Jia Jia Chen’s first foray into making things happened when she was 15 and discovered Bizarre Beads in her local shopping centre. ‘I remember thinking it was rather trendy in those days, especially as the store was opposite the skate park where a lot of my teenage crushes would go,’ she remembers. She became obsessed with the place, and made endless items of beaded jewellery, but abandoned the hobby by the time she had finished high school, unaware she could make a living doing something creative.
A decade later, and Jia Jia is doing just that, though she’s ditched the beads in favour of ceramics. After a friend introduced her to the craft six years ago, Jia Jia eventually enrolled into Fine Arts (Ceramics) at RMIT. The focus of the course was to work within the parameters of making fine art, but Jia Jia kept turning to functional homewares. ‘I am a complete sucker for homewares, and being able to make my own has caused a serious influx of ceramic pieces in our own home. I am fortunate to have a very understanding housemate!’ she says.
A few months ago Jia Jia started her very own handmade ceramic objects and homewares business called Jahjahjah. This range naturally unfolded from her first product – a marbled maraca (yes it does rattle) – and now includes functional and decorative sculptural pieces including various prisms, domes, diamonds and dishes. Each piece is handmade by Jia Jia in her studio space in North Melbourne, a creative hub which she shares with fellow ceramicists including Jessilla Rogers, Chela Edmunds of Takeawei, Brooke Thorn and David Pottinger.
The distinctive marble glaze that embellishes many of of Jia Jia’s ceramics is the result of not fully mixing colour pigment into liquid clay. Her fascination with marbled surfaces is longstanding, and originally began as a child, when she used to make icing for cakes, or pour milk into tea. ‘I was always fascinated by the arresting visuals created from this simple process. When the opportunity arose to freeze this moment into a solid object, I went all out’ she says.
Jia Jia is currently collaborating with some friends to develop a series of curated dinner parties combining food and ceramics called JABBERWOCKY, and is extending her Jahjahjah range to include tableware and jewellery. ‘I might event pay respects to my humble beginnings at Bizarre Beads and begin making some ceramic beaded jewellery!’ she says.