Growing up in Benson, Arizona, Jessyca Ruth attended the Tucson Gem Show every year for fun. Little did she know that one day she’d have a real reason to go. Her journey from an onlooker to a stone artist shows just how far a simple walk with your dogs can take you.
Jessyca grew up at the base of the Dragoon Mountains, where Cochise’s stronghold once was. She spent childhood hours digging for agates in the old mine shafts and quarries around there. Along with agates, she looked for tarantulas too, she says with a laugh. It was time that gave her a deep appreciation for the Southwest.
Marriage to a man in the Air Force took Jessyca away from Arizona. The couple moved to Las Vegas, then later to Tacoma, Washington. Jessyca’s family grew with a son and then a daughter. During these years she took up painting to satisfy her artistic side during the long times when her husband was gone. When she got to Washington, she taught art classes in an afterschool program.
Six years ago, her husband retired from the Air Force and found a job in Albuquerque. Jessyca decided she didn’t want to go back to working in the schools, but she still needed something to satisfy the artist in her. That something ended up being a return to collecting rocks.
Jessyca walked her dogs on West Mesa, and along the way she found some really great rocks. She filled her pockets with them during her walks and also studied the geology of the area. After collecting and learning for a while, she decided to put both the rocks and the knowledge to good use. So, although she knew nothing about it at the time, she purchased a lapidary set. It intrigued her to work with the rocks, to see, as she puts it, “what they would become.” She considers it taking things full circle, “finding the stone from the earth, making something with it and giving it back.”
She learned how to grind the rocks down and studied the local minerals to ensure she wasn’t cutting into anything dangerous. Her stonework led her to connect with other artists on social media. One artist who enjoyed the different shapes and pieces she created was Raymondo Joe. Raymondo introduced her to the Artist Co-Op at Turquoise Skies and Jessyca realized she had found her community.
Through her work at Turquoise Skies, Jessyca has continued to hone her artistic skills. She’s also expanded them, taking up silversmithing. She says this allows her to take her stones “from start to finish”. Being a part of the Co-Op offers her the chance to learn new techniques and new skills and keep pushing down her path as an artist. And it’s given her a reason to go back to the Tucson Gem Show.
When asked what she would say to those trying to decide how to follow their own artistic path, she says, “You never know where you’re going to find art. It can happen in the most innocuous places. For me, it was taking a walk.” And she would remind them that whatever they choose to do, they should “embrace the moments for what they give you.” That’s pretty good advice for everyone.