PITTSBURGH (TNS) — For Hayley Stewart, putting a piece of jewelry together often begins by taking something else apart.
Growing up, the Morgantown, West Virginia, native would accompany her father to sales where they'd purchase pieces for his antiques store. Some of them, though, she'd deconstruct to make something new.
"I think that's part of where it comes from," says Stewart, 20, who's a student in the fashion design program at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
One of her latest creations is a new twist — literally — on materials used in wire-snare poaching. Rather than the wires being used for harm, she twisted imitation snare wires together and mixed them with semi-precious stones to signify people coming together to stand against animal poaching. These designs won Stewart first place in fair trade brand Dsenyo's Design for Change competition, which tasks student designers age 18 and older with creating jewelry that incorporates wires, stones, beads, bone or organic materials to convey a message about conservation and anti-poaching efforts.
As part of her win, Stewart will travel to Zambia this summer to meet with artisans who are part of Dsenyo's partner group, Mulberry Mongoose, and with local organizations working to address poaching threats. Her prize also includes an African safari where she'll get an up-close look at the wildlife in this southern African country.
"I'm planning on using a lot of the inspiration from (the trip) in more jewelry and even clothing design," she says.
She describes her aesthetic as "simple" and "wearable," so the minimalist nature of the wire and stone pieces conceived for the contest was reflective of her style. (Working with such thick wire was a bit different for her, though, and took her to Lowe's to look for supplies.) Lessons in jewelry fabrication at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh have helped her fine-tune her skills, which started as a hobby growing up. She learned the basics from her grandmother.
The necklace, bracelet and earring designs she entered in the contest have been incorporated into Dsenyo's accessories line, this time made with actual confiscated snare wire. A Kickstarter campaign last month raised more than $20,000 to support the production of the new jewelry. The Zimba Twist Snare collection is for sale at dsenyo.com and select boutiques across the country. It ranges from $42 to $44, with $5 from each purchase going to the nonprofits Zambian Carnivore Program and the South Luangwa Conservation Society to aid in their efforts to fight poaching.