Jo Hayes Ward stays true to her vision, manifesting her customers’ stories through jewelry
Jo Hayes Ward discovered her father’s soldering iron at age 12 and has been creating fascinating forms with metal ever since.
Her passion for art and working in three dimensions took her to the Camberwell College of Arts in London, where she learned how to weld and forge — quite a step up from a simple soldering iron. She fell in love with sculpture and earned a bachelor’s degree in silversmithing and metalwork. After graduation, she found work with several prominent jewelry designers. Though she had never considered jewelry as a career before, now it intrigued her. Here were talented craftspeople with successful businesses, finding joy in what they did every day.
“I knew I needed to make things, and I knew I needed to work for myself,” Jo recalls. She thought 3D jewelry design could be the answer.
She went back to school for a master’s degree in goldsmithing, silversmithing, metalwork and jewellery. It was there, at the Royal College of Art in London, where Jo refined her aesthetic. Her first postgraduate collection was very similar to the work she does today. She left school ready to launch her own line of fine jewelry.
Jo describes her signature aesthetic as metamorphic, bringing together multiple elements and textures to create compositions that hint at geological formations transformed over time.
“I work with small shapes, building blocks, to create structures that are organic as well as architectural,” she says. “There’s a lot going on. Each one is a miniature work of art you can wear.”
The transformative qualities of Jo’s jewelry also refer to how it is worn. Rings are designed to be stacked, necklaces layered, earrings mixed and matched. Just as every customer is unique, so too is the way every person wears Jo’s artwork. It’s a matter of individual style, and the jewelry is as well-suited to jeans and a t-shirt as it is to formal evening wear.
And then there’s the magic that happens when Jo’s pieces are worn. Every tiny facet and gem shimmers, catching the light with every movement.
Many of Jo’s customers are women purchasing pieces for themselves, starting fresh or with a gemstone they might own that has special meaning. The bulk of her business is creating bespoke pieces. “One of the joys of my work is getting to know my clients,” she says,
“A piece of jewelry is something very personal to the wearer. I get to have glimpses of these lovely stories of people’s lives. I’m always honored to be part of that story. It’s why I love my work.”
Jo Hayes Ward
The first step for a commissioned piece is consultation: “We start by having a good old chat about it!” Jo listens to what each client wants, finds out which existing pieces of hers speak to them and considers the elements they want to incorporate. Then the creative juices start flowing.
Jo comes up with a number of ideas and shares them with the client. After a design direction has been chosen, she provides final drawings in CAD to give the customer a clear idea of what the piece will look like before they commit. For substantial pieces, Jo will sometimes cast a silver version first so clients can try on a metal prototype. Then comes the final casting in gold, placing the stones and delivering the finished jewelry to a very delighted client. It’s a gratifying and exciting process for everyone involved.
“People often give me ideas of where to take my work. So I can make something they treasure, and it’s something completely new for me as well as them.” But the foundation of every piece incorporates Jo’s metamorphic influence. “I stay true to my aesthetic, and that’s a selling point for my work. People can’t find that with anyone else.”
Jo started using Solidscape 3D printers in graduate school, where she was able to experiment and hone her unique process.
“The Solidscape machine is an integral part of the way I create my aesthetic,” says Jo, who prints her pieces in small runs and casts them directly from 3D printed wax models into gold. “My jewelry has a lot of sharp edges, and those are really important to preserve. The Solidscape gives me such a clean result — crisp and perfect detail, from CAD to wax model to lost wax casting. I get exactly what I want from start to finished piece.”
Jo also relies on the wide range of settings available on her Solidscape to create the signature texture on the many facets that make up each design.
“With my hexagonal pieces, I angle all the facets so they’re at slightly different angles and the lines across those facets go in different directions. That’s not something you can necessarily create by hand. I don’t think you’d ever get the same result.”
Jewelry for buildings
Jo’s journey is continuing the way it started, with experimentation and art. She’s looking forward to expanding her repertoire with more public art commissions like her 2019 art installation at Queen’s Wharf, where the same distinctive aesthetic that defines her jewelry can be experienced on a grand scale.
“I think it’s important to do all kinds of things if you’re a creative person,” she says. “I like interacting with people artistically, and that’s something I get to do on a personal level with jewelry. With public art, I’m able to inspire and affect even more people.”