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What A Gem

Her upcycled jewelry can help you make a dramatic entrance.

by Melanie McGee Bianchi . photos by Matt Rose

To say that Amber Hatchett’s necklaces make a statement would be—well, an understatement. They grab attention like an emergency broadcast, although their tone is decidedly less serious. One stunner of a piece—a half-dozen old wristwatches braided into a thick, vintage rope chain—is whimsically titled “Time Won’t Let Me Go.” But in fact, as time goes on, Hatchett’s star seems to keep rising.

She recently became the personal jewelry designer for Asheville-based actress Ann Mahoney, cast alongside A-listers Jaime King and Rachel Bilson in CW’s fall show Hart of Dixie. Earlier this summer, the self-taught artist stood in an interminable line on a hot New York City sidewalk to present her pieces at the audition for Project Accessory, a spin-off of the reality-TV hit Project Runway. She passed harsh preliminary judging with a panel of fashion insiders, including Handbag Designer 101 founder Emily Blumenthal Klibansky, and was turned away just before the final round. “I’ve only been doing this for two years, and they said I had some room to grow,” says Hatchett, a 31-year-old native of Newton, North Carolina, who speaks in a sing-songy foothills lilt. One hopeful note: the judges kept her portfolio on file for a hinted-at future Project series showcasing upcycled designer lines.

“Re-fashionistas” are among the hottest couture creatures on and off the runway, their rise commensurate with the economy’s fall. Recyclers, upcyclers, trashionistas—whatever you call them, they’re all the more en vogue as environmental consciousness blooms in all areas. On her own turf, Hatchett’s necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings are worn by Asheville “it” designer Brooke Priddy and promoter/merchandiser Sonia Hendrix. Her jewelry took center stage at The Benefit of Culture, an outreach fundraiser sponsored by Lake Eden Arts Festival in June.

But when Hatchett scours estate sales for old baubles, sculpting the discarded elements anew into bold, drapey jewelry, she’s no different than any creative mountain woman who might share the stories of her forebears or keep a multi-generational business running fresh. Her grandmother taught college art classes, and her mother, Darlene Hatchett of Hatchett Designs, is a well-known maker of salvaged-wood furniture and wall pieces made of recycled materials. The elder Hatchett takes a savvy approach to eco-chic, staging weddings and other elegant events. Darlene has also gotten lucky this fall and will have one of her designs, a map of the U.S. made of recycled denim, appear in all four of American Eagle’s New York City stores, as well as in their national back-to-school ad campaigns.

Immersed in her own transformative projects, Amber Hatchett seems modest: “I’m just spawning off my mom’s creative mind,” she says. She says she was raised on “out-of-the-box thinking.” Both Hatchetts, who share a studio space, displayed their wares at last month’s Big Crafty event. But in many ways, their work couldn’t be more different. Amber’s latest line consists of edgy, military-inspired neckpieces. She uses recycled bullet casings to make a lone, tasseled slug dangling from a chain, or ammo that forms a dramatic shield.

All this grit and flash rises in charming opposition to the artist’s feminine, understated demeanor. “I think Asheville definitely has a quirky street style,” she ventures. “My pieces go well with that. They’re for anyone who’s wanting to stand out just a little bit.”

For info and to see more work, check out www.amberhatchettdesigns.com.

Join VERVE for a trunk show and meet-the-artist party with Amber Hatchett at Hip Replacements in downtown Asheville. Hatchett will debut a line of edgy, military-inspired jewelry. Beer, wine and light bites. 5-8pm, August 9. Hip Replacements, 72 N. Lexington Avenue.

Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 at 03:21PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

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