WJA announces Female Veteran Grant winner

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The Women’s Jewelry Association (WJA) has awarded its 2016 Female Veteran Grant to Tara Hutchinson of Tara Hutch Fine Jewelry. Each year, the merit-based grant—which is offered in partnership with Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company—goes to a deserving U.S. military veteran working in the jewellery and watch industries.

Hutchinson served a ten-year tour in the U.S. Army. While she was deployed in Iraq, an explosive device severed her right leg, causing significant blood loss, a severe limb movement disorder, third-degree burns, permanent back injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Whilst working to recover from her injuries, an occupational therapist suggested that the veteran adopt a hobby to help with the movement disorder. From there, her work with—and love for—jewellery was born.

At first, Hutchinson’s dexterity was so compromised that stringing a large wooden bead onto a leather cord was almost insurmountable.

“I’ve never been one to give up, and a stubborn need to succeed demanded I keep moving until I mastered this task,” she says. “This achievement ignited a spark for jewellery creation, and practically in a frenzy, I began teaching myself everything I could about the craft. I gradually built a library of materials and techniques, and eventually my garage turned into a fully furnished jeweler’s studio. I began practicing all day, every day, and shockingly, within a year, my movement disorder had almost vanished!”

Hutchinson sells her jewellery through her website and social media, as well as at juried shows. She specializes in two finger rings, open-top rings, and jewellery that incorporates organic shapes. The jeweller also crafts pieces that cater to women with swollen knuckles, or those who have difficulty opening and closing clasps.

Hutchinson plans to use her grant to create custom packaging and displays. The jeweller also wants to use a portion of her sales to give back to charities that help other veterans.

“This business has truly given me the phoenix rising that helped me rediscover the ‘old’ Tara’s self-esteem and confidence,” says Hutchinson. “As each piece is created, I purposefully breathe this ethos into it, along with a pinch of courage, force of character, and self-confidence. I truly thrive on giving back the beauty the world has shown me, and reaching out to the people who have been in dark places like myself. I want to prove to them it’s possible to move on after a devastating injury and that believing in yourself will never fail you.”

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