Creative professional Bee Jewel got her start right at home amidst a family of artists and designers. Immersed in an environment full of artmakers, Miss Jewel (as friends and clients call her) knew from a young age that design was in her blood. A successful custom jewelry designer, amongst other things, she began incorporating photography into her imagery to fully realize ideas that start as sketches, and end as surreal minimalist stories deconstructing reality with a touch of feminine flair. Read on to find out more!

Bee Jewel, let’s start with your name. It’s fantastic! Can you tell us a bit about it?

My first name starts with ‘Bi…’ and when I was small I would proudly tell people, “I’m B!!!” Later, when I moved to the US, Americans could not pronounce my real name. So that stuck. The name ‘Jewel’ came into my life when I started my jewelry design business. Friends and clients would call me Miss Jewel. It’s been mine for so long, it fits me like a glove!

Along with photography, you have a background in visual art, design and creative direction. How does that intersect with your photography practice?

My background is in sculpture and jewelry design. I design and manufacture one-of-a- kind custom pieces. Everybody in my family is either an artist or designer. Some of them are very successful. Graphic design is in my blood and we really enjoy working on projects together, so I ended up doing art and creative directing not only for my own studio, but for others as well. I also create logos, greeting cards and other things, along with my jewelry sketches and designs. Most of my pieces are drawn or sketched on paper first. Eventually, I realized that I needed photos to take the work to the next level. I have a very talented cousin who is a photographer that taught me how to put my Sony Cybershot and iPhone to better use. The rest is learning by doing.

It seems evident, from looking at your portfolio that digital manipulation is a large part of your aesthetic. What software programs and photographic equipment do you use to create your work?

I start with drawing my basic idea, then I feed it into the computer and add photographic images or parts of photos, play around with the shapes and colors, and then draw some more until the piece looks the way I want it to. My favorite tool is my iPad and my favorite software is ArtStudio. Occasionally I use Lightroom or Stackables.

Formally, a minimalist style, scale and an intentional color palette are consistent in your work. Can you tell us about those choices?

I was raised in the tradition of Bauhaus and ArtDeco so my first colors of choice were -and still are – black, white and grey. But, the girl in me loves all shades of pink and aqua!

I was brought up in strictly minimalist surroundings, with Mies van der Rohe, LeCorbusier, and Arne Jacobson, to name a few, as family heroes. Thus, I can’t bring myself to venture into cute or kitschy territory. Exuberance is something I might appreciate in others, but you won’t ever find it in my work. I prefer surreal or deconstructive reality!

There appears to be a somewhat dreamlike, imaginative or otherworldly/futuristic quality to your work. Where do you get your inspiration?

I get asked that a lot and I honestly don’t know. There are two ways I approach my work. Either I have a story to tell – a memory, a dream or something I witnessed in life – and create an image to fit that story, or I create an image and while doing so a story unfolds in my mind. Story and image can stand by themselves, but together they create unity. Humor plays a big part in my work too, it gives lightness to otherwise serious reality. I am amazed how people react to my stories and images. They start talking about their own memories or experiences or thank me for making them smile. So it seems that I reach people on different levels – visually, emotionally and/or intellectually. This is incredibly rewarding for any artist!

Commercially, what types of clients are drawn to your work? Is there a particular industry that you are interested in creating work for?

My pieces sell to private clients, but I can imagine my work hanging in corporate boardrooms, fancy restaurants or boutique hotels. My next goal is to put together a small square book that slips in your pocket with the visual art on one page and a matching story on the opposite page. People can look at it on their way to work, waiting for a train or riding the subway, and hopefully start their day with a smile. If they can put away their smart phones for long enough that is :-))

Do you have any recommendations for photographers who are interested in taking their photographic eye into the world of creative direction?

I’m afraid good photography skills won’t land you a job as a creative or art director.

My advice for every young creative person is to either go to design school, where you can learn how to market your work, get work experience doing internships in design or photography, or start work as an assistant to an established designer or photographer. Over time you can work your way up. It is a hard business to break into. But, determination, hard work, great skills, and of course lots of creativity, might do the trick.