Eldest child of a US Air Force pilot whose base of operations shifted frequently, Watts grew up on the move, learning early in life about the customs, cultures and circumstances of people around the globe. She attended 11 different elementary schools while residing in as many states, as well as in pre-Westernized Japan during the Korean Conflict. A sculptor since the early 1970s, she became interested in art as a child, when she began carving designs out of scrap wood she'd find around her many homes. After graduating high school in New York, she studied art, painting, sculpture and related subjects at various institutions including the State University of New York in Plattsburg, University of California in Los Angeles, University of South Florida and University of Tampa. While expression of her craft was germinating, Watts managed a personnel agency in Detroit, a commercial fishing venture off Florida's Gulf Coast, and a staff of 35 for a national retailer's Denver branch. After a year-long apprenticeship with a Tampa-based jeweler, she traveled to the Virgin Islands, living first on St. Thomas and then St. John's, where she began sculpting bronze figurines that tourists seemed eager to buy.
Returning to the United States with a mission to become a fulltime artist, she began working in other materials - a list that would eventually grow to include aluminum, brass, copper, fiberglass, iron, steel, platinum, plaster, granite, marble, ceramic, concrete, resins, composites, assorted fabrics and woods. From 1974 to 1976, Watts made her living creating work that she sold on the art show circuit in northern and southeastern states and other locales, winning numerous awards.
J.J. Watts is a Tampa-based, multi-dimensional sculptor and artist whose works challenge viewpoints, elicit emotion, stimulate laughter, inspire harmony and celebrate life. An award-winner in more than one medium, she has received national media attention for her art.
Watts' original works are varied, and her public monuments, such as her memorial for the Tampa Police Department are known throughout the country. It is but one example of her belief that art ought to "Provoke thought and feeling…stand for something important."
JJ Watts' work can be found all over Florida and around the world - in Tampa, at the Tampa Museum of Art, in Curtis Hixon Park, on Davis Islands; in Sarasota at Siesta Key, Dolphin Cay, Sarasota Quay and the Ringling Museum of Art; in Lakeland and Miami and in France, Germany, England, Italy and Sweden.
Watts is perhaps best known in the Tampa Bay area for the Monument to Fallen Officers, which was created to honor Tampa police who lost their lives in the line of duty. Thereafter, The Florida Highway Patrol commissioned a monument and landscaped park, which again, are designed with the idea of inspiring thought in the viewers.
-- Additionally, she has been acclaimed for 50 sculptured heads of children for the Olympics held in Atlanta, a statue promoting racial harmony during a tense time, the 30 sculptures she based on street people and titled "Attitudes," her 30-foot long mural that depicts Tampa's history in pen and ink on a Partner's Savings Bank wall, a sculptural waterscape for the Largo Cultural Center, and a fountain and a 50-foot fiber-optic waterfall for The Falls, a Tampa Palms nightclub.
-- JJ Watts virtual signature can be found on the Entry for the new Gymnasium at Plant High School (Tampa); the restored architectural elements on the old Customs House in Key West, and on Macfarlane School (one of Tampa's oldest); on fountains and sculptures commissioned by private individuals; and in the museum-quality reproductions of various fossils for several paleontologists.
In 1976, JJ Watts returned to Florida to co-found Touch of Gold, a custom jewelry shop that afforded her the opportunity to work with, design, and create fine gold jewelry: to carve wax models; work with gemstones; and design elegant settings in which to display them. Three years later, after a fire destroyed what had become an enormously successful enterprise, Watts opened The 509 Studio, Inc. in Tampa. Shifting from small to larger scale work, she began providing decorative architectural and historical restoration services to architects, contractors, preservationists and others. Her historical restorations, have been commissioned by all manner of professional organizations and individuals from all over the United States and Europe. With a staff that eventually grew to include 16 artisans, Watts worked with concrete, resins and assorted polymers. She also honed her skills in designing models, making molds, casting, and installation, while continuing sculpture, painting and jewelry. In 1993, after a battle with colon cancer, Watts opened the JJ Watts Studio in Tampa from which she designs and creates both small and large sculptures in addition to performing historical preservation work.