Meet our Friday Muse, Jessica Mentis of The Jellyologist and Unlabelled

22 June 2023
By Fashion Quarterly

From a creative experiment that paid off to finding inspiration in unexpected places, there's never a dull moment for experiential designer Jessica Mentis.

Jessica Mentis (right) with co-founder of Unlabelled Rebecca Paul (Left). Supplied. 

Somewhere between running two creative businesses and raising a newborn from her home in Auckland’s central suburb of Kingsland resides Fashion Quarterly’s latest muse Jessica Mentis. Following a curious career in architecture and experimental design, trace in the footprints which have led her to launch party favourite edible jelly art The Jellyologist, co-found Unlabelled studio, and tick off the ultimate bucket-list item: displaying a light installation in the 2023 Vivid Sydney light festival. 

For someone whose success is built on literal moulds, discover the ways in which Mentis continues to figuratively break them professionally and personally below. 


Where did you grow up and where are you currently based? 

I grew up on the North Shore of Auckland, spent most of my 20s abroad, and am currently living in sunny Kingsland [Auckland] with my little fam.

Tell us about your career to date? 

I studied architecture at both AUT and UoA. Since graduating I have been involved in what I like to call ‘architecture adjacent’ projects. I spent my years overseas working as a set-designer’s assistant off-broadway, in the art dept at a production company, and at an agency specialising in experiential design. When I moved back home I started an Instagram project called The Jellyologist (fancy edible jellies in flavours like espresso martini, champagne raspberry and pink grapefruit and vanilla set in 3D printed moulds) that was only ever meant to be a creative experiment – it took on a life of its own after Lorde bought some for her mum and is now a fully fledged FMCG brand selling kits and mixes in supermarkets. Alongside The Jellyologist I also co-founded Unlabelled with Rebecca Paul. Unlabelled is an experience design studio and we exist to make magical experiences that turn the mundane into the sublime.

Can you please bring us up to speed on your work on The Jellyologist? What’s the time split between your work here and your work with your partner Rebecca Paul on Unlabelled Studios? 

I’m actually on maternity leave at the moment! We had a beautiful little boy at the end of last year and the juggle is real! Between a non-sleeper and two little businesses with multiple projects on the go it’s hard not to feel like you’re dropping the ball somewhere. I’m so grateful to my business partners in the Jellyologist and Unlabelled who have picked up significant slack over the last few months. 


Tell us about your partnership with Rebecca:

We’re different in so many ways and the same in a few – which is probably why it works. We both have similar aspirations and visions for what experiences could and should look like for audiences in New Zealand but our approaches and ways of working are quite different. Rebecca is technically ‘the producer’ and I’m technically ‘the creative’ though I can produce and Rebecca has been known to have the odd good idea or two. We challenge each other and with Rebecca’s red marker and masterful understanding of spreadsheets and my distaste for the word ‘no’, we pride ourselves on only presenting (awesome) ideas and experiences that are achievable on time and on budget.

What are some of your most memorable or favourite projects you’ve worked on together?

We’ve just been to Sydney for Vivid to install a lighting installation. Being an artist in Vivid was a career bucket list goal so we’re pretty proud of that!

What can you tell us about this piece: ‘Mechanics of Spring’? 

The theme of this year’s Vivid Festival was ‘naturally’. Rebecca was interested in motors and movement and I stumbled across an article in New Scientist about humming birds, helicopter seeds and bumblebees who all employ a similar, and quite technical, way of moving in order to propagate seeds, hover or pollinate. It’s this really beautiful vortex movement and so we set about seeing if we could re-create the moment sculpturally.

'The Mechanics of Spring' by Folly Collective.

You and Rebecca are founding members of the World Experience Organisation (WXO). What can you tell us about this?

The WXO is an amazing collection of experienced designers from around the world who meet weekly to listen to a presentation from someone in the organisation, chat, and stay abreast of what’s happening in the industry. It’s a pretty amazing group of humans and allows us to keep up to date with all the cool happenings globally.

With such a multi-disciplined offering, can you provide some context for our readers on some of the creative solutions you’ve done/offer?

The world of experiences is vast and it can be hard to describe what it encompasses. Basically, we want to create tangible, shareable, liveable experiences that people can engage with, be inspired by, take action because of or simply gaze in wonder at. This means our range of projects are super diverse – from brand activations for clients like DeLonghi that explore senses like taste and smell to exploring what a new retail experience might look like using super new technologies (called extended reality) or developing a working ‘magic mail machine’ which was installed at Commercial Bay for three consecutive christmases. 

What do you do when you hit a creative block?

Where do you look for inspiration? All over! The inspiration for our Vivid piece was from an article in New Scientist; the story for the magic mail machine was from city archives; and I have an idea for a kid’s book based on my experience as a new mum. But mostly the ideas come (and are developed) by talking to people and bringing people cleverer than me together to brainstorm. It’s my favourite part of the job – talking and learning from engineers, techs, chefs, photographers. We interface with so many amazing creative people who all contribute to shaping and brining an idea to life.

What do you hope to achieve this year both professionally and personally?

This year it’s about trying to figure out the juggle / balance of my real baby and work babies.

Do you have any advice for people who may want to pursue a multi-disciplined career?

Don’t think too much about it. Give it a go and see what happens.

Quick-fire questions

My current podcast recommendation… Podcast obsession – Heavyweight.

My favourite place to dine… Apero, K Road. 

The best coffee spot near me… Our local ‘ the Nest.’

The item at the top of my wish list… a first class ticket to Europe.

Beauty products I recommend to everyone… I’m a recent Emma Lewisham convert.

This season I’m splurging on… lush cozy bedding.

My most cherished item in my home is… a kooky lamp I won in a bidding war at Webbs. 

Somewhere everyone should go/attend at least once in their lifetime… tie between a beachside taverna in Greece and Main Stage Glastonbury.


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