Galleries : Nettie Kent: Sharing Her Metal
Nettie Kent, a West Tisbury native, is one of the many young Islanders whose artistry is coming into bloom. On December 19, the 30-year-old jewelry maker presented her work in her first solo show at Che's Lounge, the Vineyard Haven coffee house. "I needed the pressure of the opening. It was scary and intimate because when I started doing it, it was for myself," says Ms. Kent.
Much of her hand-made jewelry is recycled. She sources materials from Island construction sites where her brother, Jason Napior of Radius Inc., works, and from Internet sites like eBay. "I have been collecting for a while," she says with a smile. "I go to the thrift store almost every other day." She is always looking for vintage chains, old worn-in leather belts, electrician's wire and the like. She uses a company in New York called Hoover and Strong to do her casting and is thinking about utilizing online stores like Etsy.com.
Ms. Kent is rooted in the arts. Between her father, Doug Kent, an established Island painter, and her mother, Lesley Eaton, an avid gardener, she is grounded in various forms of creativity. "I grew up in my dad's studio," she says, "where the smell of turpentine was home."
Photos by Tamar Russell
Ms. Kent studied painting as a public art at Hampshire College. She taught painting to children in Holyoke and worked for Girls Inc., an organization that helped children get involved with art through the production of murals. "My thing was that art should be by the community, not just for the community," she explains.
Ms. Kent worked at the Field Gallery in West Tisbury during the summer after college before heading to New York City. "I did the temporary job thing," she explains, beginning with Public Color, a nonprofit that teaches inner-city youth the marketable skill of commercial painting. The following year she worked for the non-profit Queens Culture Project while also painting interior faux finishes in homes on the upper east and west sides for an up-scale company.
"It was two different worlds," Ms. Kent says of the difference between nonprofit work and creating faux-marble walls in homes with separate elevators for the servants. "But I kept coming back home. I tried to go to the beaches in Brooklyn, but it just isn't the same," she confessed.
It was through her work that she was introduced to Jill Platner, owner of the Manhattan gallery/studio/shop that bares her name. It was a match made somewhere divine. Ms. Kent remembers, "I walked in and it was like, click! She said, 'Can you start today?'"
In the two years that Ms. Kent worked in floor sales in the Crosby Street store, she became increasingly interested in jewelry. "I would wander downstairs [to the workshop] and watch and ask questions whenever I could." She started to take classes in basic jewelry and wax carving at the 92nd Street YMCA. Then she decided to make a change.
"I just missed Martha's Vineyard, so I had to come home," Ms. Kent says. It was then that she began making her own jewelry. She wore it herself, as did her sister, but she just wasn't ready to really part with any of it.
In August of this year, Che's Lounge owner PJ Woodford's wife, Chrysale Parrot of L'Atelier, asked her to create the jewelry for her fashion show. Ms. Kent obliged and the feedback was exceptional.
"People loved it and they wanted to buy it, but I still wasn't ready to part with it," Ms. Kent says. However, by November she was ready, prompting her recent show at Che's.
Ms. Kent has only just begun. Though she describes her artistic evolution as "trial and error," watching the glow in her face as she discusses the metals she loves, it is obvious that Ms. Kent is here to stay as a jewelry maker.