Forever Plants

Amber Hatchett’s tile- and metal-derived decorative greenery is the latest example of what the celebrated designer can do with salvaged material. Photo by Matt Rose
Amber Hatchett’s tile- and metal-derived decorative greenery is the latest example of what the celebrated designer can do with salvaged material. Photo by Matt Rose

She’s a jewelry designer who grew bored with what she calls “the whole natural-gemstones thing.” Raised in tiny Newton, NC, by an assemblage-artist mother and a grandmother who taught crafts at the local college and brought her along to estate sales, Amber Hatchett was immersed in eclectic materials early on.

“I realize that what surrounded me while I was growing up will be part of my design life forever … I know what I like and when I see it, I get chills.”

An upcycler extraordinaire, Hatchett answers to no one but herself when she’s “in the zone” creating her one-of-a-kind statement pieces. Energized by the interplay between antique and contemporary influences, she’s made bold statement jewelry from discarded honor medals, vintage costume jewelry, rosaries, cameos, coins, keepsakes — even bullet casings.

Her move to Asheville 11 years ago collided with the launch of Asheville’s “Go Local” movement, and she found the supportive community a boon to her work. “It’s really a ‘right time, right place’ thing,” she says. “I lived above Malaprop’s and woke up hearing busker Bobby Sax right outside my window. I entered a period of growth.”

Amber Hatchett’s “forever plants” require no green thumb. Photo by Matt Rose
Amber Hatchett’s “forever plants” require no green thumb. Photo by Matt Rose

Since then, Hatchett has racked up numerous accolades, including the “Groundbreaker in Jewelry” award at 2011’s local HATCHFest Fashion event. Her pieces were paired with Liz White’s bridal couture on the runway at Charleston Fashion Week. Then there’s the photo shoot she recently executed with a crack local team, including L’Optique Eyewear, as an homage to nonagenarian fashion maven and accessories guru Iris Apfel, never seen without her trademark huge, round spectacles. Invision, a national industry magazine for eye-care professionals, printed the spread.

Hatchett collects her raw material from antique shops, thrift stores, and salvage yards and imbues them with her trademark yin-yang sensibility: mixed metals, matte and polished finishes, and fine materials coupled with rough bits (for instance, sterling silver with bone fragments). Her new collection features Native American-inspired ceramic and wooden beads, taxidermic elements, and buffalo teeth. She made one dramatic, “tribally influenced” piece of body jewelry with a central chain, a shorter necklace, and a bottom chain that goes around the back and waist.

Hatchett keeps moving. Her latest project, concurrent with the launch of her new studio, has edged into the home-décor realm. These pieces, named “forever plants” by her vintage-vendor friend Misha Gil — and intended for those with perhaps no time or inclination to keep indoor greenery alive — are fashioned from a deconstructed storage building’s tin-roof remnants. As usual, Hatchett spied design in the fine details: “The tiles have a snake-scale pattern, and are marked with wonderful black and rust tones, tar spots, and nail holes,” she explains. “I saw monkey grass on a nature walk, which inspired me to make tin ‘leaves’ and put them in differently shaped weathered wood bases.”

Hatchett is busy settling into her new space at Engaged Asheville, an artist’s collective in Woodfin’s Reynolds Village — and that’s on top of dreaming up new collections, holding pop-up shops, and working with clients. Her mission undergirds the success of everything else. “My work is all about originality, sustainability, texture, and honoring the beauty in many things.”

Engaged Asheville is located at 41 North Merrimon Ave., Suite 107. For more information about Amber Hatchett, see amberhatchettdesigns.com.

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