Jai’Tique Designs

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | May 22nd, 2018
Jai’Tique Deisgns (Photos by Todd Youngblood)

Jai’Tique Deisgns (Photos by Todd Youngblood)

Creativity runs through Jai (pronounced Jay) Duncan’s veins. Her mom is a furniture maker and her uncle crafts jewelry out of precious stones. The talent apparently settled on her too. She’s tried her hand at several different art forms, paring different materials, colors, and her own special techniques.

Jai started designing jewelry a decade ago until she hit a rough patch in her life and took a break. When she was ready to crank it up again, she had an idea to buy pieces in bulk and sell them. After a few months, she realized she wasn’t dedicated to it and stopped. Another idea was to take pictures of her uncles’ jewelry and put the images on drinking mugs. “That didn’t work too well because you couldn’t really see some of the pictures very good,” she explains. The self-taught artist went back to the drawing board to figure out exactly what her niche would be. She discovered a site that allowed its customers to purchase images without being subject to copyright infringement as well as a program that would allow her to create her own abstract designs, allowing her to reinvent her mugs. Her love for wood sparked an idea to put ethnic images on different pieces too.

Although she has been creative all her life, Jai was inspired to pursue her art when she noticed a coworker selling her handmade jewelry at work. The wheels in her brain started flowing and she began crafting afro-centric medallion necklaces, rings, and other pieces. She has most recently added sculptures constructed from rocks, glass, and beads to her list of items she offers. Jai credits ‘You Tube’ for helping teach her how to create many of her pieces.

“Last year was a really good year for me. I met so many people and attended lots of street fairs and it’s helping me build my brand,” says Jai. She was recently invited to an art show and is excited to display her art to the community in May.

When Jai is not gluing, printing, or crafting, she works as a Billing Supervisor at a publishing company. Her team makes sure all magazine advertisements are correct, including coloration, price, and size of ads, prior to the issue being printed. “I started out as an Administrative Assistant at this company in New York and have been at the Charlotte location for 11 years now.”

Considering her day job, there are times when Jai has to pace herself and step away from her art. She suffers from Fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by chronic muscle pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues, according to mayoclinic.org. “Although it is somewhat managed, it’s still a struggle at times. Sometimes, I’m in so much pain, I’m unable to create things I want to,” says Jai. At one point, she also suffered from Carpel Tunnel and had to resort to painting t-shirts with one hand.

Growing up in her hometown of Harlem, the mother of two reminisces on her teenage years, being a free spirit, dancing at different parties around the city to house music, and even appearing in a rock video. Her formative years are long gone, but the results of those times have had a great impact on her current lifestyle. Raising two sons who may ultimately follow in her footsteps has been personally rewarding. Her oldest son lives in New York and is forging a career in music while also designing a clothing line. Her youngest, a high school senior graduating in June, also dabbles with t-shirt designs.

When asked about the investment needed to begin, she quickly laughs, “Blood, sweat, and tears! But it’s all been worth it.” It goes without saying that oftentimes art is a labor of love, because the items you’ve spent time pouring into won’t appeal to everyone. The sculptures she creates are her pride and joy. “I’m literally creating something from scratch so there’s no telling what direction it could go in. No two pieces are the same,” says Jai.

Within the next five years, Jai has plans to greatly expand her business. Traveling to art shows are high up on her list, as is possibly opening a brick-and-mortar store. “I’m a firm believer that you have to put out in order to get back. I’ve done a lot of putting out and the journey has been wonderful.”

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