By Michelle Graff
This one-of-a-kind Green Sea Statement Torc necklace from Tara Hutchinson is made in sterling silver with 22- and 24-karat gold, Peruvian opal, unheated tanzanite and a piece of cactus cast in sterling silver (center pendant).

Scottsdale, Ariz.--A wounded warrior who was the recipient of the WJA’s second-ever Female Veteran Grant made her major trade show debut this week in the desert.

A native of Anchorage, Alaska who played army with her brother as a child, Tara Hutchinson served in the U.S. Army as a military police officer from 2000 to 2010.

On Valentine’s Day 2006, Hutchinson, then a young squad leader known to her fellow soldiers as “Sergeant Hutch,” was riding in the first of a line of Humvees traveling through Baghdad when her vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED) that had been spray painted to look like a concrete curb.

The IED detonated about five feet from the Humvee. Shrapnel from the bomb ripped a hole in the door the size of a grapefruit, blowing off Hutchinson’s right leg and causing blood loss so severe that her heart stopped for 20 minutes.

Her boot melted into the skin of her left leg, leaving her with a large, permanent scar just above her ankle.

Hutchinson, for a brief time, was dead but a medical team in Bagdad, led by Dr. Sam Mehta, brought her back to life, and she eventually recovered enough to return to the United States, to San Antonio Military Medical Center.

It was the beginning of what she described as a “really dark time in my life.”

On top of being disabled, the time her brain had been deprived of oxygen left her with tremors like those experienced by Parkinson’s sufferers; she was so shaky she was unable to even hold a fork well enough to feed herself.

Hutchinson speaks openly about her injuries and her recovery, even the parts that are the most difficult—drug addiction and experiencing depression over her loss of independence that was so deep it left her contemplating suicide more than once.

It was during this time that an occupational therapist suggested that finding an activity that involved using her fine motor skills might help her regain full function in her hands.

Despite having no experience in jewelry—Hutchinson admitted that she didn’t even own so much as a pair of earrings when she was in the Army—she picked it up as her trade, and found a reason to get up every morning, which helped lift the veil of depression.

“Because I know what it’s like to not feel beautiful, my mission is to make women feel like rock stars,” Hutchinson said. “And that truly is my life’s purpose.”

Hutchinson describes her jewelry as “structurally bold,” which goes a long way toward achieving her aforementioned rock-star goal while also serving another purpose, making women feel strong and protected by armor.

She likes to play with contrasting textures, noting that’s she’s particularly fond of pieces that are both “hard” and “soft,” and uses an ancient Korean gilding technique called Keum-boo in much of her work.

Though she sells online and has exhibited at smaller shows, Centurion was the first major fine jewelry trade show for Hutchinson, and she seemed to be doing just fine.

Buyers, including those from a few major stores in the Northeast, were placing orders for her work, remarking on how both the jewelry and her story were standouts in the industry.

In addition to her wholesale line, Hutchinson creates custom pieces.

Aside from a few of the chains she uses, she makes everything by hand in her San Antonio, Texas studio. She was the recipient of the Women’s Jewelry Association Female Veteran Grant  in 2016, and said she used the money to buy packaging from Stuller.

Anyone interested in seeing more of Hutchinson’s work can visit her website or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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