Local Produce: Jess Clarke and Just Friends Jewellery

Local Produce: Jess Clarke and Just Friends Jewellery

Jess Clarke is a history and performing arts student who produces all kinds of weird and wonderful earrings. Finding success at the Radio One Market days, she has managed to turn her summer holiday hobby into one of Otago’s newest trends. 

Jess’s work features all kinds of unconventional objects that most people wouldn’t even think to turn into earrings. She got the idea last year from TikTok and has been creating ever since. 

“On TikTok last year there was this trend that said lesbians can wear anything on earrings. People then got the most ridiculous shit and put it on earrings,” she said. Inspired by the TikTok, one day when she was pining through Look Sharp with her friends, she stumbled across small dinosaur toys. 

“We found these toys, and we were like, ‘we should make these into earrings’” she said. That night on her flat living room floor alongside her friends, Jess began creating the dinosaur earrings using a candle and safety pin to construct them. After wearing them around university, she began to get complimented. 

“People said they were cute, so over summer I kept buying things that I thought would look cute on earrings. My Dad, who is a bit of a handyman, then got his drill out and started helping me drill holes in things, which made things easier [to make.]”

The title of her brand, Just Friends, is drawn from lesbian history. “There’s this thing in history where if you’re gay and have a partner, it will say in textbooks they’re your ‘lifelong friend’ or ‘best friend’. It comes up a lot, but they’re together, they just didn’t want to say it,” she explained. After conceiving the idea, Jess started up an Instagram page to advertise her creations. Her friend Kaitlyn helped her make the logo on Canva, and things took off from there.

Jess has found success selling her creations at Market Day, and wants to keep up her stall. Although it’s mainly a hobby, Jess is eager to expand her business. “It was more for fun and friends over summer while I was working, but then I did my first Market Day, and loved it,” she said. 

“I put a bit of money into it, the earring hooks are expensive, but then things I put on the earrings don’t cost very much money. It’s fun,” she says. 

Jess finds inspiration from “random shit” she finds in thrift stores, her friends, or even objects that remind her of her own life experiences. As for her favourite pair of earrings, Jess says the dinosaur ones will always be a staple, but her personal favourites are the baggy earrings. 

“I have baggy earrings, but I had white glitter in them, and I was like ‘that looks way too much like gear, I can’t sell that” she laughed. Other popular designs also include the toadstool charm earrings, and her skateboard earrings. 

Just Friends earrings can be found at Radio One Market Days, and on Instagram @justfriendsnz.

This article first appeared in Issue 10, 2021.
Posted 4:05pm Sunday 9th May 2021 by Annabelle Vaughan.