Jess Panza is a Los Angeles-based jewelry and decorative objects designer who hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She works out of a tiny studio in the derelict but soulful Old Bank District in Downtown Los Angeles. When she is not at work, she is at home with her husband and their two young children in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

I got the knack for working with my hands from my mother who ran a small bakery. I would help her peel and core apples for pies. I would roll out dough and lift and center it over a pie pan then lower it into the pan and slowly crimp the edges into soft triangles.

Once you master a skill with your hands you can apply that mastery to anything.

After seeing a small glass lamp working shop on Cape Cod while on vacation in the 1990s, I started to become interested in glass and eventually found out about Urban Glass. I was introduced to glass at Urban Glass in Brooklyn, New York in 1995. Back then Urban Glass was an experimental public glass studio where you could take lessons on any glass working method like blowing, casting, lampworking, stained glass and neon. Most artists working there were established in good galleries in NYC and used the studio to make their art and occasionally teach classes.

I took every class they offered and spent hours, when I was not at my day job, using the workshops to make molds for lost wax casting or booking time to blow glass or lampworking glass beads.

It was fun and spending time in those workshops gave me space to be myself. At about the same time I visited the old Ted Muehling workshop on Greene street in Soho, New York. That is the moment I fell in love with jewelry as a means of expressing a point of view.

I began to take classes at The Craft Students League in Manhattan and at a very short lived school in SOHO called Metal Kitchen run by Whitney Abrams. I enjoyed the space to create so much that I found a tiny work studio in Brooklyn. My baking experience helped me considerably when I began to learn about glass techniques like lampworking, mold-making and lost wax casting.

From the moment I considered working on my own I knew I wanted to use both glass and gold to express myself. The materials, glass and solid 14K gold, naturally cleave to one another when heated and together they form the foundation for designs that reveal the hand that made them and colorful, pared-down pieces that endure as classics.