Jason McLeod’s artisan jewelry career path was informed by car crashes. Back in the early aughts, McLeod was living in Oakland, California, and running an advertising and graphic design business when a pair of back-to-back fender benders laid him up long-term in the hospital.
He needed something to fill the hours, and “I just started making jewelry as a way to keep my hands and my mind busy,” McLeod says. But when he saw the enthusiasm his uniquely designed rings and necklaces generated, he realized his hobby had the potential to become a business.
In the ensuing years, McLeod and his wife moved to Charlottesville and he displayed his metalwork at East Coast art shows, developing his brand and honing his craft, eventually setting up shop in an Allied Lane office space.
McLeod has established himself as a local artisan whose work has a unique, speculative twist. His online store is filled with Singularity pendants and Time Traveler rings, intricate creations as otherworldly as their names suggest. The goal, McLeod says, is to create products that “look like they’re from the past and the future.”
He’s succeeded with the newest product on his site: the Time Traveler Shamanic Mask. The fully functional mask is decked out with 18-karat gold and black silk, and comes with a leather strap. It’s a steampunk fantasy—but at $20,020, it might exceed the typical cosplay budget.
The price, of course, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to this year and its unprecedented events, without which this mask would never have been created. McLeod says he might be willing to negotiate on its cost, but hopes a wealthy someone will pay full price. “It’s part of the package,” he says.
McLeod also emphasizes that, should his mask find a buyer, the profits will go to a “coronavirus medical expense relief charity,” giving the project a “Robin Hood purpose.”
Whether or not the first mask sells, McLeod plans to create more—maybe even a series. Future design ideas include tear gas-resistant goggles, he says, to remain “applicable to 2020.” But if the Time Traveler Shamanic Mask is any indication, he won’t be abandoning his signature aesthetic. On the mask’s two respirators, McLeod inserted golden versions of the earth and the sun—specifically, its corona. (Get it?) Across the silver surface, he’s etched tiny stars and other celestial symbols.
The celestial, global aspect is what initially inspired McLeod to make the mask. “Part of what’s really amazing about this quarantine pandemic thing is that it’s brought out the…global group organism,” he says. “The macro, not the micro.”
And yet McLeod’s own celestial path finds him in the business of sculpting those big ideas into a small, wearable piece of art.