. I was so naïve! But I ended up getting referred to this woman who taught metalsmithing out of her garage, and I started taking lessons with her. Eventually, when I was a senior, I set up a bench in my bedroom and would watch stone setting videos on YouTube to practice on my own. I opened a window while I worked, but I don’t think my roommates were too pleased about the ever-present metal dust coming from my room.
After graduating I applied to a bunch of random editorial jobs that I was very much unqualified for—obviously, I ended up jobless. Pursuing graphic design felt like an obligation because of my degree, but all I really wanted to do with my time was make jewelry. It ended up being a good thing that I didn’t get a ‘real job’—I started an apprenticeship with a jewelry maker instead, and that’s where I got my first taste of what a career in jewelry would look like. I was just reading something yesterday about the artist Donald Judd and his concept of ‘fast thinking,’ which is essentially thinking so fast that you don’t have time to analyze. There’s obviously the probability you’ll fail, but you also might fall into the thing that you’re supposed to do. I wouldn’t say there was an aha moment when I realized making jewelry was what I wanted to do for a living, but once I stopped telling myself it didn’t have to be just a hobby, everything clicked into place.
I did that apprenticeship for a little less than a year, and during that time, I was also making and selling pieces to friends on the side. I had the tools to make a logo and website myself—that’s what I learned in school. Then I made a small collection of jewelry which, looking back on it, was ugly. When I started out I was very limited by my skill set. I learned hand fabrication, which was great because now I understand construction and can think in millimeters, but there were a lot of things I couldn’t do. I took horrible photos of what I had and just put it out into the world. In 2016 I started devoting my full attention to J. Hannah as a brand, and I introduced Nailpolish a year later. I thought of nail polish mostly because I’m a former nail biter, and a coat of polish really helps curb that impulse for me. But from a brand perspective, it felt important to acknowledge that fine jewelry is not accessible to most people. I wanted to make something that could include a wider audience, especially because at the time we had built a good following on social media. Nail polish also felt holistically related to jewelry, because you’re still adorning your hand. We call them ‘handscapes.’ We just launched a mini polish set inspired by the MET Costume Institute Exhibit that you can buy at the MET or online, and that kind of interdisciplinary partnership has really fueled my desire to explore other categories. I’m sure we’ll unveil them in due time.
Once I stopped telling myself it didn’t have to be just a hobby, everything clicked into place.
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about choice feminism. It’s basically the idea that anything a woman or feminine identifying person chooses for herself can be empowering. I tend to agree with that on a personal level, because sometimes the more traditionally feminist path is not necessarily the one that makes me feel my best—for example, a lash lift and the occasional injectable make me feel my personal best. But I don’t think that kind of thinking is scalable in a way that would contribute to progress. I find it mentally stimulating to question and understand beauty standards, and at the same time being able to criticize it doesn’t absolve me of personal fault. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can all have a more dialectical approach to these things. Is it helpful for your own mental health to not feel your best just because you have awareness of the unfortunate systems and influences that shaped those ideals? I don’t know the answer, but I know it’s complicated. Things are rarely black and white, and admittedly, I do a lot of things to appear low maintenance.
I’m 29 and only recently started breaking out—it made me realize I actually had no idea how to care for my skin. I also have a skin picking issue, which I’ve more recently understood is a form of OCD. I used to be embarrassed to talk about it, but the more I did, the more I realized a lot of friends deal with this kind of thing too. What’s worked best for me is identifying the moment I find myself needing to do something with my nervous energy and finding a healthy replacement behavior. I make sure I have something I can reach for—like, right now I’m using an acupressure finger massager. They’re affordable and I keep them in every bag, pocket and desk drawer. It also somehow helps me focus better, which is an added bonus. Our Pivot Rings, which we recently launched, was my attempt at designing a more elevated version of a fidget toy. The middle ring spins freely, and aesthetically it’s very subtle and chic. In terms of my skin, I just assume some picking is inevitable. I did a deep dive and found that vitamin C, niacinamide, and retinoids are the best for acne scars. I also love the Zitsticka Hyperfade patches—I think those work really well.
I used to be embarrassed to talk about it, but the more I did, the more I realized a lot of friends deal with this kind of thing too.
My current routine was mostly informed by YouTube skincare gurus, but my Botox injector Vanessa Lee at The Things We Do also gave me some good advice. She said to ditch the expensive products and go for simpler, more affordable things. Now I wash my face with Youth To The People’s Superfood Cleanser, and follow that with The Ordinary’s Niacinamide and Zinc serum. The gurus say that’s good for breakouts, and it seems to be working. In the daytime I use Sunday Riley’s UFO oil instead of a moisturizer, and at night I use A313 cream which is a retinoid. Sometimes I also use Youth To The People’s Superberry Overnight Mask, which has vitamin C in it to help lighten my post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. I will say, not all masks are made to be used overnight—if a mask says to keep it on for just five minutes, you most definitely should do that. A few weeks ago I ended up giving myself a first degree burn by thinking an active mask would work better if I slept in it. Lesson learned. Golde’s Clean Greens and Lesse’s Bioactive Masque are both pretty gentle, and the fact that they’re green and blue respectively makes them very conducive for selfies.
I like to joke about having face tattoos because my brows are microbladed. In all seriousness, I do think it’s important to go to somebody really good because it’s so permanent. I go to Christina at Sugarin Studio, and get lash lifts from her as well. I like that I don’t have to deal with the weird shedding that happens with lash extensions, and I don’t have to assault my natural lashes with a curler every day either. I recently discovered this mascara that I preach about it as if it’s the word of God. It’s from a Korean brand called Flowfushi—I found their Brown eyeliner at Dover Street Market, and needed to know what else they made because I had an inkling it would be good. They don’t actually sell this mascara in America. It’s supposed to be clear, if you look closely it has a sort of gray tint and it’s filled with little fibers. I use it on my eyelashes and my eyebrows and it makes them look defined and longer, but not like I’m wearing anything. I don’t know if I’m describing it well because it’s so strange, but it might seriously be magic. There’s another brown gel eyeliner I love from Thrive, and I use that one when I want to smudge it out. Then I just use Glossier concealer because it looks like skin, and if I’m feeling a little fancy, a Noto stain on my lips and cheeks. My favorite is this brick-ish orange color—I tend to stay away from anything too pink or sparkly.
I go to Spoke & Weal in LA, and see Dell for color and Lindsay for cuts. I brought in a photo of my friend’s one-year-old daughter as a reference for my highlights, and it’s funny because the technique they used is actually called baby lights. I personally like to refer to my hair color as fawn… I’m into color names. They use this technique called dry cutting, and I think that’s why I’m able to achieve this swoopy thing with my front pieces. People ask me all the time how I do it, but I’d attribute it to a good haircut. I use Kristin Ess’ purple shampoo and conditioner to keep my highlights from getting brassy, and I also like her beach wave product. That line is great because it’s very affordable and doesn’t have a drugstore aesthetic to the packaging. I also have a spray bottle that I mix water and salt in—usually I just use Himalayan salt from my kitchen, but recently I tried using Epsom salt and I was surprised how well that worked. If I need to refresh my waves when I wake up, I spray it all over with that concoction.
BODY + FRAGRANCE
I use Dr. Bronner’s body wash, but I’m not an evangelist about it or anything. I’ll use whatever. I do always use a safety razor and body oil to shave my legs. I actually feel like my legs are softer when I shave with oil, or even with conditioner, rather than shaving cream. I’ll either use regular vitamin E oil from Trader Joe’s or the oil from F. Miller, who’s a friend of mine. When I get out of the shower I use a lotion that my mom makes. She uses calendula that she grows in her backyard, and mixes it with shea butter and apricot oil. That feels really special.
When it comes to exercise, the most important thing for me is that I’m doing something that I enjoy. I have a very short attention span so if it’s not fun, I’ll dread doing it and eventually quit. I also can’t do anything over 45 minutes. If a class is an hour, I’m out. I like yoga, I like stretching… I used to do reformer Pilates a lot, and I recently found a lot of places in LA doing outdoor classes. I also walk my dog Ruby twice a day, which is great exercise. And I love dancing. I’m not great at choreography, but I love to connect with my body and let go. That feels like it’s good for my brain.
I always aspired to have a signature scent, but I never felt like anything was quite me. I fell in love with the online description of La Curie’s Scent No. 1 at Kindred Black and ordered it on impulse, and I was pleasantly delighted to learn it’s everything I had hoped for. It’s the perfect balance of feminine and masculine, and it doesn’t smell overly sweet or floral. Kindred Black is a really cool store. They have a section they call ‘slow apothecary,’ and it’s filled with skincare, oils, and fragrances all in hand-blown glass bottles. Be careful because it’s also really expensive and hard to resist. I wanted to get a travel sized rollerball of the fragrance, because I didn’t want to take the big glass bottle with me. I emailed the perfumer directly and was like, ‘Hi, I’m obsessed with you, let me tell you about what this scent you made means to me,’ and he responded the next day.
I’m not great at choreography, but I love to connect with my body and let go. That feels like it’s good for my brain.
I never felt like the nail colors I saw on the market were as nuanced as I would have liked, so with J. Hannah I wanted to make shades for others who felt the same way. My personal favorite is Akoya. It’s sheer, so even if I’m doing it on myself it’s virtually impossible to mess up. It catches the light in this really lovely way, and it looks really special. For other nail products, I like things that have good basic design, are simple in form, and do what they’re supposed to do. I really like glass nail files—never cardboard ones. And I have this cool black Japanese nail clipper that catches the nails so they’re not flying everywhere. I’m a sucker for things that are nicely designed and all things tiny, so I love this Uka roll-on cuticle oil. I keep the Nécessaire hand cream in my bag, but at night I like to use oils instead. I love the oils from F. Miller, Klur, Esker, Noto… I have a lot of friends who make great oils. I’ll just put some all over my hands at night before bed, and I always rub the excess on my legs.”
—as told to ITG
Jess Hannah Révész photographed by Felisha Tolentino on October 15, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.