From Soldier to Designer (Tara Hutch Designs Q&A)

If you read our blog post from last month, you might’ve seen a not-so subtle ‘hint’ about a new line that we will be carrying very soon! Introducing Tara Hutch Designs.

Tara describes her designs as fine jewelry with an urban feel. She fabricates her jewelry with blackened silver and high karat gold, a process called Kuem Boo. She also uses semi-precious and precious stones to create her look.

As a young adult, Tara had no real strategy on what she wanted to do with her life so she began basic training. At the young age of 23, she enlisted and six years later, she led a squad during a deployment in Iraq. It was Valentine’s Day of 2006 and it’s a day she’ll likely remember forever.

Tara and her group were on their way to the police station when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device that detonated directly outside her door. The blast was incredibly powerful, and the shrapnel that ripped into her truck impacted her forever.

As a result, Tara’s right leg was instantly amputated at mid-thigh causing her to bleed out and her heart to stop for 20 minutes. Part of her brain then died, leaving her with a Parkinson’s-like movement disorder.

This is just the beginning of her story. Read the rest in our Q&A with Tara Hutch Designs, a remarkable Army Veteran amputee who hopes to make women feel like rockstars:

1. What made you interested in pursuing jewelry as a hobby?

I was a very unpleasant person for two to three years after my injury. My occupational therapist was attempting to help me work through my disability and find enjoyment in life beyond the Army. She suggested that a hobby using my fine motor skills might eventually help gain control of my hands and help my jerky movements smooth out. I was never interested in starting jewelry as a hobby, but on a whim, I decided to try it.

2. How did you learn how to make jewelry?

I was in a state of severe depression remaining in bed for almost two years after the injury. Because of my reluctance to leave the house, I had plenty of time to study. I took that time to learn everything about the craft of jewelry fabrication and owning my own business. I purchased every book and magazine I could find and watched a lot of YouTube videos on making jewelry. I still have quite a library!

3. In what way did jewelry help your body heal from your injuries?

After a year of practicing my craft, I realized that my hands were much more controlled. This spurred me on to try even harder. I remember thinking how much this activity helped my mind calm down and eased my way into recovery from my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which manifested as night terrors, agoraphobia, aversion to things I used to enjoy, severe depression and suicide idealizations (among other things). Most importantly, it gave me hope… something to look forward to.

Tara Hutch Designs unique jewelry is now available at Josephs Jewelers in West Des Moines
Oxidized Sterling Silver Square Shank Ring with Random Gold Dots – Available at Josephs West Des Moines Location.

4. What’s your favorite type of jewelry to design?

I absolutely love to create rings. Sometimes I will make a ring that I am in LOVE with, and I will realize when it’s almost finished that it happens to be my size (size 9.5)! Since I try to start all of my rings at a size 7, there is no way this is accidental.

5. Do you have a favorite technique?

My favorite technique is Kuem Boo. It is an ancient Korean gilding technique used to apply thin sheets of gold to silver, to make silver-gilt. Traditionally, this technique is accomplished by first depleting a surface of sterling silver to bring up a thin layer of fine silver. I think it’s magical, because I start out with a piece of silver, and end with a piece that has gold bonded to it.

6. Tell us about your creative process.

I start each new collection by scouring through my Pinterest boards of historical jewelry and begin researching seasonal trends. Then I create a theme for the collection and start sketching. I also like to go through the gemstones I have on hand to further develop my collection. My goal is to create timeless jewelry, so pieces I make now can easily be worn with pieces I make in the future.

7. Where do you draw inspiration from when you design jewelry?

I find the asymmetry and vivid colors of organic objects stimulating. I mainly draw my inspiration from the imperfections of nature, in addition to other artists.

8. What’s the first piece of jewelry that you ever made?

When I first started making jewelry, I remember reading books and thinking, ”If Joanna Goldberg and Alex Sepkus can create jewelry like this, so can I!”, not understanding how many years of training and practice they obviously had. Taking this into account, my first piece was an elaborate pendant that took me weeks to finish. It involved a large cast pewter festoon with multiple points of attachments underneath. For some reason I thought it would be better if I also wire wrapped shells to the festoon. I used thousands of seed beads and made the largest fringe in the history of the world (it probably had a 16” drop), and ended it by attaching glass beads to the bottom of each fringe. Then I made earrings to match.

>> Click here to browse our selection of Tara’s jewelry.

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