By Deborah Burst | Photography courtesy of Naomi Celestin, owner of ReStrung Jewelry
From strumming guitars to the crafty karma of recycled strings, the beat lives on inside ReStrung Jewelry.
Sometimes life comes in full circle, from the passions of a child to the good deeds of an adult, and so does the story of Naomi Celestin and ReStrung Jewelry. She began making jewelry as a child, advanced to metalsmithing in college and continued crafting jewelry as a hobby in her career as an arts administrator.
“I thought making guitar string jewelry would simply be a fun side hustle,” Celestin explains. “I spent many nights at shows in New Orleans waiting for musicians to take breaks so I could ask them to save strings for me.”
Soon a partnership evolved, and the music community helped spread the word in donating used strings. In April 2012, sales took off when Celestin began selling her jewelry at The French Market in New Orleans. She developed a signature style with wirework and vintage gemstones, and soon was working every day to keep up with the weekend’s demand.
That’s when Celestin shut down her graphic design business and devoted her time and money in building the ReStrung brand. After growing up volunteering for several organizations and working over a decade for non-profits, she wanted to use her creative talents to help others.
“The NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) musicians seemed like the obvious place to start,” says Celestin adding that a portion of their profits goes to The New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation. “I’m also into ‘conscious shopping,’ so it was important that our materials sourcing was as ethically responsible as possible.”
In just six months, she was working 40 hours a week crafting the jewelry plus spending all weekend at the French Market. She hired Tara Rodgers as her first sales rep who still assists today in making the jewelry. Soon wholesale customers were interested along with festivals and markets; she hired stay-at-home moms along with musicians and performers who needed extra work in between shows.
“I knew I had a niche product that I truly loved creating, and a team of women that this little concept was supporting,” Celestin says proudly. “That’s always given me the fuel I needed to figure out how to keep things going, and I was fortunate to have several mentors along the way who encouraged me, gave advice and support.”
ReStrung is headquartered in New Orleans, but it also has a new satellite studio in Rincon, Puerto Rico. The first store/studio was in a renovated old firehouse in the New Orleans Marigny neighborhood. Now the team – comprised mostly of women – is working from home except for the sales reps.
Each piece has its own style, from the intricate hoop and dangling earrings to the delicate strung necklaces. But the best sellers are the gemstone bangles with polished guitar strings.
“I’ve made it a point to set ReStrung apart by working on my own signature style, the wire work, semi-precious stones, pieces I would wear myself,” she explains. “A woman who loves eclectic fashion, has a major case of wanderlust, goes to festivals and is interested in artisan products, culture, history, and of course music!”
Celestin does the custom work herself. It begins with an email conversation and continues from there. Several clients send strings of a loved one who has passed; it’s a special project that connects Celestin with the family member, hearing their stories about the person who owned the strings.
ReStrung receives string donations from musicians all over the world, and some of the packages include stories shared by the musicians. A few years ago, the president of Sfarzo Strings, one of the largest string manufacturers in the U.S., began donating a 10-12 pound box of used strings to ReStrung every month.
“That’s a lot of strings that would otherwise get scrapped, but for us it’s like getting a box of gold,” Celestin says enthusiastically. “And while we mostly use guitar strings these days, I still do custom work with mandolin, bass, violin, and even piano wire.”
Musicians continue to applaud ReStrung. Celestin recalls one such encounter with the late Dr. John, a New Orleans musician who was known across the country. She hoped the two could connect on an environmental project he had been working on. Wearing a green dress, she approached him, and Dr. John sang her praises in his signature slow, gravely voice. A moment Celestin remembers vividly.
“Naomi, you are green on every level, and green is your color. Ya see wit ReStrung you got dat eco-friendly green, you got style, like dat new and fresh kinda green and you got dat making money green – and dat’s all good.”
In the upcoming months, ReStrung will be launching new product lines that tie into its Louisiana and Caribbean connections, including more sustainably sourced materials, as well as a men’s collection and a signature line of one-of-a-kind pieces. A list of musicians who are part of the ReStrung family is on the company’s website.
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