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Alumna wins grant to advance jewelry business

  • woman standing in booth at trade show
  • woman making a piece of jewelry with face mask on
  • woman standing creating jewelry

Posted on October 03, 2019

Grand Valley alumna Emma Hoesktra, founder of Emma Elizabeth Jewelry, was named winner of the Halstead Grant, given to an emerging jewelry business.

Halstead Bead, a family-owned jewelry supplier, supports jewelry businesses that have been in operation for three years or less. 

As a grant recipient, Hoekstra received $7,500 to put toward her business, $1,000 in jewelry supplies and a trip to Arizona to visit Halstead's headquarters. Hoekstra will also be featured in a publication sent to art galleries, and in the company's 2020 catalog. 

Hoekstra first applied for the grant in 2017, the year she graduated with a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Grand Valley. She applied again in 2018 and placed in the top five, winning $500. 

She said the grant encourages artists to grow.

“You know that they want to see change from year to year,” Hoekstra said. “It pushes you to get creative and really figure out a strategic business plan.”

Hoekstra knew she wanted to pursue jewelry making when she realized how much it helped her through the grieving process. Right before she transferred to Grand Valley from Grand Rapids Community College in 2014, Hoekstra’s boyfriend died. 

“My life had been altered from what I thought it was going to be,” she said. “In my jewelry making class I was able to pour my grief into my art, making pieces in memory of Evan. It was a very healing process for me.”

Hoekstra also had the opportunity to study in Florence, Italy, through Grand Valley’s study abroad program. She expanded her knowledge of gems, stonesetting and designing jewelry.

Her jewelry-making style started out as pieces inspired by Victorian women who were in mourning. She moved to jewelry that resembled protection to shield herself when she was feeling vulnerable, and now said she wants to make jewelry that makes people feel resilient and bold.

“This is what I went through, this is my story, and I want to embrace it,” Hoekstra said. “So now my jewelry is more to make the person who wears it feel confident with who they are and with their story.”

Hoekstra’s jewelry shop can be found online at emmaelizabethjewelry.com.

-- written by student writer Olivia Conaty