From Hobby To Business: Putnam 12-Year-Old Crafts Upcycled Jewelry

MAHOPAC, N.Y. --- Chance Figueroa has a desk filled with gemstones, beads, geodes, and shells. But instead of just keeping them to look at now and again, this 12-year-old Mahopac resident is making jewelry and selling it at area vendors under the company name ChancesR4U.

Twelve-year-old Mahopac resident Chance Figueroa has been creating jewelry since 2014.
Twelve-year-old Mahopac resident Chance Figueroa has been creating jewelry since 2014. Photo Credit: Submitted
Mahopac resident Chance Figueroa is known for his Tree of Life jewelry.
Mahopac resident Chance Figueroa is known for his Tree of Life jewelry. Photo Credit: Submitted

So far, he has quite a following. His work has been sold at Peekskill's PranaMoon’s annual holiday craft event, are on consignment at Judy’s Bungalow in Cold Spring, at Harvest Moon in North Salem, and, hopefully, at more locations to come. 

He recently showed his pieces to the manager at the Museum of Natural History’s gift shop and she loved them. So -- fingers (and toes!) crossed -- that could turn into something.

Figueroa said he got interested in jewelry making in 2014 while on a winter vacation in Englewood, FL to see his grandmother. There, he and his family spent a lot of time on the beach time looking for fossilized sharks teeth.

Wiring these fossilized shark teeth for necklaces, earrings, and so on is commonplace there, explained Figueroa, and so, after a brief demonstration on wiring from a local artisan, he started making his own.

At first, he was just doing shark teeth but then, when in Newburgh one day, he met a local artisan who had several pieces of wirework jewelry including the Tree of Life with stones woven through the branches. 

"I was very interested in learning how to do this work and so, I spoke with the artist and she gave me lots of advice and sites to visit for tutorials," said Figueroa.

His first Tree of Life pendant was completed later that day and has evolved ever since. Figueroa describes his jewelry as a form of upcycling. Much of the wires he uses are acquired through materials found in old TVs or circuit breakers, plumbing lines, and so on.

He uses the wires to create many designs and patterns, but his specialty is the Tree of Life in various forms. Some have plain branches while others are woven with semi-precious stone chips or jeweler cut gemstones.

Figueroa said he gets his inspiration from nature -- he even has a tree house he likes to hang out in where, in warm weather, he likes to make his jewelry. 

Knowing he's young and has more to learn, he said he enjoys seeing what other artists are doing and speaking with them about their techniques. "My mother arranged for me to learn from a few artists who do wirework and have been a big help to me," he said.

And, he turns to that desk of his -- which also contains special carved wooden bowls, metal bowls, and anything else that he finds in his travels -- for inspiration.

"I really like to pay attention to the detail of handcrafts from different cultures and art styles," he said.

The jewelry, he notes, is meant to appeal to women, men and kids. The women tend to buy the pieces that are woven with gemstones, while the men are attracted to the plainer trees on leather cording. 

Prices range from $15 to $150 per piece with the average  -- a Tree of Life made from copper wire and high-quality gemstone chip beads  -- at $35.

The fact that he's homeschooled, he said, has helped a lot. Said Figueroa: "It's an excellent way to learn about business, budgeting, marketing, costs, supplies and growth for the future."

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