Designer Camille Hempel first learned how to cut gems under the tutelage of her grandfather in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, using a lapidary shop set up in their basement. "Gradually, I began making custom wedding rings for friends," says Camille. "And friends of friends, and then folks I did not know." An impromptu relocation to NYC in 1992—"just for the adventure," and because her best friend was looking for a roommate—eventually led her to the pink-doored storefront in Williamsburg from which she produces her eponymous collection.
"I like to work with tools," explains Camille, who pursued a range of other fields before settling on jewelry design, including building toy prototypes, furniture, and prosthetic feet ("all of which influenced my jewelry," she claims). Her collection, which encompasses everything from wedding rings and quirky stud earrings to i.d. bracelets and necklaces, is classic with a bit of edge, the kind of thing you could gift to your mother and then "borrow" six months later. A vast selection of rings, however, still serves as the anchor of the collection. "I think rings are the most expressive jewelry," says Camille. "So I am a big fan of having the one or two you would wear all the time as your signature."
Nods to Camille's cheeky sense of humor are tucked throughout the collection, including the "Ugly Couch" necklace, an homage to her ongoing photography project depicting castoff sidewalk couches. To check out her groovy pink-doored studio, visit 317 Wythe at South 2nd, or view the complete collection at www.camillehempel.com.