I’m a designer and the owner of JUL Designs, a company I started 9 years ago in a basement, like so many other creative businesses. We are based in Catonsville, MD – with Baltimore to the east and Washington DC to the south – in a beautiful old bank building with tall windows, high ceilings, brilliant natural light, and an illegal left turn right next to us that means we hear more cursing than I would like :-(.
I have been a maker, a designer, and an artist for as long as I can remember, drawing all the time as a kid, setting up a darkroom in the bathroom (my poor family), learning to weave on a loom my father made from a wooden orange crate at 5, spinning and knitting at 7, and making all of my own clothes from the age of 14 until I went to graduate school at 26.
I got my PhD based on research in Bali, Indonesia where I lived for two years as a single mother with my little boy from the age of one and a half until three and a half, between 1998 and 2000. I studied the cosmological connections between the body and the universe, both of which are called buana. The buana agung is the “big world” of the universe and the buana alit is the “small world” of the human body. I studied this relationship in a range of cultural contexts, including ceremonies, particularly marriage, tooth-filings, and mortuary rituals, which are beautiful treatments of the deceased designed to return the body to the elements from which it was made – earth, sky, fire, water, and space – and to separate the personal soul (jiwa) from the body so it can return as a reincarnated person within the family, and return the eternal soul (atma) to the divine animating impulse from which it was borrowed.
I studied esoteric texts with learned men and women. These texts included anatomies, meditation instructions, attraction magic, classifications of physical features and how they predict our fates, love magic, and native erotic instruction manuals similar to the Kama Sutra. I studied contemporary ideas about the body and sexuality and how they are changing in response to new influences like canned foods, farmed chickens, motorcycles and cars (considered a form of love magic), mobile phones, electronics, influxes of new media and pornography, and now the internet.
I also learned how to cook the local cuisine, raise my child Balinese-style, and how to conduct myself in a way that allowed me to understand cultural references and make culturally appropriate responses. I learned how to move like a Balinese. I learned how to pray like a Balinese Hindu, I learned how to live in the moment. I had cosmological dreams. And I learned how to read a landscape of hierarchy by gender, age, caste, and clan, a hierarchy that is visible on the body, houses, and in ceremony.
All of these experiences have influenced my life deeply and influenced my designs profoundly. I am interested in making designs that are connected to this rich cache of stories, experiences, and visual influences that emerge out of history, poetry, language, and culture. The memories and experiences of travel, research, and fascination, are my inspiration. And I want to share them with you in this space. I want to connect with you and to invite you into my way of thinking through my designs but also my stories that may not appear directly related to my designs at first. Because all of my deep engagement with the strange and my efforts to make it make sense to myself and to make it familiar to you, contributes to my sensibility and spills out the sides in the form of design as well as story telling.
I want to share child-rearing hints with you, recipes, cultural instructions, descriptions of places, people and ritual. Some of these stories are light-hearted. Some of them describe tough times and uncomfortable truths about the way people treat other people and the manner in which globalization is changing other peoples’ modes of living and thinking in ways that are ambivalent and conflicted. I want to share the beauty. I will also not turn away from the grit. And I’ll give you advice on how not to offend other people and make yourself vulnerable if you ever visit Indonesia. Because going to another place, and really digging in, is hard, unless you isolate and insulate yourself in a tourist town or resort and on big tour buses with multi-lingual guides. And even then you can encounter situations where you suddenly feel confused, or taken advantage of, or fearful. I can help with that. So if you ever want advice about what to do in a given situation in Bali or Indonesia more broadly, let me know. And of course if you are going to Bali and want some suggestions for amazing places to see and activities to seek out, contact me. I would love to hear from you.
Agus Daia is my Balinese creative-partner who lives in Bali, Indonesia and collaborates on, and oversees production of, all JUL designs executed in metal and made Fair Trade and living wage by a community of skilled artisans. I met Agus when I was doing some research in Indonesia and when I left academia to work full time on JUL, Agus became my partner and we have been working together to create beautiful things for you ever since – a partnership that is now in it’s ninth year. Soon, Agus will share a description of himself in his own words, which I will offer here both in Indonesian, as well as a translation.
JUL Designs has made a commitment to responsible and responsive creativity. Not only are we committed to creating designs that are beautiful, useful and high quality. We insist on producing our designs in ethical ways that ensure the well-being of workers and the environment while demonstrating a flexible engagement. Your needs represent creative opportunities we can respond to through on-site production and partnerships with US-based and Fair Trade International workshops and manufacturers. So tell us what you need from us, what you want from us. We are serving you!
JUL creates original jewelry designs that take your hand-made projects beyond functional to fabulous style. Our diverse collections of artisanal US-made and Fair Trade shawl pins and sticks, leather closures and bag handles and straps, not only keep your handwork secure. Our beautiful and original knitwear jewelry and accessories grant you the opportunity to develop your unique look. JUL Designs’ helps your creations become you.
For All of You:
Affordable luxury that connects you to a different world.
JUL Designs’ new line of history-, culture-, and architecture-inspired silver jewelry will satisfy your desire to develop a unique, personalized, and meaningful global aesthetic. Our experiences inspire our designs. Let our stories inspire you and adorn yourself with beauty made Fair Trade internationally and living wage locally and connect with our ethical world community.