Behind the Scenes: Temper Jewelry
Seattle-based jewelry designer Jesse Morrow joins forces with Cambodian social enterprises to create fair trade accessories forged from the bullet casings and bombshells of a troubled history.
Jesse Morrow and his Cambodia-based partner Anna Mischke met through mutual friends four years back and together they discovered a free-trade shop in the heart of Phnom Penh. Run by the nonprofit arts and crafts association Rajana, the fair trade, fair wages shop trains and employs underprivileged Cambodians to ensure higher wages and self-sustainability.
The experienced and empowered artisans handcraft the designers' effortless and cultured pieces with metals sourced from bombshells and bullet casings found in riverbeds, killing fields, and old Khmer Rouge storage spots. Mischke told us "the team of artisans have been utilizing these resources for quite some time" and they thought it vital to bring history into the line. To top it all off, the pieces come plated in 18k gold and white platinum.
We got some background on the designers who, as Morrow puts it, "aren't saying we're changing the world, just shedding light on a dark past."
Shop Talk: What neighborhood is your studio in?
Morrow: My home studio is right between Wallingford and Greenlake. I love the area, it's close walk to Greenlake and right by I5.
Mischke: Our artisans work in an area of Phnom Penh called Tuol Tom Poung, also known as Russian Market—just off a side street from the constantly bustling market filled with everything from H&M knockoffs to miniature taxidermy crocodiles to piles of sweaty meat.
What is your earliest memory of designing?
Morrow: I remember doodling in my notebooks all through elementary school and college. I don’t necessarily think it was designing, but it was certainly something that led me to it. By high school the designs turned into logos/graphics for bands or clothing companies I made up in my head. Once I got my hands on a computer the whole picture started to come together.
What do you do to get yourself in a productive headspace when you're feeling stuck?
Morrow: The most productive method for me is to change gears completely. Sometimes that means going for a walk or getting coffee. Other times it means playing a bit of music and maybe even writing a song. There are definitely times when I just have to ‘bulldoze’ through the work (if you will) and try to finish up before I move on to the next thing.
Mischke: We constantly have back-and-forths about our designs and we work together to find something that suits Temper and both of our tastes.
Five things you can't work without:
- Computer: Between designing and communicating, none of this would happen without our computers which are perfect for frequent traveling and still being highly productive.
- Morrow's Wacom Tablet: Years of using one makes work flow much faster.
- Mischke's passport: Living in Cambodia allows the opportunity to visit neighboring countries— Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong—and gather a new point of view through trips around Southeast Asia.
- Skype: Skype has been key in our communications. Even with the time change (one of us waking up early or staying up way too late) it has been a lifesaver to prevent us from only communicating in long, arduous emails.
- Cameras: The must-have for photo and video work.
What is your favorite thing about your studio?
Morrow: My favorite thing about my studio is the location. I'm pretty much 15 minutes from most parts of town and the bonus of Greenlake being nearby is nice as well.
Mischke: The staff and artisans—hands down. It's also a safe and comfortable environment; the staff's children are sometimes there running about and it's always a pleasant, productive experience.
Where can we find your pieces and where would like you us to find them in the future?
Right now the best place to find Temper pieces is on our website temperbrand.com. In the near future we hope to be in a few select boutiques around Seattle.