At first glance, Jewelry Designer Justine Cullen looks like a badass rock n’ roll firecracker with her delicate punk style and choppy bangs. And yes, there is a badass rock n’ roll firecracker tucked inside her petite 5’2 frame. But after having a conversation with Justine, I was able to see past her rough exterior; her mystical essence, eclectic background and down-to-earth stature conveyed that she was much more than your average jewelry designer.
Even as a now well-known jewelry designer, handcrafting custom pieces with names like Maverick and Phoenix Rising, Justine has not lost her roots or sense of self. “When creating jewelry, I really like to feel a connection within myself; something that brings out inner strength,” states Justine, who draws a lot of inspiration from the different environments she’s circled through, which are quite a few to say the least.
After growing up as a horseback rider in the free-thinking bohemian hippie community of Topanga located in Los Angeles, California, which is famous for being the rock n’ roll
free-spirited inspiration haven to such famous residents as The Doors, The Eagles and iconic actors like, Dennis Hopper. Justine began her serious equestrian show-jumping training, and was selected into an Olympic training barn. There was just one thing holding her back from devoting her life to show jumping: her unfulfilled desire to travel. Justine’s “three-week maximum” travel break turned into a much bigger adventure. “I absolutely fell in love with being in Europe. I knew there was more out there for me,” she says. From Amsterdam to London to California and many stops in between; fascinated with the music industry and all that it had to offer, Justine worked promoting underground clubs and DJs where she met of variety of interesting people, including her husband.
In 2002, Justine had finished up a stint with a music distribution company in London, and decided she wanted to take up Jewelry making. She began taking some adult classes… and then she got pregnant. *Cue the sound of a car screeching to a halt*. The free-willing punk area of London where she was residing in was definitely no place to raise a child, so Justine realized it was time for a change of lifestyle. She and her husband decided to pack up their bags and move to the quiet countryside outside of London. “There goes my potential career in jewelry… I thought, ‘How on earth am I going to learn this?’” she recalls.
The English countryside presented a completely different lifestyle than Justine had become accustom to. Going from the underground music scene to the suburban mom life was going to take some adjusting, especially without an outlet for her newly discovered passion for expressing herself through jewelry. Well, the stars must have been in alignment, because who would have thought that there’d be a silversmithing class for adults at the local high school? “That was my big flag. That’s too big of a coincidence for me to be on the wrong track,” she says. “It was a really special moment. Hopefully everyone gets one of those moments, where the sun comes up.”
So one night a week Justine took a two-hour adult class, and continued to practice her jewelry making in the makeshift studio that her husband had transformed from their garden shed. The countryside in Kent is cold in the winter—working in the unheated shed was more than a bit nippy, and the tools would rust, but you’ve got to work with what ya got! And Justine clearly made the best of it. “I lived it as my every waking thought,” she says. Her son is taking a nap? Time to work on her jewelry. Her husband is cooking dinner? Time to work on her jewelry. This thing she once called a hobby was beginning to consume her oh-so passionate soul.
Over the next several years, Justine would continue following her passion. She sought out different classes in a variety of different jewelry design techniques. Soon after discovering the “magical place” of Hatton Garden (essentially the jewelry district of London), she enrolled in an intensive three-day jewelry-making course at Holts Academy. This got her thinking, ‘Hey, maybe there is a real field for me.’ Fast-forward five years, and Justine Cullen is more than an experienced and accomplished name in her field. Her Jewelry has been featured in Vogue, and worn by bass player Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, actor Keith Powers of the hit 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton, actress Alexis Knapp of Pitch Perfect, and many other notable fashion forward talent. Her jewelry may be coveted by celebs, but her jewelry aims to bring out the beauty in everyone. Yes, that includes you!
Going from a career in the underground music scene to designing custom and collectable jewelry was a huge jump, which Justine managed to achieve by never giving up. Building a brand takes time and persistence. “The biggest hurdles come just before the biggest achievements,” Justine sweetly states with a smile.
Sam Fielding photography
Justine has had an extraordinarily interesting life, which has helped her create some extraordinary jewelry. Her hippie-town upbringing, her love for music and art, and her vast experiences are all deeply rooted in the designs of her jewelry. When asked about what piece of jewelry Justine is most proud of, she responded that it is currently in the works. Ladies, and gentleman, and anyone in between, buckle your seat belts for the next great piece to debut from the Justine Cullen brand. Stay tuned, we have a feeling that there’s a bright future with much more on the horizon for this badass rock n’ roll firecracker!