Jennifer Fecker doesn’t know why she became a jeweler-first in metal and then, after a studio break to raise her kids, felt. When she describes metal as an “unforgiving medium that demands a problem solver, but also allows creative expression,” however, she reveals a character that particularly enjoys aesthetic and technical challenge as well as working with her hands. Referring to felt as something with which she can fabricate pieces “that stand outside the box of what’s expected from such a humble and common material,” she offers at least one reason for that choice.
Inspired by a grandmother who drew, painted, and sewed (together, they even made a prom dress or two) and a mother who drew, painted and became an interior designer (while she raised children, setting further example), Jennifer was always drawn to the visual arts. She excelled at school and made things at home. When a teacher “instilled in me the belief that art was a worthy pursuit and that my skills/talents were a gift I should respect,” the young seed was watered and fertilized.
After “fiddling around a bit” with different media, Jennifer settled on metalwork and jewelry design at The University of Michigan. In particular, she studied techniques of Mokume-Gane, a mixed-metal laminate with distinctive layered patterns. Post graduation, she produced conceptual art pieces for private collectors and museums in San Francisco (the city’s Metal Arts Guild is 60 years strong), and then bought a house in Chicago with her new husband. Motherhood became her priority and Jennifer took a hiatus.
A year and a half ago, when the artisan decided to go back to making jewelry, she had no work space set up. “So I started with what was accessible to me, both in material and space.” Jennifer sources new wool out of Germany and Holland but also uses recycled material from manufacturers of architectural paneling and flooring. “These companies can be rich in scraps of long strips and cut-outs that are ideal for jewelry. Felt allows me to come and go to it as the day progresses.” (A necessity with 2 young children.)
Working with an architect to remodel their 100 year-old Chicago house may, she conjectures, be a contributing inspiration to the clean geometric silhouettes and shapes she now creates. The design aesthetic of “is felt” is bold, but never garish, somewhat organic. Suede and leather lace are used for tied closures, dyed horn clasps are employed otherwise. Jennifer’s iconoclastic pieces range from $42.00-$320.00. She does a couple of one-of-a-kind shows each year, sells to museum shops, and offers her work online at www.is-felt.com. The work is highly distinctive, nuanced in color, beautifully made, and soft against the skin.