Rust & Willow, a small studio nestled in the woods of upstate New York, is producing bracelets and rings of beautiful, red earth tones. Hand manufactured by David Morgillo and his daughter, Jennifer Eland, the jewelry is made out of copper that has been repurposed from electrical work from David’s past and his previous career working with sheet metal. The father and daughter recently partnered to revive their family’s craft of jewelry making and have opened Rust & Willow to share their heirloom designs and simple, classic styles. Jennifer shares their story.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Kirkville, a small country town located in upstate NY. I loved being raised in that town. It seemed like almost everybody knew each other, helped one another, and we all visited quite often. My parents still live there, while I reside only about 10 minutes away. I’ve always lived very close to my roots.
What encouraged you and your father to begin Rust and Willow?
I was struggling with the downside of being a full-time working mom. I cringed, daily, about going into work and leaving my son behind. I’m not saying it’s wrong for mothers to work—and for many women, there is no other choice—but for me, it wasn’t my vision and, frankly, it broke my heart over and over. I remember coming across a couple bracelets my father had made for my mother years ago. They were beautiful! I wanted to wear them—heck, I wanted to keep them. It hit me right then that he and I could create these together. He could teach me his craft, and I could run the social media aspect of it (since that world is so foreign to him). I even thought, maybe someday I can leave my full time job if we do well! I was dreaming big, yes, but I knew I had the tools to make this happen. It would be something so special between us—something that I watched him do as a little girl for years in our basement, I could carry on for him when he is no longer around. These thoughts are very personal and close to my heart, as he has been battling cancer for a couple years now.
When did your father begin his craft and what drove his interest?
He started making bracelets in his 20s, mostly as a hobby inspired by watching his father craft them. He sold just a few of them, but continued making them to give to friends and family over the course of 40 years.
When did he begin to teach you to make jewelry? What is the first piece you made together?
It was probably back in the spring, shortly before I decided to leave my full time job. We went out to his shop for a lesson, and I was so excited! I was eager to do it myself, but ended up watching him make the piece to show me first how it was done. That part was a little hard for my impatient self. I wanted to jump right in and get my hands dirty. When I finally did get my turn, I made the double wire, braided bangle—the style of bracelet that I have been wearing daily since I inherited a piece made by my grandfather. I practiced that bracelet until I had it about identical to the one crafted years ago.
What was your relationship like as you were growing up and how has it evolved with this business venture?
Growing up with a full-blooded Italian father (with bigger-than-life love) was the best, but at the same time, not at all easy. He was old-school strict and, at times, overbearing—depends on your view, his or mine! Safe to say, we bumped heads a lot as I got older, because we were so much alike. But I always knew that he loved me very, very much, and now I know his intent was to protect me and keep me from harm and pain. I’m so very grateful for that.
I have a deep love and respect for my father. He is an quiet, unassuming, and remarkable man; and I have so many cherished memories of great times with him and the things I have learned from him. I feel like, even in this business venture, we are learning things from each other today. We still don’t always see eye to eye, but we do always make each other laugh one way or another, hug things out, and keep on working.
What is one lesson (beyond your craft) that he taught you?
My father taught me how to be responsible, to be a hard worker, and to never expect something for nothing. At the age of 25, I bought my first house as a single woman. It was really hard work, but I was proud of what I accomplished on my own. Had my father not pushed me a bit, I would have probably lived with them until I was married (which was at 30!).
Where do you create your work, and what about the space inspires you?
I mostly craft jewelry in my workshop at home. It became too hard to drive to my parents’ house every time I wanted to work, so I created a studio space in our detached garage. The most inspiring thing about it is that it’s 15 steps from our house, and my son, Tristan, can be right there with me. It also doesn’t hurt that my window view is the woods on the edge of our property. It makes me feel like I’m still one with nature in a way.
We love your minimalistic style. Where do you draw your inspiration, and how will you be accessorizing this winter?
I’ve always had a very simple style—almost conservative some would say. I’m totally inspired by raw and natural elements. I create things that I would want to wear and that go with everyday style.
I love to wear bigger pieces in the winter months, like my wide-cuff bracelets, mixed with some other turquoise pieces I own. They make more of a statement with chunky, heavy, knit sweaters that I pretty much live in this time of year.