Jorjett Strumme’s journey has always been set. When asked how her dream of working in Hollywood began, she states, “I was born that way.” She tells stories of coming to the dinner table in rhinestone earrings and asking for costume accessories for Christmas. Her family watched old films together instead of the typical sports commentary. After one special evening, watching Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Taylor in her iconic white chiffon dress, Jorjett found her idol, Helen Rose, costume designer, in the credits. She told her mother, “When I grow up, I’m going to wear that dress.”
By 21, she was in a new state with a new job, in what she refers to as, “The right place at the right time.”Her desire to get out and achieve her dream fueled her to attend events and visit museums on her own. “I didn’t know anyone, but I didn’t let fear or nerves stand in my way.” That was how she met Helen Rose, “She was retired and doing a fashion show and I modeled the ‘cat dress’”. Yes, that dress from her past was her ticket into the life she had always planned for herself. She worked part time for Rose, but it wasn’t enough, “I was just going to go back to Oregon, I was financially unstable.”
Then a fateful call from Nolan Miller’s assistant sent her on a journey into costuming and modeling that she always knew would happen. Miller designed costumes for television shows like Dynasty, Hotel and Love Boat, as well as personal clothes for actors and actresses. Jorjett did everything in his office; sewing, modeling, answering phones and designing. And she was living her dream, a life focused on fashion and beauty.
Jorjett was obsessed with old Hollywood, “I was a teenager in the seventies when there was no sense of fashion, I just wanted to wear evening gowns and gloves,” she explains. Then she met the embodiment of the world she craved, Elizabeth Taylor. After fitting her for a show, Miller told Jorjett Taylor needed someone to organize her closet and he suggested her. This began Jorjett’s relationship with Elizabeth, whom she describes as, “Hysterically funny, down to earth and the most well-read gorgeous woman I’ve ever known.”
Jorjett worked nights and weekends with Elizabeth, helping her with clothes, shopping and photo shoots. She kept her day job with Miller and still worked on the side with Helen Rose. “None of it felt like a job,” Jorjett laughs. “I didn’t think of it as working, I was just happy.”
All of her jobs and journeys are part of the same plant, Jorjett explains. Everything and everyone is intertwined and growing together and can’t be separated. None of the events of her life could be removed without disrupting the flow. And it has all diverted into her current creative endeavor; masks, tiaras and headpieces.
Her work is fabulous and alluring, drawing from science and nature and life experience. “They make themselves,” she explains. “Something inspires me, then they just happen.”
The masks typically take a few weeks to complete, as she applies the paint and plaster in layers, but it all depends on her inspiration. One mask, started for her first show, wasn’t finished for half a decade. “ I didn’t know where to go, I’d get it out, look at it and do one piece,” Jorjett explains.
Yummy Wine Bar and Bistro hosted her debut nearly ten years ago. Jorjett offered her art on a whim and her friend, the owner of the venue, took it to heart. “I had two masks and had to make about fifteen others for the night,” she recalls. Today she makes masks that are generally purchased as art, but are created as wearable manifestations of an idea.
Her work also includes crowns and headpieces, which embody the individuality of the wearer.
Jorjett loves being back in Seaside for her art, where the pace is slower and her creativity can bloom. “The beach, the trees, I love to sit outside or garden,” she says. She is ever grateful that her parents decided to settle down in a small town with a small school, where, “Everyone has a bond with each other and is happy to see you.” So she wants to pass on a message from her experience to anyone out there wanting to take a risk, “ Do it.” Whatever it may be, whatever your dream is, “Even if you don’t know how,” she laughs. “It doesn’t matter, you’ll figure it out and make it work. Trust yourself. If you try you can’t fail.”