By Gina Malone
A life of immersion in the arts, from their childhood attending a fine arts high school in Michigan to theater work and fine jewelry design in New York City, recently led Jeffrey Burroughs to Asheville and the River Arts District. The move, prompted by COVID, was somewhat of a homecoming since Burroughs attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. In those days, they wanted to pursue a career in theater. “I moved to New York City, signed with an incredible agency across the board, was doing this thing and realized I did not want to be an actor,” Burroughs says.
They started a theater company and mentored with playwright Craig Lucas before founding one of the country’s first Eco-Theatres, 9Thirty Theatre Company, in 2007. This approach involves bringing climate and environmental justice into theatrical productions.
“The arts have always been my primary and most comfortable way to express myself,” says Burroughs. “I’m overwhelmed with ideas and visions, and feel I must get them out. It’s a deep urge, a necessity, and just part of my way of being.” Much of the work, Burroughs says, happens in their head. “If I think about something, I can see it in my head. I do a lot of work there.”
That innate creativity, these days, is funneled into a number of mediums, including the design and creation of jewelry and accessories sold at more than 500 stores around the world. “I have two brands I create: Jak & Fox, which is my affordable jewelry and accessories line, and Jeffrey Burroughs New York, which is my fine jewelry and accessories,” they say. “While I create collections for both, what I love doing the most is working on custom pieces with clients—whether it’s a ceremonial piece, customizing a piece from an existing collection, something completely original or creating something new from an older piece of jewelry.” They specialize in precious metals and semi-precious and precious stones.
Nature remains, as it has since childhood, a source of inspiration. “That’s why I’ve always been into handmade pieces because I like the more organic nature of things,” Burroughs says. Sometimes, but not always, that translates into designing without perfection in mind. “There are places and times for perfection,” they say. “If we’re making an engagement ring and a wedding band, those sometimes need to be perfect to sit together so that they’re flush. So there comes a point where precision is necessary, but I resist it naturally.”
The plethora of creative ideas helps Burroughs navigate their markets. “I feel that one of my great successes is that I’ve always been a good business person as well as an artist,” they say. “I think that’s one of the things that’s interesting about being in fine jewelry is that it really does force you to think not just as an artist but also as a business person.” To please across the board, Burroughs has several collections, including Ancient Future®, Luminance, and Twisted Jewelry. “My Everyday Luxe collection is my most successful because it’s high-quality everyday jewelry, and a lot of everyday jewelry is not high-quality,” Burroughs says.
Besides jewelry, Burroughs’ shop, Jeffrey, also sells their line of leather goods that utilize calf, goat, python and ostrich skins. In addition, they recently collaborated with a parfumier in Charlotte and together they launched their first fragrance, Ronan. “I have an obsession with fragrances,” Burroughs says. “It’s a total art form.” On the third Friday of each month, they hold Fragrance Friday from 5–7 p.m. at Jeffrey.
“We serve champagne and my signature macarons,” they say. “We may have a special guest, or feature a new fragrance in the shop. Attendees can also have a personalized fragrance journey.” Burroughs helps clients find scents they like, but ones also that work well with their body chemistry.
In the same way, Burroughs specializes in custom jewelry, bringing their own artistic vision and intuitive sense of style to the occasion. “I love that what I do helps people express themselves and feel beautiful. Sometimes a fierce earring or statement necklace can make all the difference when we leave the house.”
Find Jeffrey at 20 Artful Way, Suite 101, in Asheville’s River Arts District. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Learn more at JeffreyBurroughs.com, or follow on Instagram and Facebook @jeffreyburroughsnewyork.