There are many paths to finding the right career. Most are predictable, but sometimes the path becomes clear only through adversity. Richard Branson, whose net worth of $4.9 billion makes him nearly 10 times wealthier than Queen Elizabeth II, dropped out of school at 17 to start a newspaper. Although he loved journalism, keeping the paper afloat required him to stop writing and focus on production and financing instead. His deep commitment to the paper ensured the development of his then fledgling business skills helping him become a world renowned business man.
Tara Hutchinson can relate. Growing up in Anchorage Alaska, she never considered going into jewelry design. In fact her passion took her in totally different direction: a military police officer in the Army. For nearly 10 years Tara helped train the Iraqi police officers on protocol, weapons use and the basics of how to be an officer. But in 2006, on Valentine’s Day, her entire life changed. Traveling by vehicle to get an interpreter in Baghdad, Tara’s truck was bombed, leaving her fighting for her life.
“Everything went into slow motion,” she recalls, “as shrapnel from the blast instantly severed my right leg above the knee. I was bleeding profusely as they transported me back to the safe zone. My heart was without a heartbeat for almost 20 minutes.”
When she woke three days later the doctors realized she’d suffered partial brain damage due to the lengthy lack of heartbeat and would suffer symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s Disease.
“This was the beginning of a very long, dark place for me. I couldn’t even hold a fork to feed myself. Recovery included numerous surgeries, excruciating pain and overcoming painkiller addiction and flashback nightmares. I battled extreme depression. I had no hope.”
Not until an occupational therapist suggested Tara find a hobby that used her fine motor skills did she even think about jewelry. Starting with bead stringing, she worked for months to be able to thread a wooden bead on a piece of rope. Refusing to give up she continued working on her fine motor skills. A year later her movement disorder was nearly invisible.
Working with beads prompted her to try jewelry design. Although she wasn’t much of a jewelry girl, she knew and loved beautiful things even though it had taken a long time for Tara to feel feminine again. That’s when her “hobby turned into an insatiable passion.”
Finding healing – both physical and mental – in jewelry creation landed Tara on her career path and she hoped her jewelry would help her clients feel beautiful inside and out too. She wanted to share a token of her recovery with other women. She started slowly making necklaces and bracelets and began to purchase every jewelry-making and design book she could find. Soon she remodeled her garage into a design studio complete with the tools and space to make anything her mind could dream.
In 2010 she opened for business selling exclusively on the internet at tarahutchjewelry.com. Using only precious metals and natural gemstones, Tara’s designs are contemporary and edgy and engaging, drawing the wearer in.
Recently she’s started a collection to honor the lives of the 160 fallen female military members since 9/11. Called the In Memoriam Collection, Tara is tracking down the families of 10 female military members killed in duty to create one-of-a-kind pieces representing their lives and memories. Collecting information like birthstones, favorite colors, even nicknames helps her visualize the women as she strives to create each piece to be so “distinctive to the extent it seems as if it was created for her by her.”
Tara credits her new career in jewelry with helping her through the healing process – both physical and mental. Her designs are contemporary and edgy.
To fund raw materials and labor costs for these 10 projects Tara is accepting donations. Once completed, she hopes to tour the pieces across the country culminating in an exhibit at San Antonio’s Witte Museum for Veteran’s Day 2017. Then the finished pieces “will be donated to the mourning families to honor the ultimate sacrifice every woman and their family members made.”
To contribute to this worthy project simply e-mail Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 210-843-5996. And be sure to visit her website tarahutchjewelry.com for more information about Tara and her jewelry collections.
Three of the 10 women for the In Memoriam Collection:
- Emily Perez, Fort Hood, Texas, killed Sept. 12, 2006 near Najaf, Iraq by a makeshift bomb that exploded near her Humvee during combat operations. She was 23 years old.
- Amy Renee Bullock Sinkler, Chadbourn, North Carolina, killed Jan. 20, 2011 in Baghlan province, Afghanistan of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked her unit with a rocket-propelled grenade. She was 23 years old.
- Nichole Marie Frye, Lena, Wisconsin, killed Feb. 16, 2004 in Baqubah, Iraq when an improvised explosive device struck her convoy. She was 20 years old.