Jay Michael Balmes
- Video by Happy Monday | Photography by George Elder
“My career as an artist actually began when I was 14, but I didn’t realize that was the case until 20 years later.”
Describing his style as “a high / low mix of clean and comfortable pieces with hints of streetwear,” Jay Balmes has an unusual perspective into the worlds of fashion and art, and an even more unusual story as to how he got there. He started working in a clothing store in his early teens, and learned enough about the business over time to become a sought-after retail and design consultant. Having worked for such brands as Fendi, Jil Sander, and G-Star RAW, Jay now attracts top-tier clients and divides his time between consulting and creating.
While in recovery from a hospital stay at age 14, Jay turned to the art supplies his designer mom had around the house, and made a few pieces he totally forgot about... until many years later when he returned home and found she had kept them.
“I had just moved into a new apartment in Manhattan and decided to bring them back with me to hang on my walls. A friend of mine saw them and convinced me that I had a talent and to start drawing again.”
Within days, he saw an advertisement in Complex Magazine for the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series, and decided to enter the nationwide contest, which was looking for the next great undiscovered artist. Out of thousands of entrants, he was selected as a NYC regional finalist and had his work exhibited at Rush Arts Gallery in Chelsea. His first solo show followed two years later at Nepenthes NY, and he now works on a variety of special projects and commissions.
For Jay, clothing is all about comfort and functionality. “When you live in New York and work in a creative industry, you get some freedom in what you wear, so for me - I wear pieces that actually help me to move more freely and easily throughout the day.”
I live in New York City, on the Upper East Side, and I love it because it's quiet and probably the most peaceful neighborhood in Manhattan. I also love being just a short walk from Central Park, the MoMA and the Met – where I find endless inspiration.
My day usually starts with a trip to the coffee shop, followed by the gym and then bouncing between my desk and my sketchpad, working on e-mails and sketching new work.
Well, sort of. Every day is different for me, and I am never in one place all the time. Between projects, meetings and various consultancies, I am usually running between Soho, the galleries in Chelsea, Brooklyn, and working in my studio.
I prefer to walk whenever possible, but when pressed for time, I actually enjoy taking the subway – it’s a quick and efficient way to get around, and the people watching is great.
My inspiration can come from anywhere and at anytime. However, I do tend to draw a lot of my inspiration from music. Also, living in a city like New York it’s hard not to be inspired by the people, the energy and the architecture.
Those are actually my great grandfather’s dog tags from WWI.