Jumpy? What is Jumpy?
Oh, that’s just something that we made up when describing a chain.
What do you mean?
When it doesn’t lay right on the neck, it’s still jumpy. It needs adjustments until its flat to the base of the neck.
On a cold evening in Brooklyn we made a studio and store visit to Martine Ali. Martine is not just a jewelry designer; she is an artist and collaborator. Her work has in instant appeal to the modern sense of self while also coming across as nostalgic. Not an easy feat for someone so young and yet grounded. That night, our visit also coincided with a fitting with one of Ali’s customers, Phil; a New York based perfumer. Between fittings, drinks of cold sake, laughs and sharing images, we had a chance to talk.
How did your relationship with jewelry begin?
It all started when I was a kid. My babysitter, Rachel Grey, wanted to keep me occupied so she gave me beads to play with to make jewelry. When my mom would get home, she would love them. She even said that she would sell them to her friends at a jewelry party. Those jewelry parties were successful and a lot of her friends begin to buy them.
Wait? How old were you?
Wow. That is crazy.
Yeah. By 12 years old I would bring in 3K at one jewelry party.
Where was this?
Highland Park, north of Chicago.
Oh, I thought for some reason that this was in Jamaica.
No, my mother is Jamaican and I go there often but this was in Chicago.
Do you think of Chicago as home?
Not as much these days. I am always in New York.
Do you speak Jamaican Patois?
Only when I am there for an extended amount of time.
So, tell me what you are up to today. Am I interrupting a fitting?
No. Not at all. My fittings are very collaborative. We speak about what customers want and how they feel in the piece. This is Phil on of my clients. Through our dialogue we came up with “jumpy”
How did you both meet?
Martine (M): Through friends of friends. It was very easy and organic.
Phil (P): Also you made a bag for my sister.
Oh, yes the famous bag. What is the exact name for it?
M: Some people call it the cage bag. I call it the Desi Bag.
P: Yes that was a bigger version I think.
Desi? Why Desi? We actually did an issue dedicated to the artist Desi Santigo.
M: Oh, I just love that name so I thought it fit.
Ok, I am going to have to ask you about something a bit touchy. What are your thoughts on the bootleg versions of the bag?
M: I think that is a tough question. I still struggle with that. I do believe in the creative space and I have been on both sides of the corporate inspiration structure so I understand. At the same time it’s annoying. At one time I worked for DKNY and I remember scanning images that I liked and now I see both sides of that creative conversation. Now I see that I have to be protected
Is your shopping experience always collaborative?
M: Yes, I love it that way. That’s why this is a works space, studio and shop. I want people to feel comfortable to touch. Even at our opening we put the pieces lower so people can touch.
P: That’s what makes it so enjoyable. I pursue my fragrance business that way as well. Personalization
Tell me about the music playing here
M: it is always something different. Always creative. Often they are my customers. I like to empower creatives. My work is almost like an armor for creatives.
What is your dream material to work with?
M: I think a giant diamond or precious materials
Wow I did not expect that.
M: Yes, that’s me. I was inspired by seeing Sisqo’s huge diamond pendant and Marilyn Mansion’s chain. I love the idea having beautiful pieces functional instead of ornamental.
P: That’s why I like this experience with Martine. She is the quiet in the midst of this creative storm. The shop, the personalities that come here, the creatives that work here and the entertainers that are fans; she is making it work.
Martin then takes the latest sold necklace and photocopies it for in equal measure: posterity, records, aesthetics, and beauty.