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A Conversation with DJ Javier on His Jewelry Collab with SKYDOG

Photos by Gemma Totten and Ahmet Uras

Interview by Tommy Moore

DJ Javier is a Santa Barbara, CA based illustrator, muralist, and designer, among many other things. For years now, DJ has been one of our favorite artists. He's created a style that distinctly his, integrating stylistic tendencies and iconology from his Filipino roots into every ounce of the work he's creating. He works with slim palettes and bold imagery to reshape and re-frame many of the things we've all become accustomed to seeing.

SKYDOG Jewelry is headed up by Jordan Dzierwa out of Laguna Beach, CA. With a lineage filled with jewelers, a master engraver grandfather and a father who spent 30 years as a jeweler, SKYDOG is equally fueled by passion and ancestry. Jordan's work is rooted in travel and honoring the connection to the craft, world beneath his feet, and people that came before him.

Together, DJ and Jordan came together to dream up the DJ Javier x SKYDOG jewelry line, and let us tell ya, it's one of the finest collaborations we've come across. DJ's bold and iconic illustrative style is paired with a refined and top tier level of craftsmanship resulting in a collection that is sure to live on longer than any one of us.

Tommy Moore: You’ve had a couple jewelry-esque things come up recently. First the Santa Barbara half marathon medal and then the recent drop with SKYDOG. Had you ever done any sort of jewelry design before that?

DJ Javier: It's funny that they were pretty much back to back, because no, I’d never done anything of that nature.So it was pretty cool to be able to dream it up, and then work with people who were experts in their space being able to develop it and bring it to life. Like 6000 people ended up running it, and the finish line was like two blocks from my studio. So the medal was designed where the race took place, essentially.

TM: That's awesome was that it was so local. There's probably never been a situation where you've had things manufactured at that scale locally, where everybody has the ability to get their hands on it.

DJ: Yeah, it was fun to do it and be a part of it. I ran the 5k with my son in the stroller, and ran into everybody I know. It was a really cool moment.

TM: For the jewelry line that just came out, what was the process for that?

DJ: So Jordan is the owner and founder of SKYDOG, and on top of running that brand, he does his own custom work. He’s out in Laguna Beach, and he reached out to me out of the blue, maybe six months ago. We got on the phone and connected about each other's backgrounds and work, and then over the summer, we brought back the conversation, like, Hey, let's really do this.

I sketched up all the concepts that I had thought of. I was sketching on things I just would love to wear, and he was down for literally everything. It was cool, because from there, he took my high res illustrations, and he had his team develop 3D renderings of them. Then, as a jeweler, he was able to be like, Oh, we'll set it up with this kind of chain. We'll do this one with this kind of stone inlay, and these kinds of metals. For me, I'm like, Oh, I can just picture myself wearing these designs, but then he took it to a whole new level. It was a cool way collaborate with someone and feel like both parties fully trusted each other's like vision. We're just like, Hey, this is what I want to do or feel stoked on. How would you approach it? It was a two way street where he really dug my illustrative style and creative vision, and then I felt the same way towards him. He's also a master craftsman when it comes to jewelry. So it was cool to put our brains together and produce something unique and really exciting. For me, it feels really good to design jewelry and take my work and aesthetic and bring it into a whole new space.

TM: The whole collection is wild, but it really is unique. I feel like I'm always looking for like a single earring or ring that is a little bit different, but I never come across what I’m looking for. Then, as soon as I saw this collection, my eyes lit up. Especially the tiger band is so, so cool.

DJ: Yeah, he's the real deal. So, obviously, the price points are high, but it's because of the fact that he's using true, high quality silver, and then top tier 10 and 14 karat gold. I had no idea how much things were prior to this. I knew jewelry can be expensive, but in doing that I was just like, Whoa, this is the real thing. It's cool, because you're working with something that you buy and it'll last generations. The quality is so high that someday my kid can wear this cool pendant or this cool ring. In the era that we live in, I think people are more cognizant of if they're going to spend money, they want to know something will last a long time. If someone's gonna buy a pair of pants, they're probably gonna spend more money on a pair of pants that they know will last. I think it's cool to approach this project thinking when you're a grandparent, this will be in your jewelry box and it'll look just as good as it did when it was first made. I think it's cool to approach my first ever jewelry project in LA, where I'm like, Oh, these are heirloom kind of things.

TM: Is there a cultural factor for you with the longevity of these, knowing with the quality that these are expected to be passed down some day?

JV: Totally. For me, the piece I think a lot of people are stoked on, and I really love, too, is the triple palm tree design. There's one iteration of it with a jade stone inlay. Growing up, my mom had a ton of gold jewelry, and she wore a lot of pieces of jade. Jade is big in Filipino and Asian culture in general, sothe Jade inlay I feel is my take on heritage pieces from Asian, Asian American, Filipino, Filipino American culture. But it's almost like I approached it in this kind of California centric way, so it was a cool way to add this little nod to my culture.

TM: It's all like you said before, the quality that you're talking about with everything is apparent right off the bat. Do you have a favorite piece?

DJ: I think it's the palm tree the palm tree with the Jade. That's the one I have. He made a set for me of the pieces that I really wanted. All the ones I chose for myself were that piece, the rose inset ring in gold, and then the little the angel holding the broken surfboard, which I thought was a funny motif. When I was developing these in my head, I was like, What would you see walking through some sort of jewelry district in a downtown area with a bunch of gaudy gold chains and pendants, and how can I take that idea and interject a little California sort of style to it? So that's how an angel with a broken surfboard led to the smile now cry later masks, to the separate surfboard, and so I got that piece, too. I don't know which I'm gonna wear first.

TM: It's funny you mention that, because there is a very apparent feeling of half making fun of things, but in a very intentional way. Like the broken surfboard heart and like the angel wings that you're talking about, they're funny concepts that are done in such a like a solid and significant way.

DJ: Yeah, it's things that you're like, Oh, I would have seen this at a random little, kind of sketchy jewelry shop somewhere. But then I took that idea and I was like, How do I bring a little bit of a surf nod to it?


A Conversation with DJ Javier on His Jewelry Collab with SKYDOG

Photos by Gemma Totten and Ahmet Uras

Interview by Tommy Moore


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