Jess Conliffe’s first impression of life in Orange wasn’t exactly a dream come true. But that all changed when she joined the sequin-covered team at JUMBLED.

When Jess Conliffe first arrived at the 100-year-old Cudal cottage she was renting at the time with husband Josh, she sobbed while sugar-soaping the walls for a week.

“We signed the lease in Orange and then just – kept – driving. We finally came across this tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere and the walls were 10 shades darker than they should have been, it was that filthy – so yep, I cried,” says Jess.

The move was triggered by Josh’s luck at securing a permanent teaching position – the Holy Grail for education graduates – so Jess (rather reluctantly) made the move from Penrith without laying eyes on the house until that fateful, sugar-soap-soaked night.

With a visual arts and design degree (specialising in animation) under her belt, Jess’s own job prospects were, well, pretty grim at the time. Despite emailing every graphic design company in Orange, no one was hiring – so she made coffee for a solid year while wearing all black, something that goes against the very core of Jess’ being.

Then one day, the universe did that thing when it shifts, sparkles and (for the lucky ones) scatters your path with sequins.

Jess was washing the cafe windows when she looked up and saw Celina, from JUMBLED next door, crossing the road.

“I remember the moment so vividly. She was wearing a multicoloured halterneck silk dress with white Connies – we’re talking next-level glamorous. Everything was glowing, just like JUMBLED itself. I used to stare lovingly into the store while washing windows, I just couldn’t help myself.”

Jess had gotten to know JUMBLED’s founder, Pip Brett, over her morning coffee order. They grew closer when she started babysitting Pip’s son Digby too, since Jess also happens to have a degree in early childhood. When Pip returned home from dinner one evening, she noticed Jess working on some freelance design and the rest, as they say, is history.

“She was building JUMBLED’s website at the time, so she slowly started giving me work, uploading products and bringing it all together,” says Jess.

“I weaseled my way in, dug myself a role and now I can wear colour and sequins and force even more colour and sequins into the shop since these days I work in a buying capacity – I’m so lucky.”

Go large or go home

Jess’ role at JUMBLED today encompasses a world of things bright and beautiful, all of which draw on her exceptional art and design skills, her organisational drive and a built-in preset to ‘go large or go home’. She manages customer service (online and in store), all shop ordering and uploading, booking and hanging art, mail-outs, newsletters, the store blog and photography, while also running JUMBLED’s fashion accounts across Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

But it’s her most recent design work in collaboration with fashion designers Bonita where Jess really shines. Since joining forces, JUMBLED X Bonita have released two jaw-droppingly divine dresses called ‘Overboard’ and ‘Ring My Bell’, both of which were hand painted by Jess.

“It’s been a dream come true,” she says. “Pip and I work hand in hand and that feels really special. I’ve always loved how fashion makes me feel – I’ve never worried about whether my shoes match my outfit or my bag matches my shoes, I just love colour and sequins and over the top combinations and Pip’s given me permission to explore that. I’ll hand paint everything in my brain when we begin the design process, then take it to Pip and she’ll curate me – she refines me, pulls me back when needed (since I can go a bit cray) and ultimately helps me find the right angle before we hand it over to Bonita’s designer and director Kristian Williams and Stephanie Rooke to digitise, adjust colours and scale where needed to get the very best out of the design collaboration.

“It’s such a fun process and I feel incredibly lucky to be part of it. I wear my own Bonita dress every third day, it’s just not right keeping something so beautiful hidden in the wardrobe for special occasions – we should wear what makes us happy every single day.”

High time for The Huddle

Jess is a true creative, an artist brimming with the kind of bright, sparkly passion people are naturally drawn to – an asset she puts to good use when helping Pip plan for JUMBLED’s sell-out business networking event, The Huddle.

The three-day event came to life when Pip decided she wanted to create something to bring people to Orange, showcase the beautiful region they call home and create a community for likeminded business women countrywide.

“The way Pip and I work is she’s the brains and I’m the hands,” says Jess. “She came to me with the idea for The Huddle and we’ve just been blown away by the response – we’ve had a huge amount of support from our town and local sponsors, and the women we’ve met along the way are just remarkable. We get such a kick out of talking shop with everyone we meet, it’s invigorating and we can’t wait to do it all again on 20-22 May this year.”

So while Jess’ time in Orange may have started with sobbing into the sugar soap, these days it’s wrapped in colour, sequins and bursting with glitter-fuelled moments.

“Every day is mayhem, in the most beautiful kind of way, and for me it’s a dream come true.”

{words: Steph Wanlessphotography: Clancy Paine}