At a time when many of his contemporaries are contemplating retirement, Henry Van Wyck Spencer decided that after years of crafting silver and gold jewelry for private clients and galleries he wanted to open his own gallery and present his work to the public. Last January, at the age of 68, Henry opened the Stanhope and Spencer Gallery in Rockland, Maine
, and this spring he is opening again for a second season.
Henry began working as a silver and goldsmith in the late ’60s and early ’70s making silver wire jewelry. Soon he opened craft stores and galleries in Chatham, Massachusetts; North Conway, New Hampshire; and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “In the beginning, my limitations were based on my ability, but as I spent more and more time at it, I got better at the craft,” he says.
In the early 1980s, Henry started doing chasing, a metalworking technique where metal is hammered from the front to create a design, and repoussé, a similar technique in which the metal is hammered from the back. He spent five years learning the techniques. “Now my only limitation is my imagination,” he says.
Three years ago, Henry started working exclusively in gold. The challenge with gold is the way that it responds to light, and he notes that while he works with the metal, he is paying close attention to the way the light moves across the solid surface.
Henry’s work echoes early Greek or Egyptian jewelry but with a modern flair that he notes can sometimes be confusing to customers. “My work has a museum quality, and sometimes people come into the gallery and have a museum reaction—but it doesn’t occur to them to buy it!” In 2017, as a first time applicant, Henry won awards in two separate categories in the Saul Bell Gold and Silver Jewelry International Competition; it is the only time a single artist has won or has even
been nominated in two categories in a single year.