To enter the design studio of James Thomas is to be transported to a
place where life just seems a little bit better.

Founders

James Dolenc

Founder

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“I love beautiful, curated spaces that have one foot in history and one foot in today.”

Raised in the quaint North Shore suburb of Libertyville, Illinois, James describes his personal aesthetic as based in classic architecture and interiors executed with an open brightness and airiness inspired by his childhood summers spent out West.

“My eye is inspired by East Coast sensibilities – places like Nantucket, the Hamptons, and Charleston. But my heart and soul are rooted in the open air and big sky of places like Flathead Lake in Montana. These two sources of inspiration – from opposite sides of the country and the design spectrum – dovetail and inspire me every day to design spaces that are at once classic, airy, and warm.”

James holds a B.A. from Loyola University of Chicago and a B.A. from Harrington Institute of Interior Design.

James Dolenc

“I love beautiful, curated spaces that have one foot in history and one foot in today.”

Raised in the quaint North Shore suburb of Libertyville, Illinois, James describes his personal aesthetic as based in classic architecture and interiors executed with an open brightness and airiness inspired by his childhood summers spent out West.

“My eye is inspired by East Coast sensibilities – places like Nantucket, the Hamptons, and Charleston. But my heart and soul are rooted in the open air and big sky of places like Flathead Lake in Montana. These two sources of inspiration – from opposite sides of the country and the design spectrum – dovetail and inspire me every day to design spaces that are at once classic, airy, and warm.”

James holds a B.A. from Loyola University of Chicago and a B.A. from Harrington Institute of Interior Design.

Tom Riker

Founder

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“I love to listen to our clients, to really connect and know them is to be a better designer.”

“I grew up in Birmingham, Michigan and our house was filled with antiques…family heirlooms, Oriental rugs–so different from many of my friends’ homes. That’s where my education began. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I would draw house plans and send them to my Uncle, who was an aspiring architect, to critique, or I would dig through estate sales and flea markets on weekends – always looking for that next great piece.”

“When we started, my design eye was drawn to contemporary design with clean lines, but lately, I’ve been returning to the nostalgia and the design nuances of my youth with a more traditional approach, heavy in textures and layering.”

Tom earned his BA from the University of Michigan and his Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Tom Riker

“I love to listen to our clients, to really connect and know them is to be a better designer.”

“I grew up in Birmingham, Michigan and our house was filled with antiques…family heirlooms, Oriental rugs–so different from many of my friends’ homes. That’s where my education began. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I would draw house plans and send them to my Uncle, who was an aspiring architect, to critique, or I would dig through estate sales and flea markets on weekends – always looking for that next great piece.”

“When we started, my design eye was drawn to contemporary design with clean lines, but lately, I’ve been returning to the nostalgia and the design nuances of my youth with a more traditional approach, heavy in textures and layering.”

Tom earned his BA from the University of Michigan and his Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

A well-rounded life is as important
as a well-appointed one.

Team

Jamie Klumpp

Director of Operations

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“I love a mid-century modern aesthetic. I like clean, minimal, neat and organized.”

When Jamie first met James and Tom, she knew it was kismet. “You see, my son’s name is James Thomas,” she says excitedly. Well, clearly it was meant to be.

Jamie oversees the day-to-day business and bustle in the offices of James Thomas. She handles a variety of matters including accounting, organization, human resources, all while also serving as James and Tom’s right hand. And, as with a diverse, decades-long background in both fashion and retail management, she’s a natural. Jamie thrives when she is an active member of a team, “That’s the nicest thing someone could say to me: that I am fair, and that I am a valuable member of the group.”

Jamie Klumpp

“I love a mid-century modern aesthetic. I like clean, minimal, neat and organized.”

When Jamie first met James and Tom, she knew it was kismet. “You see, my son’s name is James Thomas,” she says excitedly. Well, clearly it was meant to be.

Jamie oversees the day-to-day business and bustle in the offices of James Thomas. She handles a variety of matters including accounting, organization, human resources, all while also serving as James and Tom’s right hand. And, as with a diverse, decades-long background in both fashion and retail management, she’s a natural. Jamie thrives when she is an active member of a team, “That’s the nicest thing someone could say to me: that I am fair, and that I am a valuable member of the group.”

Jim Josephson

Project Lead

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“It’s not about perfection. It’s not about trends. It’s about good quality.”

Jim has been a key member of the James Thomas team since his arrival in 2013. His energy and enthusiasm for culture, design, and the arts are apparent to everyone he meets. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When he isn’t traveling, he is gardening, cooking, collecting antique copper cookware and tending to his partner and their two Border Terriers.

Quality is the centerpiece of Jim’s design philosophy. “I like design that is honest and simple and not overwraught. If you find an amazing piece of well-made antique furniture –don’t even refinish it. Have the courage to let a piece like that show its age. Authenticity is beautiful.”

Jim Josephson

“It’s not about perfection. It’s not about trends. It’s about good quality.”

Jim has been a key member of the James Thomas team since his arrival in 2013. His energy and enthusiasm for culture, design, and the arts are apparent to everyone he meets. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When he isn’t traveling, he is gardening, cooking, collecting antique copper cookware and tending to his partner and their two Border Terriers.

Quality is the centerpiece of Jim’s design philosophy. “I like design that is honest and simple and not overwraught. If you find an amazing piece of well-made antique furniture –don’t even refinish it. Have the courage to let a piece like that show its age. Authenticity is beautiful.”

Emily Gerow

Project Lead

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“Interior design is personal. The best work is inspired by the authentic, intuitive relationships that we share with our clients.”

Having flourished at James Thomas for over a decade, Emily’s star shines bright within the organization. “Long before I worked here, I loved the unique approach to interior design that James and Tom share. My own sensibilities are similar…I lean towards classic and traditional design and enjoy mixing textures while layering high and low influences. That said, it’s the accessories in a room that tell the story and make it personal. The true art is in the details, those small touches that take a room and make it undeniably yours.”

Emily has a soft spot for renovation projects. “Site visits are my favorite. Seeing a room transform piece by piece is so gratifying.” When she is not sharing her vision for beautiful living with her clients, Emily is making a lovely life of her own in Hinsdale, IL with her husband and three young children.

Emily Gerow

“Interior design is personal. The best work is inspired by the authentic, intuitive relationships that we share with our clients.”

Having flourished at James Thomas for over a decade, Emily’s star shines bright within the organization. “Long before I worked here, I loved the unique approach to interior design that James and Tom share. My own sensibilities are similar…I lean towards classic and traditional design and enjoy mixing textures while layering high and low influences. That said, it’s the accessories in a room that tell the story and make it personal. The true art is in the details, those small touches that take a room and make it undeniably yours.”

Emily has a soft spot for renovation projects. “Site visits are my favorite. Seeing a room transform piece by piece is so gratifying.” When she is not sharing her vision for beautiful living with her clients, Emily is making a lovely life of her own in Hinsdale, IL with her husband and three young children.

Anne Kopis

Project Lead

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“The ideas of linen and fresh breezes and the navy blue of the lake water serve as my muse.”

Anne’s favorite days at James Thomas are install days. “That’s when it all comes together. It’s most exciting to see a vision realized after months of work and know how happy your client is going to be in their new space!”

Anne’s life outside of the office is hardly lacking excitement. She is the mother of two teenagers, Charlotte and Jack. Born and raised in Chicago, Anne’s growing family lives in Chicago’s Edgebroook neighborhood and during the summer months, they escape to a family cottage off of Lake Michigan.

Anne Kopis

“The ideas of linen and fresh breezes and the navy blue of the lake water serve as my muse.”

Anne’s favorite days at James Thomas are install days. “That’s when it all comes together. It’s most exciting to see a vision realized after months of work and know how happy your client is going to be in their new space!”

Anne’s life outside of the office is hardly lacking excitement. She is the mother of two teenagers, Charlotte and Jack. Born and raised in Chicago, Anne’s growing family lives in Chicago’s Edgebroook neighborhood and during the summer months, they escape to a family cottage off of Lake Michigan.

Julia Fischer

Project Lead

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“I love that our clients are getting braver and choosing to be bold with color.”

A Nebraska native, Julia knew from a young age that she wanted to find a career that would fulfill her creative sensibilities. She earned her B.S. in Design from the College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska. Today, she describes her personal aesthetic as an appreciation for clean lines and simplicity – but readily admits that she loves juxtaposing patterns and the wow that unexpected pieces and bold color choices can lend to a space.

When Julia isn’t at work, she loves time spent outdoors, specifically, in the mountains of Park City, Utah. There, she spends time with her niece, nephew, and extended family…skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

Julia Fischer

“I love that our clients are getting braver and choosing to be bold with color.”

A Nebraska native, Julia knew from a young age that she wanted to find a career that would fulfill her creative sensibilities. She earned her B.S. in Design from the College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska. Today, she describes her personal aesthetic as an appreciation for clean lines and simplicity – but readily admits that she loves juxtaposing patterns and the wow that unexpected pieces and bold color choices can lend to a space.

When Julia isn’t at work, she loves time spent outdoors, specifically, in the mountains of Park City, Utah. There, she spends time with her niece, nephew, and extended family…skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

Michael Nicolson

Director of Interior Architecture

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“I like giving our clients exactly what they want, perhaps in a way that they may not have expected.”

Raised in South Florida during the color-saturated design renaissance of the 70s and 80s, vibrant cityscapes were an early love of Michael’s. With time, these affections flourished. With a Bachelors’ degree in Interior Design and a Masters’ in Architecture, Michael has nurtured his talent over the course of a decades-long design career at some of the country’s most recognized design firms. Today, Michael brings his zeal for design from the big idea down to the most intricate detail.

He explains, “What I love about the work we do at James Thomas is there’s precedence for everything. Every design has a meaningful rationale. The work we do is beautiful and satisfying.”

When not working, Michael loves to visit museums, practice his hobby of photography, and watch Chicago’s famed neighborhoods evolve during his long walks throughout the city.

Michael Nicolson

“I like giving our clients exactly what they want, perhaps in a way that they may not have expected.”

Raised in South Florida during the color-saturated design renaissance of the 70s and 80s, vibrant cityscapes were an early love of Michael’s. With time, these affections flourished. With a Bachelors’ degree in Interior Design and a Masters’ in Architecture, Michael has nurtured his talent over the course of a decades-long design career at some of the country’s most recognized design firms. Today, Michael brings his zeal for design from the big idea down to the most intricate detail.

He explains, “What I love about the work we do at James Thomas is there’s precedence for everything. Every design has a meaningful rationale. The work we do is beautiful and satisfying.”

When not working, Michael loves to visit museums, practice his hobby of photography, and watch Chicago’s famed neighborhoods evolve during his long walks throughout the city.

Andrew Dolder

Senior Architect

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“I enjoy incorporating unexpected details to complement and accentuate a space, creating functional environments with strong character and individual personality.”

Andrew is a licensed architect and registered interior designer with a deep understanding of the harmony between a building’s exterior and interior architecture. He brings a wealth of experience from various market sectors, consistently delivering unique and cohesive solutions for each client.

Andrew holds a Bachelor of Architecture and Interior Architecture from Auburn University. During his time at Auburn, he studied and worked in Istanbul, Turkey, and participated in the Rural Studio, an experience that deeply influenced his approach to socially conscious design, research, and building practices. He firmly believes that people and place matter.

Originally from the South, Andrew has seamlessly adapted to life in Chicago. He enjoys spending time at the lake and is currently focused on restoring his home in the historic Lakewood-Balmoral neighborhood.

Andrew Dolder

“I enjoy incorporating unexpected details to complement and accentuate a space, creating functional environments with strong character and individual personality.”

Andrew is a licensed architect and registered interior designer with a deep understanding of the harmony between a building’s exterior and interior architecture. He brings a wealth of experience from various market sectors, consistently delivering unique and cohesive solutions for each client.

Andrew holds a Bachelor of Architecture and Interior Architecture from Auburn University. During his time at Auburn, he studied and worked in Istanbul, Turkey, and participated in the Rural Studio, an experience that deeply influenced his approach to socially conscious design, research, and building practices. He firmly believes that people and place matter.

Originally from the South, Andrew has seamlessly adapted to life in Chicago. He enjoys spending time at the lake and is currently focused on restoring his home in the historic Lakewood-Balmoral neighborhood.

Maria Kulesa

Senior Designer

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“As a young child I loved exploring old homes. I knew early on that interior design was my passion.”

A Detroit, Michigan native, Maria has always loved historic homes, especially those found in Detroit’s Indian Village neighborhood. It was the exposure and interest in those homes that led her to explore a career in interior design. With a degree from Michigan State University (go Spartans!), Maria has over 12 years of experience working in high end residential design. Her experience in kitchen and bath design allowed her to hone her technical skills. Maria loves digging into AutoCAD drawings, developing space plans, and creating architectural details.

Outside of the office, Maria spends her time fixing up her new home, gardening and spending the weekends going on outdoor adventures with her husband, Alan, and rescue pup, Montee.

Maria Kulesa

“As a young child I loved exploring old homes. I knew early on that interior design was my passion.”

A Detroit, Michigan native, Maria has always loved historic homes, especially those found in Detroit’s Indian Village neighborhood. It was the exposure and interest in those homes that led her to explore a career in interior design. With a degree from Michigan State University (go Spartans!), Maria has over 12 years of experience working in high end residential design. Her experience in kitchen and bath design allowed her to hone her technical skills. Maria loves digging into AutoCAD drawings, developing space plans, and creating architectural details.

Outside of the office, Maria spends her time fixing up her new home, gardening and spending the weekends going on outdoor adventures with her husband, Alan, and rescue pup, Montee.

Tyson Lamm

Senior Designer

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“I love spaces that promote a balanced lifestyle. Light, open spaces make people happier.”

Tyson graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2017 with a B.F.A, in Interior Architecture and his position at James Thomas is his first since graduation. “I have always been interested in using interior design to affect health and joy. I believe that one’s surroundings have everything to do with how they see the world.” If that’s true, then the JT offices are the perfect place for Tyson. “The warm vibes here are inspiring. The designers here approach their work with an open heart.”

Above all else, Tyson hopes that his dedication to his clients shines through. “I have a point of view design-wise, sure, but what’s paramount to me is that our clients are getting the creative work that will enhance their every day lives. That’s why I am here.”

Tyson Lamm

“I love spaces that promote a balanced lifestyle. Light, open spaces make people happier.”

Tyson graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2017 with a B.F.A, in Interior Architecture and his position at James Thomas is his first since graduation. “I have always been interested in using interior design to affect health and joy. I believe that one’s surroundings have everything to do with how they see the world.” If that’s true, then the JT offices are the perfect place for Tyson. “The warm vibes here are inspiring. The designers here approach their work with an open heart.”

Above all else, Tyson hopes that his dedication to his clients shines through. “I have a point of view design-wise, sure, but what’s paramount to me is that our clients are getting the creative work that will enhance their every day lives. That’s why I am here.”

Sarah Lakew

Designer

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“Your home is where you remember who you are after a long day of sharing yourself with the world. It’s where your story is told.”

This worldly point of view started with the pink and green polka-dot bedroom of Sarah’s girlhood, and has culminated today in her design work. “I want to really know my clients; to get into their heads and innately understand their lives. I want to get to that ‘how did you know!?’ moment. The design stories I tell are very personal.”

Sarah spends her free time taking it all in – trying – and rating – the Ethiopian restaurants of the North Side, spending lazy days on the lakefront, and sampling the city’s music scene at night.

Sarah Lakew

“Your home is where you remember who you are after a long day of sharing yourself with the world. It’s where your story is told.”

This worldly point of view started with the pink and green polka-dot bedroom of Sarah’s girlhood, and has culminated today in her design work. “I want to really know my clients; to get into their heads and innately understand their lives. I want to get to that ‘how did you know!?’ moment. The design stories I tell are very personal.”

Sarah spends her free time taking it all in – trying – and rating – the Ethiopian restaurants of the North Side, spending lazy days on the lakefront, and sampling the city’s music scene at night.

Caroline McCarthy

Designer

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“The spaces that we live and breathe in make all the difference in how we communicate with one another. A well-designed space makes living easy.”

Caroline grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and returned to the city after graduating from Miami University with a degree in Interior Design in 2020. Her passion for interior design started while she was in high school, when her family hired a designer to assist them with designing their newly built home. “I was enthralled by the process and mesmerized by the countless options of furniture, fabrics, and lighting. It was so exciting to see my home come to life.”

When Caroline isn’t in the studio, she enjoys spending time with family and friends. She appreciates trying new restaurants around the city, experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, and gardening in the summer.

Caroline McCarthy

“The spaces that we live and breathe in make all the difference in how we communicate with one another. A well-designed space makes living easy.”

Caroline grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and returned to the city after graduating from Miami University with a degree in Interior Design in 2020. Her passion for interior design started while she was in high school, when her family hired a designer to assist them with designing their newly built home. “I was enthralled by the process and mesmerized by the countless options of furniture, fabrics, and lighting. It was so exciting to see my home come to life.”

When Caroline isn’t in the studio, she enjoys spending time with family and friends. She appreciates trying new restaurants around the city, experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, and gardening in the summer.

Joey Jacobs

Interior Architecture Associate

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“Design is where art and function meet.”

Joey earned her bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois in 2022. Her passion for design was cultivated by her architect father and her upbringing in historic Riverside, IL. Childhood vacations were spent exploring Frank Lloyd Wright homes and furniture museums, exposing her to exceptional design from an early age, fostering a deep appreciation for the craft and honing her meticulous design skills.

Outside of the office, she enjoys quality time with family on the tennis court and indulges in culinary adventures, between cooking lessons with friends and discovering new restaurants in the city.

Joey Jacobs

“Design is where art and function meet.”

Joey earned her bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois in 2022. Her passion for design was cultivated by her architect father and her upbringing in historic Riverside, IL. Childhood vacations were spent exploring Frank Lloyd Wright homes and furniture museums, exposing her to exceptional design from an early age, fostering a deep appreciation for the craft and honing her meticulous design skills.

Outside of the office, she enjoys quality time with family on the tennis court and indulges in culinary adventures, between cooking lessons with friends and discovering new restaurants in the city.

Ellyn Harmon

Design Associate

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“As interior designers, we have the ability to make our clients fall more in love with their home each step of the way!”

Ellyn graduated from Miami University in 2021 with a B.F.A in Interior Design. She grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and always loved the architecture that filled the city. Ellyn knew she wanted to go into design ever since taking interior design and architecture classes in high school. Her favorite aspect of working in design is to be part of the life-changing transformation that clients experience from the start to the completion of a project.

In her free time Ellyn likes to spend time with her friends and family. She loves to travel, visiting her family all over the country and world! A favorite spot is northern California where she and her family love to hike and paddleboard.

Ellyn Harmon

“As interior designers, we have the ability to make our clients fall more in love with their home each step of the way!”

Ellyn graduated from Miami University in 2021 with a B.F.A in Interior Design. She grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago and always loved the architecture that filled the city. Ellyn knew she wanted to go into design ever since taking interior design and architecture classes in high school. Her favorite aspect of working in design is to be part of the life-changing transformation that clients experience from the start to the completion of a project.

In her free time Ellyn likes to spend time with her friends and family. She loves to travel, visiting her family all over the country and world! A favorite spot is northern California where she and her family love to hike and paddleboard.

Kent Ocupe

Librarian

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“Creativity is when you never stop feeding your curiosity.”

Kent embraces these words with passion. An ER nurse working amid COVID-19, this revelation has led Kent to pursue his high school dream—interior design. He is currently enrolled in an interior design program and is the newest addition to the JT team as Librarian. “Recently, I have been thinking of what I’ve lost when I decided to follow my dreams. But being with the James Thomas crew, I am reminded of what I have gained and continue to gain. They truly make me feel that I belong here.”

He believes in a space that fosters love, values, and sparks fun. “There is never a dull moment when you fill yourself with love and a home should feel that way. They’re like cravings, you keep coming back for more.” As he embarks on this new chapter of his life, he feels excited and nervous, much like an adventure. He looks forward to unraveling and enlivening his potential, embracing the gracious knowledge extended by the team at James Thomas.

Kent Ocupe

“Creativity is when you never stop feeding your curiosity.”

Kent embraces these words with passion. An ER nurse working amid COVID-19, this revelation has led Kent to pursue his high school dream—interior design. He is currently enrolled in an interior design program and is the newest addition to the JT team as Librarian. “Recently, I have been thinking of what I’ve lost when I decided to follow my dreams. But being with the James Thomas crew, I am reminded of what I have gained and continue to gain. They truly make me feel that I belong here.”

He believes in a space that fosters love, values, and sparks fun. “There is never a dull moment when you fill yourself with love and a home should feel that way. They’re like cravings, you keep coming back for more.” As he embarks on this new chapter of his life, he feels excited and nervous, much like an adventure. He looks forward to unraveling and enlivening his potential, embracing the gracious knowledge extended by the team at James Thomas.

Kelly Russell

Studio Administrator

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“I have an appreciation and love for a home that is designed to incorporate the natural surrounding elements.”

Kelly’s move from London to Chicago at the age of eight planted the seed for her deep connection to both cities—their architecture, culture, and history. After graduating from college, Kelly realized that urban living was ingrained in her soul, leading her to move from the suburbs to Chicago to pursue a career that melds creativity with meticulous attention to office operations.

As Studio Administrator, she finds joy in collaborating with the team on projects, curating the design library, and supporting Jamie in managing the Studio’s business operations. Kelly’s passion for interior design shines through in every aspect of her work as she embraces the dynamic and creative environment of the Studio.

Outside of work, Kelly resides in the East Lakeview neighborhood with her husband. They are avid explorers of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods, often found relaxing in local coffee shops, enjoying cuisine at new restaurants, and enjoying movie nights together.

Kelly Russell

“I have an appreciation and love for a home that is designed to incorporate the natural surrounding elements.”

Kelly’s move from London to Chicago at the age of eight planted the seed for her deep connection to both cities—their architecture, culture, and history. After graduating from college, Kelly realized that urban living was ingrained in her soul, leading her to move from the suburbs to Chicago to pursue a career that melds creativity with meticulous attention to office operations.

As Studio Administrator, she finds joy in collaborating with the team on projects, curating the design library, and supporting Jamie in managing the Studio’s business operations. Kelly’s passion for interior design shines through in every aspect of her work as she embraces the dynamic and creative environment of the Studio.

Outside of work, Kelly resides in the East Lakeview neighborhood with her husband. They are avid explorers of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods, often found relaxing in local coffee shops, enjoying cuisine at new restaurants, and enjoying movie nights together.

A sense of effortless elegance
has long been a James Thomas signature.