The Women’s Jewelry Association has awarded its 2016 Female Veteran Grant to Tara Hutchinson of Tara Hutch Fine Jewelry, San Antonio, TX. This annual merit-based grant, offered with Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company, goes to a U.S. military veteran to use towards her professional growth within the jewelry and/or watch industries.
Hutchinson served a 10-year tour in the U.S. Army as a Military Police Officer, retiring as a Sergeant First Class. In 2006, an explosive device in Iraq severed her leg, also causing third-degree burns, permanent back injuries, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
She turned to jewelry to regain hand mobility, although her lack of dexterity made stringing a large wooden bead almost insurmountable. “Nonetheless, I’ve never been one to give up, and a stubborn need to succeed demanded I keep moving until I mastered this task,” she recounts. “This achievement ignited a spark for jewelry creation, and practically in a frenzy, I began teaching myself everything I could about the craft.”
Today, she uses many techniques, including forging, soldering, stone setting, chasing, fusing and patinas. She specializes in two finger rings, open-top rings, and jewelry that incorporates organic shapes. The jeweler also creates jewelry that caters to women with swollen knuckles, or who have difficulty opening and closing clasps.
“I am inspired by natural gemstones and those with a rough finish. I feel they are a good representation of myself, and what I want women to think about when they wear my work: rough around the edges and certainly not perfect, but still bearing something beautiful to give to the world.”
Hutchinson plans to use her grant to create custom packaging and displays. She is expanding her business into the wholesale market, and one of her longest enduring aspirations is to be featured in Sundance Catalog. The jeweler also aspires to use a portion of the sales of her jewelry to give back to charities that help others who have suffered and survived like her.
The WJA Female Veteran Grant is administered by the WJA Foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation. Applications were reviewed and the winner selected by WJA Foundation Veteran Grant Chair Isabel Cajulis, retailer account manager, JCK Tucson and JCK Las Vegas shows; Sheri Ihde, manager of industry relations and trade shows for Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company; and WJA Foundation President Lisa Slovis Mandel, owner of Lisa Slovis Metalsmithing.