Johnny Ninos is a maker. He has a strong aesthetic and his designs are beautifully crafted. His jewelry is simply stunning. I'm going to leave it at that - get to know more about Johnny below.
During high school and through college I worked as a studio assistant for a few artists. One a woodworker, one a potter, and the other a sculptor. Each of them professors in the art department at Alfred University which was in the town where I grew up and the college where I would eventually receive my BFA. They were all extremely knowledgable and passionate about their work and liberal with their knowledge. I’ve always gravitated to working with my hands, I love the smells and creative cloud that generates in a makers space. I also love the problems and time earned solutions. Working with these artists was my first glimpse into the logistics and quality of life that is lead by making. Their workweek outside of teaching is defined by product rather than hours and each day offers unique challenges and questions with creative solutions. Although these artists did not create jewelry they pointed me in a direction that would eventually lead to jewelry.
Soon after college in 2007 I followed my girlfriend who is now my wife out to California where we both picked up jobs at a neat little school called Midland, her as the art teacher and my class focused in metalworking. My curriculum was open, but the students wanted to keep jewelry in the mix as it had previously been offered. With the help of youtube and a few books I was able to stay ahead of my students and although I was new to these processes my background in sculpture allowed for quick translation. I made piles of work, most of which weren’t so great. I was using the torch in new ways from what I was used to and gaining confidence with this new scale. It’s super fun looking back and picking apart the approach and thought process behind these first pieces; I hope it’s how I look at my current work in 10 years. It was also at this time I crossed paths with jewelry maker and Love & Luxe owner Betsy Barron who was graciously open to selling and promoting my work alongside artists I was honored to be amongst, pushing me to grow my craft and concepts.
I do sketch a lot, but mostly to get an idea out and problem solve. I typically think differently in three dimensions and when I begin a piece at the bench I allow room to improvise. I really appreciate time for an idea to boil down and shake out the unnecessary. Much of my work begins in wax which offers a lot of flexibility and forgiveness and in a way is like three dimensional sketching.
I’m open to inspiration wherever it may come from, but I’m often drawn to nature and hang out in the intertidal zones here in CA as much as I can (I’d be damned if I didn’t come out of that with something). The jewelry community is also inspiring; there are so many amazing artists who are continuously pushing their craft and I find that a renewable source of fuel. When I was just starting to make jewelry I discovered Sandra Enterline’s work for the first time at Gallery Lulo! I left that space so inspired to create. Her work seemed perfect to me; incredibly crafted and considered with elegance and confidence. Other artists that reignite the fire if the fuel gets low: Gustav Reyes, Todd Pownell, Polly Wales, Dukno Yoon, Jacqueline Cullen, Emanuela Duca.
Favorite design: I really enjoy my Barnacle Rings. I want to continue to see my work evolve and not get stuck working on the same piece on repeat, however I don’t think I will get bored making these. I still have so many designs within this style I have not yet explored and I think about it and look forward to it every day. I also love making my industrial decay rings. They are challenging and evolve so much as I’m building them which makes for a super fun process and exciting result.
Personal collection: I don’t have a collection yet however I would love to build one. I would probably start with the above mentioned designers and move from there.
Daily jewelry: When I read this question all I could think about is something my mom says occasionally, “The painters house is never painted”. When I first heard this I thought to myself, this makes sense- who wants to paint their house when they’ve been doing it all day for others? However, is there a lack of pride or purpose in ones work or even a dislike of your daily occupation to be unwilling to do it for yourself? Long story short, I don’t wear any jewelry other than my wedding band, but I love making it. So maybe the painter just wants to play with his/her kids when they get home.
Other than jewelry: hang out with my family, go to the beach, cook, eat, run, make things, teach, draw, hike, clean, bike, sleep, watch movies, drink tea, drink whisky, think about well crafted shoes, think about well crafted chairs, long for well crafted shoes and chairs, listen to music.
Currently listening to: Band and album are hard for me to nail down, not because I have too many, but I tend to listen to music via pandora and my taste jumps around a bunch. Currently I’m listening to a built up station with Sylvan Esso as the focus. Also, If you haven’t seen “Roll the Bones” by Shakey Graves on YouTube, you should do that right now.