Nettie Kent has apprenticed for Philip Crangi and Pamela Love, so she certainly knows her way around some precious metals. The Martha’s Vineyard bred designer is the daughter of a painter and a librarian, and although she studied fine arts painting, in the end she was drawn to something a bit more 2D.
Since going out on her own with her eponymous label, Nettie has amassed quite a following of downtown bohemian influencers and fashion folk who are drawn to her organic, natural pieces that are all ethically made. Although she’s a Brooklyn girl now, that seaside upbringing continues to inform her work. Click through for her Fall collection, read on for what she learned from the masters and what sultry French girl inspires her.
Why is it important to you to make “ethical jewelry” and what exactly does that mean to you? When I first began casting in metal, I was dismayed to learn how precious metals were sourced. I did some research into the social and environmental harm caused by mining and I didn’t want to add to the use of child labor, dangerous working conditions and environmental destruction. It sounds so intense and I know it’s the last thing someone wants to think about when purchasing a piece of jewelry, but sadly it is a reality. I choose to not participate in it by choosing sustainable sources for all my metals and practicing what I preach in my own studio. What this means to me, to create “ethical jewelry” is that I feel good about every aspect of my work, from the design to the casting in metal to keeping everything made here in New York. And I think my customers feel good about it too!
You’ve worked with some of the most well known and respected jewelry designers out there, what is that process like and why do you think apprenticeship is important, especially when learning a craft?
I learn with my hands, I’m not a watcher I need to “do” and I think getting in the trenches and learning from different designers is just the best way, at least for me. Everyone I have worked with is so incredibly talented and successful, and different in their approach and their styles. I didn’t go to school for jewelry design so for me learning on the job was crucial!
Tell me about your inspiration for this collection?
The beach! I’m a total beach bum, I was lucky to grow up near the ocean and it is where I have always felt the most alive and happy and this is what I wanted people to feel when they wear my pieces.
What is your process for designing like?
When I’m designing its either on or it’s off – I don’t force it. Lucky for me, it has been on lately! I carry a sketchbook with me all the time, just a little one I can fit in any bag. I’ll get ideas for pieces at the most random moments and if I don’t do a quick sketch it could disappear. My designs start with my sketches but I find that it’s in the wax carving that my designs really emerge and take shape, literally.
Who would be one girl you would love to see in your pieces?
Brigitte Bardot on the beach in Saint-Tropez, 1973. But in real life, I’m always excited when women who inspire me wear my jewelry. Pamela has my white fringe earrings and that’s always a great feeling when another designer appreciates your designs enough to wear them. I’m also collaborating with the photographer Betsy Blundell for my new look book, we are photographing local musicians and I’ve got to work with such amazing talents like Caroline Polachek from Chairlift, Sharon Van Etten, Elizabeth Harper from Class Actress, Lauren Flax from CREEP, and we have only just started! Its just so exciting to have these amazing musicians who have all such different styles wear my jewelry in their own individual way, talk about inspiring!
How would you describe your personal style, are your pieces a reflection of it? Clothes are an extension of you and I won’t wear anything I’m not comfortable in. Though my idea of comfort seems to change every day. I wouldn’t say I have one style, I have a style for today, for this moment, I love to change it up and wear what I feel. I just moved recently and my apartment has 3 closets in the bedroom, and well, they are all jam packed. I love vintage clothes, my toes tingle at the thought of racks full of weird old clothes and then finding that one treasure! I have bought pieces and not worn them for years, but then one day I’ll see it hanging there and it just clicks, that’s why I never throw things out. In a sense my jewelry is a reflection of this, the majority of my pieces are ones you can wear every day and work with so many different looks – they change with you.
Tell me a little bit about your background, have you always been a jewelry girl? I was totally one of those little girls playing dress up in my mom’s jewelry box. I was really excited when I got to visit my grandmother and play in hers, she kept everything. Her pieces from the 60s and 70s were always my favorites. My mom used to road trip out west with my older brothers and sister before I was born. She collected this amazing silver and turquoise jewelry, but she also is not a jewelry girl and gave so much away. I grew up in a really big family so sharing was necessary, even jewelry. My parents are both artists and total hippies, growing up we lived in this little cottage in the middle of the woods on Martha’s Vineyard, where I was born. It was built by hand by my dad and his friends. I have the best memories of summers spent playing on the beach collecting seashells and rocks that I would ask my dad to make into necklaces for me.
With so many jewelry lines out there, how do you differentiate yourself?
In jewelry, as in any art form, it’s very difficult to be completely unique and different. I make jewelry I want to wear, my tastes do change and that is reflected in my designs but overall I just make designs I’m excited about.
Where do you hope to see the brand and the business in 5 years?
Thriving! Right now it’s just me and [my partner] Max making things all day in the studio. We are a great team, but I do have the feeling we will need more help soon, and that is really exciting. It’s my dream to make my jewelry and if in 5 years I’m still doing this, then I’ll be living the dream.
Most importantly, the pieces are so beautiful, where can we buy Nettie Kent?
Thank you so much! You may visit my website, Nettie Kent, and shop right there! My complete stock list is on there as well and it’s growing everyday!
All Photos: Bon Jane