‘Ocean’s 8’ jeweler brings work to Eau Claire

Camille Hempel hosts pop-up event at Outside In Inside Out Gallery


Photo by Melanie Walleser

Rings designed by Camille Hempel and featured on Helena Bonham Carter in “Ocean’s 8.”

Jewelry designer Camille Hempel whose rings were featured on the fingers of Helena Bonham Carter in the motion picture “Ocean’s 8,” made an appearance at the Outside In Inside Out Gallery last weekend.

A friend of hers, while working as as stylist in “Ocean’s 8,” wore two rings made by Hempel. Helena Bonham Carter, the actress known for her role in “Harry Potter” as Bellatrix Lestrange, noticed her rings and asked for them herself. Hempel’s “Classic Armor Ring” and “Moth Ring” are worn by Carter in the film.

“I was flattered that they asked,” Hempel said. “That was such an exciting moment and kind of the feather in my cap.”

Hempel said she began making jewelry as an art student at UW-Madison. She said she liked having a craft that is hands-on.

Hempel worked as a “jeweler at large” for many years, and she has had a storefront in Brooklyn. She said there are aspects of the storefront she misses.

“I really miss the store and having more personal relationships with people about jewelry and doing a lot of custom work,” Hempel said. “I think jewelry can be really personal and I like to make it personal. There’s stories about a personal relationship with someone with most of these rings, or most pieces have a story behind it.”

Online shopping has altered the retail industry, but Hempel said she prefers to have the physical location to try jewelry on because it gives a far more personal, hands-on experience to customers.  

“I love making rings, and it’s more satisfying to try a ring on than trying to imagine what it would look like on, because I think your hands are so expressive,” Hempel said. “I’m always noticing other people’s hands. You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their hands.”

In addition to jewelry design, Hempel said she’s had a long standing obsession with couches since her college years at UW-Madison.

“As an art student, I was also taking painting and I decided to paint portraits of my friend’s ugly dorm room couches,” Hempel said. “Then I started realizing in Madison, all the couches on porches outside. When I moved to New York City I started seeing them on the streets. It was an amateaur photgrapahy habit, so I had hundreds of photos of discarded sofas. I even won a contest for the ugliest couch in America.”

The contest was hosted on “Live With Regis and Kelly.” Although she did not expect to win, Hempel said she felt she deserved it after so many years of of being passionate about sofas.

Hempel has since incorporated her love of sofas into her jewelry-designing business. Her logo is a gold design of the couch that won her the award for ugliest couch in America.

“I think, aesthetically, the little couch that won was just a small, lopsided, beautiful, but in a very distressed, well-loved way,” Hempel said. “The leg which had fallen off was replaced by a cinder block that really just clenched the whole aesthetic for me. It did turn into my logo because the thing just became the symbol of my whole business. I wanted to call my store ‘Couch’ but my friends advised against it.”

Being back in the Midwest, and once again taking up the “jeweler at large” scene, Hempel said she is excited to be showing her work in Eau Claire.

“I’m just excited to be showing my stuff in Eau Claire in a place that I can get feedback from people and see what they connect with here in the Midwest,” Hempel said. “A lot of my client base is in New York City and LA too, so I kind of know what people like on the east and west coast, and I just want to sell more where I live now. I really love design and I think a lot of my stuff is really down to earth.”

Katie Mattis, a fourth-year art student, said she admires Hempel’s jewelry.

“I just like how naturalistic her work looks,” Mattis said. “It’s not like polished, it’s a little more rough around the edges, which is nice. Not everything has to be perfect it’s kind of nice to have a little bit of waviness to something. I appreciate that in some work.”

Mattis said she’s excited to have an artist like Hempel showing her work here in Eau Claire.

“Her work made me think of projects I used to do, which brought back happy memories,” Mattis said. “I enjoy having artists like Camille in Eau Claire just because I feel like we could always use a little more art where we are.”

Walleser can be reached at [email protected]