In a tiny studio housed in an old grain elevator in Missoula, April Hale creates earthy yet elegant jewelry inspired by the natural world. Vibrant blue enamel evokes droplets of water. Delicate brass and silver discs form buttercups, and hammered silver ovals mimic willow leaves. In her words, “Rather than replicate what I see, I distill the natural forms to their essence, interpreting them in a new way.” Designed not only to reflect nature but also to protect it, each piece of jewelry that April makes contains a minimum of 50% re-used and recycled materials. Materials like roofing copper and baling wire are transformed from their utilitarian and rather clunky origins into finely crafted yet sturdy wearable art.
Growing up in Tennessee, April was always drawn to nature, art, and craft. She studied at the Appalachian Center for Craft and then received a Masters of Fine Art from Montana State University with an emphasis in metalsmithing. Upon moving to Montana in 2007, she discovered a deep love of the wildness of the landscape, and she has endeavored to leave as light a footprint on it as possible. She meticulously researches sources for ethically sourced and/or recycled silver and experiments with different re-usable materials.
Using hammers handmade by a blacksmith friend, a torch, and a few other well-loved tools, April transforms castoffs and scraps into funky yet refined jewelry. Her pieces are the kind of thing you find yourself reaching for every day. My current favorite is a set of stacking rings made from baling wire, with a pop of bright silver in the middle. In her work the soft, muted palette of steel, silver, and copper is often offset by vivid enameling. Enamel is a fascinating transformational process. Dull powdered glass is dusted on a piece of copper or steel, put in a blazingly hot kiln. The powder transforms into a lustrous, durable finish loaded with saturated color.
More comfortable outdoors than in, April loves to bird watch, hike, and ski. Her sketchbook is full of animals, plants, and jewelry designs, all intertwined. She is in the process of moving her studio to Florence, Montana to be closer to her home in the woods near Lolo, about 11 miles from Missoula. April is a great example of a modern Montana artist: taking inspiration from the wilderness around her and using it to create wearable art, while crafting a scrappy yet successful, sustainable small business.