Have you ever stopped before tossing something in the trash or recycling, and wished that you knew of a way to reuse it instead? We all know that recycling is the last option of the Three R’s, and if there’s a way to keep items from ending up in a bin, we should take it. Many artists, beaders and jewelry designers use this approach in their work by saving, salvaging and repurposing objects that others view as trash, and turning it into treasure.
Laura Wilson of Nashville Restrung keeps used guitar strings out of the landfill by using them to create beautiful upcycled jewelry. In addition to reducing a little bit of waste and making a great statement, she also uses her creativity to help support causes locally, and around the world, that aim to alleviate and eliminate poverty.
Inspirational Beading: How did you first get into combining guitar strings with beads?
Laura: I started working with guitar strings 2009; at that point I had been a beader for 10 years. My husband is a guitar builder and I kept watching him throw used strings in the trash. That perfectly beautiful wire was headed to the landfill! I learned that strings from musical instruments are made from mixed metals and therefore not recyclable. I thought the wire itself had far too much character to be wasted, and figured I should be able to do something with it. The first bracelet I made used an interesting triangle bead.
Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite material or color to work with?
Laura: Strings come in such a variety of textures and weights there is always something new to work with. I particularly enjoy when I get a set of violin or cello strings. They are so fluid and flexible they make very delicate, feminine pieces. When it comes to beads, I love stalking thrift shops and estate sales for pieces I can disassemble to reuse. I recently found a bracelet at a thrift shop that was commercially made from wonderfully carved Tibetan silver and accented with huge blue plastic pony beads. It could not have been more hideous! I redesigned the silver pieces and it’s one of my top favorites now.
Inspirational Beading: Where do you find inspiration for new pieces?
Laura: Each brand of guitar string has different characteristics. The ferrule ball end – the piece that holds the string to the bottom of the instrument, at the saddle -- can be round, bullet shaped, or even a loop. They can be stainless, brass or a variety of colors. I let the strings' unique character take me down a path to beauty.
Inspirational Beading: If you could master any new technique, what would it be?
Laura: I made some trial and error stabs at soldering and it hasn’t been pretty. I think soldering would allow me to add so much more dimension to the items I make.
Inspirational Beading: Do you remember your first jewelry project? Where is it today?
Laura: I was so blissfully unaware! I thought, How hard can it be to throw some beads together? I learned a lot of lessons from that piece. I still wear it often – a multistrand necklace of black glass and crystal beads.
Inspirational Beading: Do you have a favorite organization to donate to?
Laura: In the summer of 2011 I listened to a message based on Matthew 25 and the parable of the 10 talents. Before going away on a trip the master gave his servants his wealth to care for. To one he gave five talents, another two and the final one. When he returned they came back and presented his wealth and what they had done with it in his absence. At the end of the story the master states, “For whoever has, will be given more, and they will have an abundance.”
I looked around my life and was overwhelmed with how blessed I am with a great family and friends, a home, a job I love. It opened my heart to really see how many people in our own communities are struggling to feed their families. I had this great little hobby making jewelry, so why not use it to do something meaningful?
I’d had some success in selling my pieces but it wasn’t until we opened ourselves up to really giving back to our community that it took off. We’ve made a commitment to work equally with local and global agencies. In our community we support the Backpack Ministry that sends food home with students who otherwise would not have meals available on weekends, and we also support our local food bank. Globally, we’re currently working with two fabulous organizations – Jacaranda Kids in Kenya, and Mission Lazarus in Honduras.
You can see more of Laura’s creations, and learn about her commitments to creating change through jewelry at Strings for Hope, and browse designs in her shop Nashville Restrung.
Copyright 2012 Inspirational Beading and Laura Wilson
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