TORCHBEARERS

From the editor: There’s something beautiful about creativity that makes you think. That’s why we love (understatement of the year) this beautiful story from the Gulf Coast and the tiny oyster town of Apalachicola and the Kickstarter that’s investing in the community.

What seems to be, at first blush, some really amazing jewelry, is truly a tribute to the hardworking men and women who’ve dedicated themselves to the Gulf Coast oyster. I'll let one of the Kickstarter organizers, Terry Strickland, take it from here:

Oyster Tong Necklace - Torchbearers

I'll never forget the first time I visited Apalachicola. I was there to report on a fancy, "table-to-farm" dinner hosted by a well-known celebrity chef. The crowd — filled with bankers and technology execs from as far away as Chicago and Boston — had come to Apalachicola, ostensibly, to learn about the plight of one of America's great oyster fisheries — but, mostly, they were there for the food. Before the meal, while the diners cackled over wine and hors d'oeuvres, the oysterman whose family was hosting the event stepped up on a wooden box to address the crowd. He told them about his family's history in Apalach — a story that spanned four generation. He described how years of drought, a battle over water rights, and, finally, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, had decimated the industry — wiping out 90 percent of the jobs in a town where many people know no other way of life but oystering. As he spoke, a tear trickled down from behind his dark sunglasses. No one else seemed to notice, but, at that moment, I fell in love with this place — with its deeply rooted traditions and deeply feeling people — and I decided to do what I could to preserve it.

Fast forward two years, and I met Ashley Porter — a talented young designer from New Orleans whose Porter Lyons jewelry brand was founded on the idea of preserving the cultural traditions of her adopted home. Ashley is passionate about the working waterfronts of the Gulf Coast. Her new Torchbearers Collection, which is now live on Kickstarter, is a testament to this fact. Each piece in the collection is made from raw materials hand-forged by traditional craftsman Rodney Richards, of Apalachicola. Richards, a second-generation marine blacksmith, makes the "oyster tongs" that are used to scoop Apalachicola's famous bivalves from the bottom of its namesake bay. His ancestral trade, and the entire way of life it supports, are in danger of slipping into oblivion. We don't want that to happen. By making jewelry that tells the story of this special place and its people, we hope to raise awareness about their plight, preserve a piece of maritime culture that might otherwise slip away, and conserve the environment that sustains it all. We hope you'll join us.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing more about, Apalachicola,  its community and this vibrant intersection of food, craft and design.