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Local jeweler April Hale had been vegetarian for more than 12 years when she ran over a squirrel with her car. Hale skinned and ate it. She has now taken her brush with road kill a step further by incorporating it into her jewelry. When Hale tells this story to others who are interested in her jewelry, displayed at tart in the Emerson Center, 111 S. Grand Ave., www.aprilhalejewelry.com and www.aprilmariehale.com, some people deem her actions as unacceptable.

But Hale’s actions came after a deep understanding of her relationship with the wilderness around her, something that she finds more acceptable and appropriate than the irresponsibility of leaving an animal for dead.

“It all comes down to environmental responsibility and we need to start doing more of it,” Hale said. “I wanted to thank the squirrel. I wanted to act reverently toward it. I wanted to say that it was more than just an accidental death, it was going to nourish me. I was taking responsibility for my actions and making sure to reuse what I had used.”

Hale’s circle of life attitude is quite a change from refusing to dissect a cat in high school. Now she believes humans can’t live on the top of the food chain and not know what is going on in the bottom. These ideas were born from a combination of her experiences – living on a radical food cooperative in Memphis, deep questions about death and living she had when she was only 16 and was going through cancer treatment, and the connection she has found within nature.

“I think everybody has a role in the earth,” Hale said. “As a species we have been so good at preserving our own that we are encroaching on others. People need to be more conscious of their consumption and waste and there is no better way I can show that to people by presenting it in something they can wear around their neck.”

Although Hale realizes that society may not by ready to wear a dead squirrel hide just yet, she passionately persists, using recycled materials such as barley, test tubes with animal parts, scrabble tiles, raccoon teeth, porcupine quills, etc. for conceptual design pieces she only exhibits in shows. And for the slightly more faint of heart, she has a line of contemporary jewelry made mostly of up-cycled metal and enameled glass at tart.

“I don’t make the conceptual adornments to sell,” Hale said. “I have always been morally concerned with selling the animals, it is more about my relationship with the animals and trying to push the envelope on what ideas we have in society about acceptable and not.”

The hand-made jewelry line Hale makes for those who don’t want to wear a chunky animal skulls around their neck, but still want to express the element of nature, is made from previously used materials. Hale buys copper roofing scrap from the Pacific Steel scrap yard, cuts them and sands them, then using the copper as the meat of a sandwich, piling on pieces of bread on both sides in way of enameling glass around it. The product is an organic-looking piece of precisely situated sea glass.

“When you choose to adorn yourself with something you acknowledge that it is a beautiful representation of yourself or what you stand for,” Hale said. “How wonderful is it when you know it is something that comes from this very earth? It connects us to the very ground we stand on and the surrounding animals. Because we breathe the same air and we are all really made out of the same stuff.”

Ali Everts is an avid art consumer who would love to hear your comments or suggestions. She may be reached at aeverts@dailychronicle.com or 582-2632.

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