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By Edward Barsamian
Artist in Residence: Jason Ross
Artist in Residence: Jason Ross
The first of an ongoing series in which we invite ourselves over to see where artists work.
I live on the top floor of a former luggage factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Long turned residential, its apartments are sometimes listed as “luxury lofts,” a claim I find disputable. The building, nevertheless, is ideal for the many artists and artisans who live and work there. One of these people is Jason Ross, whose 1,100-square foot space is filled with the heady scent of leather. Ross, a former model, has recently started making leather accessories under the name Artemas Quibble for the Rick Owens store in Paris, in addition to longtime clients like Donna Karan, Urban Zen, and Henry Beguelin.
Nearly everything in his studio has been altered to Ross’s specifications. “Jason is super particular,” Natasha Chekoudjian, his girlfriend and muse, said when I visited recently. We were sitting at a table covered with burnished animal hide, of his construction. (ABC Home, she told me, is interested in having Ross make furniture for them.) On the walls hang custom-made tools, leather samples, and various odds and ends from antiquing trips, waiting for their moment. “Something can be up there for 10 years,” Ross said. “Then one day I’ll pull it down and turn it into something.” Like a piece of Chinese bronze, or a jeweler’s discarded vise, or an old doorknocker—all of these found objects have been appropriated by Ross and transformed into modern pieces, albeit with borrowed histories. Components stripped from an antique scale, for example, form the improvised metal closure on a belt Ross made for Rick Owens. “He said he’d never seen anything like that,” Ross said. In the designer’s Paris store currently, you can find six Artemas Quibble pieces—belts, iPad cases, and a leather envelope.
BY KAREN DAY
A self-taught woodworker, Jason Ross‘ foray into leather goods happened by chance. While working on a furniture project in a friend’s woodshop, Ross noticed a band saw running on a leather belt and was so impressed it still worked that he “immediately contacted the company and bought scraps by the pound,” he says. The natural artisan taught himself how to manipulate his newfound medium and began integrating leather into his woodworking.
Today Ross peddles his expertly crafted leather accessories under the moniker Artemas Quibble, a name that suggests his continued interest in ancient objects and techniques. Working out of his studio in Brooklyn, Ross and his team create each belt, bag and jewelry item by hand for his own label as well as for his collaboration with Donna Karan.
“I enjoy reading how archaeologists think through the purpose of things and materials,” Ross explains. Gleaning insight from his favorite archaeology website, Ross learns from the methods of thinking and draws conclusions from fragmented evidence. These informed interpretations provide a foundation of authenticity for a mien blending the primitive with the modern. “I generally look for an aesthetically pleasing decorative or functional element that can’t be traced to one culture or another,” he notes.
Ross’ understanding of material also stems from his father—the inventor of the first plastic push-pin for Moore Push-Pin—who taught him about memory in materials. This guidance helped Ross develop one of his ingenious techniques, based on a “rivet-less” closure system in which a piece of leather is looped around itself or a piece of hardware and strung through a hole to hold it firmly in place without any give, even as the hide wears over time.
The idea really clicked when Ross began deconstructing an African hunting bag given to him by Graham Cassie, on which, he says, “leather thongs were stitched through holes to hold the various panels of the bag together.” He explains, “I could not, in most cases pull the old straps through the holes. The holes had been stretched and seemed to lock around the leather. I was forced to cut the straps in order to deconstruct the leather.” Ross uses the ancient concept to lock leather to leather as a way of holding hardware, which he also forges in his workshop.
A former Calvin Klein model, Ross’ interest in accessories seems like a natural progression, but his obsession with his craft goes beyond a connection to fashion. “I think that I appreciate beauty in discarded objects and remake those things, perhaps there is a connection to reading about excavations and discovery,” he says. The pieces he creates truly reflect his thoughtful nature and talent for combining the past with the future.
NY TIMES T MAGAZINE
BY EDWARD BARSAMIAN
The Brooklyn-based jeweler A. Jason Ross is part Indiana Jones, part dandy. His latest venture, the Watch Transformation Project (starting at $5,500), is a service for men who want to give some edge to underused timepieces. Clients supply their own watches â€” a Cartier, say â€” and Ross swaps the band for rugged straps and then bundles it in a stylish leather case that would look nice on a nightstand next to a fedora.