Jess Donnelly is no stranger to metamorphosis. After graduating with an art degree from Kent State University, she worked in glassmaking for 10 years before a brief stint in corporate sales. Realizing she would rather be creating, she quit and launched Papillon Handcrafted in 2018. Heavily influenced by nature and travel, the jewelry line features butterfly wing necklaces, sterling silver monstera leaf earrings and copper mountain ranges.
Change of Art
Inspired by how butterflies change when going through metamorphosis, she named her line Papillon Handcrafted, French for “butterfly,” a word that took on greater meaning the day she quit her job. “When I sat down to tell my boss, there was actually a butterfly sitting on his window the whole hour we were chatting,” says Donnelly. “It made me feel more in tune with my decision and that change.”
Nature is an ever-present theme in Donnelly’s work. One of her first collections, the mountain woman line features pieces inspired by mountain ranges such as her Grand Teton bar necklace ($50) made form sterling silver. Other pieces such as her fossilized coral and hummingbird pendant ($255), are directly inspired by her neighbors, who started a project of planting native plants on their tree lawns. “I found those fossilized coral pieces and they really reminded me of all the native flowers that we have in our neighborhood.”
While Donnelly took a jewelry making class in college, the self-taught artist is always looking to improve, whether it’s by learning to stamp designs onto tiny stud earrings or soldering copper mountain ranges onto sterling silver bars.
“I decided that every collection that I put out, I would add a new element of metalsmithing whether it’s a new skill or just challenging myself in some way,” she says.
The pandemic challenged Donnelly’s business. It was on track to hit its stride in 2020, but with craft shows canceled, business partnerships fizzling out, and the rising cost of materials, it’s seen a bit of a setback. “It’s like starting from square one all over again, but that’s OK,” she says. “Like I said, I love adaptation and change.”papillonhandcraftedjewelryco.com