It starts with a big chunk of blue wax. It’s shaped, molded, cast with metal, and polished clean. Nettie Kent’s handmade, eco-friendly jewelry embodies ethereal beauty. Try on one of these simple, delicate, weightless pieces, and you won’t want to take it off.
Kent is a native Islander with creative roots. Her father is Doug Kent, a Vineyard painter, and she married Colin Ruel, another local painter. They spent the past eight years living and working in New York City. About two years ago, the couple moved back home. They had their son, Razmus, who’s 1½ now. “We both grew up here,” Kent said. “It was a natural move.”
They’re settling back into the Vineyard pace, making professional adjustments along the way.
“I’m momming now,” Kent said. “I’m definitely producing a lot less [jewelry] these days. With the baby and running the business … it’s just, it’s a lot.”
When Kent moved to New York City, she moved there with a goal to build her brand. And she did; Her pieces made it. They were featured in Vogue, appeared in Hollywood, and had an entire team behind their wholesale production.
Nettie Kent jewelry has a distinct style — simple, clean, and neat. Most metals are cast gold, but some are silver and brass, and others are detailed with bold turquoises and cobalt blues. Each piece is set thin, with lines that complement your hand or wrist. The style doesn’t distract, but is striking enough to catch your eye. The metals are texturized with subtle imperfections, letting each piece be different from the next. “I was hustling,” Kent said. “I’m talking at least 12 hours in the studio every day.”
As the years rolled along, her goals shifted. “Colin and I started talking about having a family,” Kent said. “In interviews, people would ask me, ‘Where do you see your brand?’ And I’d say, ‘Getting smaller.’”
She edited down her business to the solo operation it is now. Each piece comes out of her home studio in Chilmark. “My site is busy all the time,” Kent said. “It’s really nice. I kind of get to work on my own terms.”
In August, Kent launched Offseason MV, a pop-up shop that features her jewelry alongside friends and vendors she met in New York.
“It’s a way for me to connect my old life with this one,” Kent said. “The design community is huge in New York, and it’s tight-knit. I miss that. It’s fun to work with them again. I bring in a different designer each time. It’s fun to introduce them to people here who might not have heard of them otherwise.”
Offseason MV occupied Rosewater Wine & Spirits during Christmas in Edgartown, and will continue weekends through Christmas. Clothing and knits by New York designers Miranda Bennett and Mandy Kordal are currently on display. “Everything in here is sustainable design,” Kent said. “Plant-based dyes — everything is made in-house.”
It’s the first time Kent’s been back in retail in years.
“I’ve always thought about whether or not I want a store,” she said. “I think someday it’ll happen. This is a fun test.”
Kent studied painting in college, and learned about jewelry through trial and error. She managed a jewelry store in New York after finishing college.
“All the jewelry was made downstairs,” Kent said. “I started watching them. It fascinated me. And then eventually, every minute of every day, I was just doing it. Sometimes I wonder where that girl went.”
Kent lives in Chilmark with her family, and they’ve got another baby on the way, due in February. “I’ve started making baby things now that baby things are happening,” she said, gesturing to a small brass bracelet.
“Coming home like this has been a natural progression for me,” Kent said. “It all started here.”