Written by Sophie McNeil Wolf | Photographed by Paul Wolf
Casey Jennings does not wear much jewelry.
This fact might not mean much until you learn Jennings is the talent behind Ponderosa Drive, a jewelry brand that has captivated Jacksonians since debuting this past winter.
“The closest thing I get to wearing jewelry is a ponytail holder (on my wrist),” she says. “I was just making (earrings) for giggles, basically. I started out selling here and there on my personal Instagram. Then, Ian Hanson, who I work with, does Priced to Move and it became, ‘Maybe you should set up there.’”
Her work was an instant hit. “I typically work the register (at Priced to Move) and just seeing that it all sold out the first night and then trying to make more before the Saturday part of it, so I could have more was pure insanity.”
At 26, Jennings is quick to downplay her success. “There are so many amazing women jewelry-makers that are already doing cool stuff in the area… I know my stuff is vastly different, but I just didn’t expect that response.”
What makes it different? Polymer clay. While studying graphic design at Mississippi State University, Jennings took several art classes, including sculpture. “Clay is pretty affordable, which is every college student’s dream,” she laughs. “I saw earrings my creative director gave his girlfriend and I thought, ‘How can I make those?’ I also needed them to be super lightweight.”
A lightbulb went off – clay. “I started toying with it and here we are.”
Ponderosa Drive is derived from her paternal grandmother. “I would go over to her house on Ponderosa DriveÂ and we would make jewelry out of pipe cleaners and cheap plastic beads. It was a sight to see.”
In some ways, she is back to those early days, making batches at home. A graphic designer by day for home furnishings and design brand Kalalou, Jenning’s side hustle is continually taking up much of her free time.
From start to finish, earrings take several days to create, from baking in a low-fire oven, curing glue and adding final attachments.
While she personally gravitates to more neutral tones, customers are helping her break out of her comfort zone. Her most popular piece? “Confetti Olivia,” she says. “I can’t keep it in stock.”
The bright confetti technique almost didn’t happen, Jennings points out. “It was at the end of the process and I had some clay left over, so I just sprinkled it in. The rest is history and here we are.”
In 2020, Jennings work has been featured prominently on HGTV’s “Hometown” dangling from the ears of designer Erin Napier.