Updated: Aug 5, 2019
El Segundo resident and entrepreneur Jodie Davies uses her ingenuity and creativity to craft one-of-a-kind jewelry from recycled wetsuits.
By Maureen Kingsley
When you first meet Jodie Davies, you will immediately notice her warm smile, her Australian accent, and her self-confidence. You will also notice she’s wearing at least one of her own sleek and contemporary-looking hand-crafted Next Session rings, and you’ll end up wanting one of those beauties for yourself. (I speak from experience; mine is pictured farther down this page.) You will find yourself marveling over the rich color and meticulous tooling of her rings, and you’ll doubtless feel inspired by her ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Jodie is the creator and founder of Next Session, her own brand of lifestyle jewelry made from recycled wetsuits, rich pigments, and resin. The rings (pictured below) are striking for their shine, their versatility, and their one-of-a-kind stylish, colorful detailing—they are each made individually by Jodie herself in her bright and welcoming workshop full of tooling equipment. (On the day I visited, Jodie’s friendly French bulldog puppy, Mack, was roaming the workshop as well.)
A native of Melbourne, Australia and later Sydney, Jodie has a respect for the ocean that drives her work. A surfer who has lived in various coastal communities including Sydney, Manhattan Beach, and now El Segundo, Jodie is passionate about curbing ocean pollution, and her entrepreneurial endeavors have put that concern front and center. Next Session (which alludes to a future surfing session, an upcoming chapter in a person’s life, and a new use for retired wetsuits) is a division of her company Wannabean, whose goal was originally to create cornhole game sets from previously used plastics and now sells clothing made from 100% recycled materials. Jodie launched Next Session in May of this year after her interest in the circular economy (sustainable manufacturing from existing materials) led her to online videos of people making rings from resin and recycled denim. Jodie wanted to apply this concept to old, worn-out wetsuits, which required her to experiment with neoprene as a materials engineer would: she spent countless hours trying to manipulate the rubber into a useable powder form for rings. This trial-and-error period was lengthy, but remarkably, Jodie remained enthusiastic and undaunted. She eventually hit upon a technique for freezing chunks of wetsuit with liquid nitrogen and grinding those frozen chunks using a coffee-bean grinder. “The coffee-bean grinder so far does the very best job of grinding the frozen neoprene into beads first, then a powder” on a second pass through, Jodie says. The powderized neoprene is later combined with resin and pigment and pressurized into a dense, air-bubble-free, layered block of material from which the rough drills of the rings are drawn. Jodie does all of this herself.
After those elements of production come the especially fun parts, she says. Using her lathe and shaping and polishing the rings “requires focus and attention” that Jodie enjoys, she explains, until she has a smooth, gleaming finished product of which she can be proud. From start to finish, crafting a ring takes one hour. The completed product is then packaged, again by Jodie herself, in a reuseable tin filled with delicate silver fabric that is ingeniously made from shredded surfboard bags.
Giving 10% Back. In addition to participating in the circular economy via upcycling all of those used wetsuits, Jodie transfers 10% of each ring sale into a separate fund that will be used to give back to the oceans in some way. Jodie is hoping to raise $1 million for this fund and is pondering the best, most effective way to use the money. “I really like the idea of engaging and educating kids around ocean preservation,” she says. “El Segundo could be a leader in this regard, by engaging kids in watersports while also educating them on fighting ocean pollution.” Jodie has two kids of her own, Lochlan and Kenzi, aged 8 and 7, respectively, with wife DeAnne Aussem. Her family is supportive of Next Session and excited, she says, about this creative, entrepreneural, and philanthropic journey Jodie is on.
Looking Forward. A former high-level executive in the corporate world, Jodie is no stranger to goal-setting. Among her goals for Next Session is to “scale-up without compromising” on quality, craftsmanship, or sustainability. She continues, “As Next Session, I want to be able to say, ‘This is what we are doing and how we are positively impacting our oceans.’” She’s also brainstorming other applications for her unique powderized wetsuit material as well as the outer cotton fabric and zippers on wetsuits. “I want to not be wasteful at all,” she states.
Jodie’s fearlessness and willingness to experiment (and sometimes fail) are inspiring. “You need to flex that failure muscle,” she says. “It’s actually empowering to ‘just try it and do it.’ I’m living what I’m passionate about.”
Shop Next Session on Instagram at @nextsession, and in person at The Jewelry Source in Downtown El Segundo. Each ring is handcrafted and unique and sells for $50, 10% of which will be used to better our oceans. Rings are available in charcoal, red, blue, green, and purple.
All photos by Jodie Davies and Maureen Kingsley
This story is from the August 2019 issue of The El Segundo Scene.