Used guitar strings help women in recovery

Editor’s note: During each Chips Quinn orientation and multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn., scholars are required to complete a mobile media reporting module, which includes producing videos and reporting and writing stories. Their work is displayed here.

by Tomas Rodriguez

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Shay Law sets up a 3-foot wooden stand on one of the busiest streets in Nashville. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., she sells bracelets, necklaces and rings made from used guitar strings.

The wearable art has a simple design. Law and other jewelry-makers wrap and shape the copper or steel strings to fit someone’s wrist, neck or finger. Some pieces have a small metal band attached to them that reads “Nashville.”

Law works for Strings for Hope, a non-profit organization that helps women from transitional programs earn money by making the jewelry from old and broken strings that would otherwise end up in the trash.

Shay Law has staffed a cart owned by Strings of Hope in Nashville, Tenn., for three months and says she takes pride in knowing that through her job she is helping women in recovery from substance abuse. (Photo by Tomas Rodriguez)

“Strings for Hope currently works with two women’s halfway houses,” Law says. “They make these bracelets, and we compensate them for it. We also partner with other organizations to raise money for hospitals, food and schools here in Tennessee.”

Local boutiques sell the jewelry, but Law is the only vendor with a stand that sells the jewelry to passersby on the streets. Law sets up shop on lower Broadway between Second and Third avenues, a downtown area surrounded by bars, restaurants and boot stores.

The organization gets the strings from local guitar shops and musicians who play in the bars and streets. When their guitar strings break, they walk over to Law’s stand and hand her the strings.

The bracelets sell for $22 dollars apiece, and rings cost $11. Some people leave after hearing the price, but Law tells them that the profits help women who are recovering from drug addictions.

Most often, their reaction is positive, Law says. “People say it’s for a good cause and that [the art] is really pretty. [The] women make $5 for each bracelet, and the rest of it gets puts back into the organization to be distributed along the other organizations that we partner with to raise money,” she adds.

Shay Law, who sells jewelry in downtown Nashville, Tenn., from a street cart, helps tourists try on bracelets fashioned from guitar strings in May. (Photo by Tomas Rodriguez)

Law applied for the position after seeing it advertised on Craigslist. She wants to become a tattoo artist, but she appreciates her current job of being able to work and help women at the same time.

“It makes the feeling of making money that much better, because knowing that I’m also helping people is a great feeling,” Law says. The work can be unpleasant sometimes “because the weather is not the greatest, but I push through,” she says.

Strings for Hope currently partners with two local drug addiction centers in Nashville, Mending Hearts and The Next Door, which help women with housing, treatment and family services.

Nashville is known for its country music, and Strings for Hope offers a way for tourists who visit the Broadway area to take home a piece of a guitar while helping women in need.

“The people love it,” Law says. “People who come here from other countries, other states, love the idea of having a souvenir that incorporates what Nashville is about. We are helping a lot of people by taking the heart of Nashville and making it into a piece of jewelry.”

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