The Dandelion Chandelier Luminary Café is the place to find a series of personal interviews with fascinating people who are stellar achievers in their chosen field of endeavor. Our Luminaries are sharing their origin stories, life philosophies, secret songs, guilty pleasures and hidden talents. It’s guaranteed to be illuminating.
Jessica McCormack designs exceptional diamond jewelry, handcrafted in her dedicated London atelier. The daughter of an auctioneer, Jessica grew up in New Zealand and inherited her father’s passion for interesting and unusual antiques, which led her to London to work in the jewelry department at Sotheby’s. In 2008, she began her career as a jeweler in partnership with diamantaire Michael Rosenfeld. Her bespoke and collection jewelry is hand-crafted and inspired by a wide-ranging set of influences, including contemporary African art, the Bauhaus movement, mid-Century American architecture, feminist photography and ancient design work. Her studio is located in a 19th century townhouse in the heart of Mayfair.
On a busy Thursday morning in late September, we caught up with Jessica by phone from London.
Tell us your life philosophy in 6 words or less.
“I take things in stride.” I trust my instincts.
How did you decide to do the work you’re doing now?
I’m originally from New Zealand, and I came to London to work in Sotheby’s auction house in their fine jewelry department. We were working with Russian crown jewels, jewelry from René Lalique, just incredible pieces. I thought I would have a go on my own as a jewelry designer. I’m completely self-taught. I see a style or a genre that I like, and it becomes my inspiration for a new collection. If I had known how long it would take and how hard it would be to get to this point, I might not have done it!
Who lights you up?
My family. My husband, and we have three small children – ages 3, 1 ½, and 4 months old. They instantly make me smile.
How do you like to celebrate?
Very casually. On Fridays, I like to go out with my girlfriends – we talk about our kids, and share a glass of wine. I love being with friends and family – we’re New Zealand social and relaxed.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go? Where would you stay?
In terms of travel, what I really wish is that New Zealand was not so far away from London! I’ve never been to Japan, and I really want to go. I want to visit Kyoto. The other place I really want to go is the Aman resort in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Someday I am going to get there with my family.
What’s the last new food item that you tried for the first time? Did you like it?
I will eat anything! I’m not a foodie. I’m open when it comes to food and drink.
What song is on your playlist that people would be surprised by?
I listen to Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, Fleetwood Mac, and Bob Dylan. I’m not sure if that’s surprising – it’s maybe distressing, because it shows my age! I listen to the same songs I listened to when I was younger.
What’s your favorite form of exercise?
I used to box a lot, and I’m trying to get back to it. I have an incredible boxing coach named Pete. I go to Box Clever Sports in London, and I’ve gotten my friends into it. It keeps me calm when I do it. Actually, they get to go more often than I do now!
Who is your favorite artist?
The townhouse where we have the showroom, my studio and workshop has a lot of wonderful art in it. Lots of it by women. Louise Bourgeois, who was a sculptor and a painter. Marlene Dumas, a South African artist. Sally Mann, a photographer who shot an amazing and controversial series of large black and white photos of her kids. I have one in my office called “The Perfect Tomato.”
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading two different books right now. At home at night, I am reading A Little Life, a novel by Hanya Yanagihara. On my commute on the Tube in the morning, I’m reading The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are by Dr. Kevin Leman. It’s about the impact that the order you were born in your family has on your personality. As I’m reading it, I’m thinking about my middle child. I’m one of three, as well.
Tell us about your style.
I’m really casual – most of the time I’m in jeans and a T-shirt. If I’m going to a party, I’ll wear a dress. For dresses, I love Merchant Archive – it’s a London-based studio that employs an old style of dress-making craft combined with modern fabrics.
What is your favorite item of clothing? Who’s your go-to designer?
I’ve been pregnant for the past three years! Before that, I used to buy vintage dresses. I have a great dungaree dress from Chloé that I can wear with anything. My go-to designer is Sophie Merchant, founder of Merchant Archive.
What’s your dream car?
An Alfa-Romeo 2000 GTV. My husband Dougie used to race them.
What are you looking forward to?
Christmas! I have a great new CEO at my company, and in the past few weeks we have introduced two and a half new collections, new ad campaign, new catalog and we will shortly launch our new website. It’s been incredibly busy. I didn’t take any time off after my youngest was born, so I’m a bit tired. I’m looking forward to Christmas vacation. I’m not excited about the 30-hour door-to-door trip we have in front of us with the children. But at least once we arrive, we’re staying for a month.
What skill do wish you had that you don’t currently possess?
Calligraphy. I would love to take a calligraphy class. But I don’t have time.
What’s your hidden talent?
I don’t think I have one! I have lived in London for 12 years and my New Zealand accent is as strong as ever. I can throw a good party.
What’s the most extravagant thing you ever bought?
In our townhouse where our showroom is located here in Mayfair, we have a marble chair designed and crafted by Rick Owens and his wife Michèle Lamy. Together they create minimalist sculpture and furniture, and this one is amazing. Their work was exhibited in LA earlier this year at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My children. My husband has given me so many lovely things. He gave me his grandmother’s ring. But it’s hard for him to give me a gift. If I want a nice piece of jewelry, I can just make it for myself!
What’s your guilty pleasure?
My lingerie and my candles – they are both sent from New Zealand. There are incredible brands there that you cannot buy here in London. My lingerie brand is Lonely – they also make swimwear and clothing. My candles are Curionoir. My favorite fragrance in their scented candle line is Tobacco.
What does luxury mean to you?
Time. Time to linger, uninterrupted days with my family, preferably somewhere by the sea. The chance to slow down. The ultimate luxury is to be able to stop.
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