AB: Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
JP: I was born in NYC and raised on Long Island.
AB: What was your childhood like?
JP: Thanks to my parents, I had a very well travelled childhood. Any chance my parents had, we would travel the world. I couldn’t get enough of the culture, history, and antiquities we found at each distinct destination. One of my earliest memories were the thatched roofs in Samoa. I was so captured by the differences in architecture there from our brick home in New York.
My parents were also very supportive of my creative pursuits from a young age. Starting at age 11, I took pre-high school classes at FIT in just about every area: patternmaking; jewelry making; graphic design; photography; color theory.
AB: Your earliest/ fondest jewelry related memories/influences?
JP: Before I knew how to read, you could find me in my grandpa Nick’s extensive library on Ancient Greek culture. As a proud Greek American, he had hundreds of books that referenced Greek pottery, jewelry, architecture, and literature, all of which I treasure to this day as a major source of inspiration for my design process. He also kept an elaborate archive of my great-grandparents 1940s NYC cabaret club, Versailles. Each time I would visit my grandpa he would tell me stories about the club, a time when Edith Piaf and Perry Como were in their heyday, while showing me the numerous autographed head-shots of the showgirls, all in beautiful jewels.
AB: Childhood dreams/ heroes?
JP: I had dreamed of starting my own business for as long as I can remember. My first idea for making money wasn’t very successful, though. I would make iced coffee drinks for my parents and their friends at my short-lived Java Chip Cafe. This was at age eight and the desire to run my own business has not stopped since.
AB: When did you know you wanted to become a jewelry designer and launch your own brand?
JP: I have always loved design, no matter what form. But jewelry has this way of transcending all forms. I love how each culture has its own interpretation of jewelry and how you can take the same materials, metal and gems, and turn them into so many different expressions. This love lead me to study jewelry and metalsmithing in college. Upon graduating, I started to make custom designs for friends and family and I just knew that this was the path for me!
AB: How did that journey start? How did Prounis come to be?
JP: After a year of working with private clients and establishing my aesthetic, I started building a collection that is now Prounis. Prounis originates from my desire to pay homage to my ancestry by creating treasured memories commemorated through jewelry. I loved how often my private clients were looking to create a sentimental piece that could be passed onto future generations. The majority of my pieces are customizable - even those at a more accessible price point allow my client to buy something that is truly unique.
AB: Take us inside your design process
JP: Everything I see is part of my process–– I am constantly collecting mental images that inspire my work. Going to museums, flipping through old books, antiquing!!!, traveling, oh and stone shopping! I love sourcing through troves of gems.
AB: What is the toughest part of being a designer?
JP: We all live busy lives. Juggling the day-to-day responsibilities of being a small business owner/designer often makes it hard to find time to regularly explore and create. To combat this, I dedicate one day a week to learning, where I can read, and visit museums, window shop, engage in difficult conversations...
This time keeps me sane, well informed, and is a constant reminder of how much I love what I do!
AB: What are some of your favorite pieces you've designed over the years?
JP: The Granulated Boat-Shaped earrings were one of my earliest designs. I had originally designed them for a private client who was looking for an alternative gold hoop, and with her approval, I added them to the main collection.
More recently though, the Pagoda earrings have a special place in my heart. The design stemmed from my South Sea pearl strand; while I was making the granulated caps I started to wonder how they would look if stacked. Some of my favorite designs evolve just like this–– with an organic thought that comes to me as I work on my jewelry bench. If it doesn’t work out, I recycle the gold by melting it down. Goldsmithing is often a major lesson of patience in that way, but provides a sustainable way to learn, explore, and create.
AB: Who do you design for? Who is the Prounis girl/woman?
JP: I design for generations. The Prounis woman invests in herself and appreciates fine materials and the story that goes along with each piece. Through my designs, my goal is to, much like the Ancients, create modern heirlooms that are as relevant today as they are a millennium from now.
AB: How did you establish your style as a designer?
JP: From a young age I gravitated towards the buttery yellow gold in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Greco-Roman galleries. I found myself only wanting to wear things of that color, leading me to buy all the costume museum replicated pieces that I could. Over time, the color of these pieces would fade, leaving me disappointed and without any real solution. This eventually led me to study ancient techniques with master goldsmith, Celia Bauer. With her, I started to work in 22K and began my quest to create jewels that referenced those of the Ancients.
The ratio of gold, copper, and silver I use in all Prounis gold is not only the purest form of 22K gold, but also allows me to utilize ancient gold-smithing techniques. My pieces will never tarnish, and will remain the same rich, buttery shade of yellow forever. When designing, I aim to create pieces that are durable enough to withstand everyday wear, while fine but not delicate.
A Little Bit More
AB: The best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?
JP: Take things one-step at a time.
AB: If there's one place in the world you could be, where would it be?
JP: Upstate New York. I love the Hudson Valley for all of its beautiful land and quaint towns.
AB: If you weren't a designer, what would you be?
JP: I’ve always loved decorating interiors, whether it be my home or someone else’s. If I weren’t a designer, that’s probably what I would be doing. In my free time (if I’m not antiquing) you can find me curled up with the latest edition of The World of Interiors, window-shopping abc carpet, demolition depot, or John Derian.
AB: Where are you taking your brand? Future plans, next steps?
JP: I am currently working towards building an entirely sustainable business. Prounis is in its first year of business and it has always been very important to me that I integrate responsibly sourced and produced materials. All of my gold is alloyed from recycled materials and the entire collection is handmade in New York City. Beyond sustainability, artistry is something core to my brand, and I am constantly looking for way to collaborate with other emerging artists (regardless of medium). Other future plans include Prounis Home!
AB: A fun fact about you no one knows.
JP: I’m a big Wu-Tang fan. I would love to make jewels for RZA.
You can see more of Jean's work here, and shop her collection here.