JASON: What makes your jewelry innovative?
JIMMY: I like to take risks with my designs…. I like people to be able to look at my stuff and say “That is a Jimmy Buddha piece.” So I guess by default I come up with some stuff that is innovative!
JASON: Do you do preliminary sketches, drawings, or models before making the final jewelry?
JIMMY: All of my pieces are fairly well developed concepts before the process starts. Most of the materials I use are too expensive to just shoot from the hip. I do, however, believe in changing things up or or even scrapping projects and starting all over if things just aren’t coming together. I’ve learned that translating an idea or drawing into a 3D reality can be very challenging.
JASON: Do you design the jewelry with a particular individual in mind?
JIMMY: Not usually, but in this case most certainly. Pineapple needed something epic to complement his amazing tattoos and mods, so it was my goal to create something special for him.
JASON: Do you generally imagine jewelry to be worn in matching sets (plugs, septum, and labret)?
JIMMY: Now I do. I feel it’s only been in the last few years that there is a demand for such things when it comes to jewelry for large holes. Seeing this change is one of the things that makes me feel good about the direction of body piercing and the ability of the jewelry to play a role in that.
JASON: How would do you describe the aesthetic of your jewelry?
JIMMY: I am all over the place when it comes to jewelry design…having pierced for fifteen years I know there are all types of people wanting all types of jewelry. But with the Jimmy Buddha Design line, I am trying to go for a higher-end more refined look that complements the individual’s piercings and reflects the value of them to the world.
JASON: Is there any symbolism or significance in these pieces?
JIMMY: I very rarely attach symbolic meaning to things. These pieces have an impact onpeople, and that is a personal experience.
JASON: Are you a hippie Buddhist or what?
JIMMY: Nah…I think we are all fucked.
JASON: What is your philosophy working with traditional carvers to make contemporary piercing jewelry?
JIMMY: I feel that making jewelry for large gauge piercings was a lost art/skill, just as some of the skills of the traditional carvers I work with once were at risk of becoming. I have a passion for both of these and have dedicated myself to keeping them alive and viable in the twenty-first century.
JASON: How long have you been collaborating with Balinese carvers?
JIMMY: I started working with the family I am still with today ten years ago. It has been an amazing experience, helping me grow as an individual and a designer. Without them helping me along for the last ten years, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
JASON: What is your interaction with the carvers like? Is communication an issue?
JIMMY: Communication is an issue, of course; it is not usually strictly a language barrier, but a conceptual one. As a designer I find words inadequate for expressing my ideas. I rely heavily on detailed drawings and making three-dimensional prototypes personally. Then, of course, my crew of carvers has been doing this for a while now and they pick up on things quickly and make my job so much easier.
JASON: How many hours of carving were involved in making this jewelry?
JIMMY: This set was trial by fire. It was not so much the actual carving that took so long, but figuring out the order of the steps involved. This set took five craftsmen to complete, each with their own special expertise. So making sure that things were done in the right order was my main concern. Now that we have gone through the learning curve it will be much easier in the future.
JASON: Do you use child labor because only their small hands can carve such detailed pieces?
JIMMY: Many people have the same misinformation about the child labor. It’s not because of their small hands but because they can’t break the chains.
JASON: How much did you pay your carvers for these?
JIMMY: Watery gruel and a chunk of hard brown bread.
JASON: What appeals to you about fossilized ivory as a material?
JIMMY: Since I was a little kid I was always digging around in the dirt finding stuff… marbles, fossils, whatever. I guess I have never really grown up, it’s just the stuff I find is bigger and more expensive! When it comes to jewelry, ivory has a warmth and soft glow to it that other materials do not have, and the human body loves it. When it comes to workability it is unmatched as a medium…these pieces attest to the detail that can be attained.
JASON: Do you feel guilty for helping cause the extinction of the mastodon?
JIMMY: My only regret is that I was never able to shoot one myself and mount it on my wall.
JASON: Do you have any personal anecdotes about your experience designing this magnificent set?
JIMMY: There were a couple of redesigns midway through these. The most frustrating was me forgetting to erase some pencil lines that very quickly became carved lines, but in the end it actually made for a nicer pattern!
JASON: What is the most challenging aspect of designing custom jewelry?
JIMMY: It is very time consuming, and the details are the key to custom jewelry. When I make something custom for someone, I want it to be perfect. It needs to not only fit right but they need to love the piece for me to be happy with it.
JASON: Do you always resort to taking bath salts when you are getting your ass kicked by a gorilla?
JIMMY: The only thing that matters is the end result: the banana whipped some monkey ass! [Editor’s note: These are references to entertainment provided by Jason and Jimmy during the Conference banquet.]