East Camp Goods: Alchemy And Art By Husband And Wife
By Jamie Larson
NASA announced recently that its scientists had observed, for the first time, the collision of two neutron stars. One of the many fascinating discoveries made was that the event ejected 200 Earth masses worth of gold into the universe. It’s speculated that these fantastic events are likely the origin of the gold on our planet.
In the hands of Jenna Fennell, of East Camp Goods in Germantown, New York, the elemental elegance of responsibly sourced, high-purity gold and silver, diamonds and gemstones is tooled into jewelry that impresses through artful and thoughtful designs. These designs elevate the raw natural energy of such heavenly materials while remaining decidedly down to earth.
The Fennell family. Photo by Jersey Walz.
“I think it’s important for people that these are things they can wear every day,” Jenna says. “I like to imagine East Camp clients wear their jewelry through everything. I sleep in my jewelry. I garden in it. I find as a mother of small children you don’t always put on your best clothes but I can always slip on a gold ring and have a token of glamour.”
Andy Fennell usually works on a larger scale than his wife, with wood and iron. A sculptor currently working for artist Dan Colen, he adds rustic, finely finished elements to East Camp’s collection. The couple’s collaborations, like the brass-banded driftwood tap handles they made for the Suarez Family Brewery are a clear example of the synergy of their artistic abilities.
The busy couple and parents of two girls, Juniper Coyote, 2, and Fiona Kestrel, 6 weeks, run East Camp online out of their home, but you can see a few pieces in person at Alder East in Germantown and at the seasonal flea markets held at Basilica Hudson. They also do a good deal of commission work. Jenna says that she wants to help people make their own statement with her jewelry, not impose hers on them.
A 22k gold chain made with ancient goldsmithing techniques particular to high karat gold. “Chains are a particular interest of mine,” Jenna says. “I don’t sell jewelry with prefab chains, I make every link of every chain we sell and I love the meditative process of it.”
“You don’t want someone else wearing your shouting statement, unless it’s their shouting statement,” she says.
It’s some of Jenna’s smaller pieces that are the most captivating. Delicate rings, made, as always, from exclusively 18-karat gold or higher, may be inlaid with precious gems and a black or salt and pepper diamond. Mountings are minimally embellished and the shape and scale is perfectly balanced. Many of the pieces purposefully retain light tooling marks, adding an earthy texture as well as more surfaces to catch and reflect light.
These Suarez Family Brewery tap handles, pictured here during creation, were a collaboration between Jenna and Andy.
After college at Brown, Jenna parlayed an internship into a 13-year career as a brass mount maker at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The job afforded her a lot of technical experience, forging perfectly fitted cradles for art objects of international cultural importance. It also, she says, affected her artistry, surrounded as she was, every day, by some of the greatest art in the world. She allows that her work has been directly and in some ways subconsciously influenced by design elements of African art and the Oceana exhibit at the museum, which she worked on extensively. She’s currently working on a new design based on a traditional stacked Byzantine ring.
A ring Jenna is currently crafting, inspired by a Byzantine design, will feature a large salt and pepper diamond.
The Fennells met at a metalsmithing class at the Haystack Mountain School in Maine.
“It’s a fabulous program and a beautiful setting. It was an easy place to fall in love,” she says.
Andy soon also got a job at the Met, building custom shipping crates for traveling art pieces, which was kind of a scaled up version of Jenna’s job with different materials.
Not long after, however, they began spending more and more weekends in Rhinebeck and then bought a 900-square-foot farmhouse fixer-upper in Germantown. They left their jobs in the city and built a fabulous addition off the back to accommodate the East Camp studio (which, unlike Jenna’s subterranean office at the Met, is bathed in natural light) and their growing family.
“The process of making is so relaxing to me,” Jenna says from her studio. “I always want to come down here.”
East Camp offers pieces that become a part of you, whether you’re attending a fancy event, or gardening, cooking or playing with the kids. Although the earth may have only received a pittance of the gold rocketing through space, East Camp Goods is making it count.