GV alumna places top five in national jewelry competition

Alumna Emma Hoekstra sits in her studio. Hoekstra placed top five in the Halstead Grant competition because of the successes of her jewelry business. Courtesy  /  Emma Hoekstra

Alumna Emma Hoekstra sits in her studio. Hoekstra placed top five in the Halstead Grant competition because of the successes of her jewelry business. Courtesy  /  Emma Hoekstra

Arie Nienhuis

Over the years, Grand Valley State University has educated a variety of gifted and successful groups of alumni who attempt to flourish in their respective fields and succeed in their careers. Jeweler, metalsmith and GVSU alumna Emma Hoekstra is an example of this as she recently placed within the top five in the Halstead Grant competition, a prestigious competition for artists in Hoekstra’s field. 

The Halstead Grant is an annual competition and award for up-and-coming jewelry artists like Hoekstra and takes in a large number of applicants from around the United States. Hoekstra’s top five placement is an achievement that signifies both her high degree of skill as well as her drive to build her brand and gain a foothold in the industry.

“I’m very excited,” Hoekstra said. “I’ve known about my placement since a little before they announced it and it was hard not to tell anyone. People recognizing that I’m not just doing this as a craft and that this is my career and passion feels really good.”

Hoekstra said her journey as a jeweler and artist started from a young age when she would sell homemade pieces of jewelry door-to-door to friends in her neighborhood. From there forward, she held onto that entrepreneurial and artistic drive even through some very tragic moments.

“I was always meant to be an entrepreneur, it’s how my brain works” Hoekstra said. “Later, weeks before I started at GVSU, my boyfriend died in a car accident. Everything was turned upside down, and I didn’t know what to do. Later I was required to take a metalsmithing class, and I realized that it was my calling. I was grieving and metalsmithing helped me to work through my grief.”

Today, Hoekstra said she sees this period of her life as instrumental in shaping her into who she is today, both as an artist and as a person. Her career is thriving with many shows and openings planned for the future.

“I did my third jewelry show at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market,” Hoekstra said. “I also did my first big market at the Eastown Street Fair. That was really successful, and right now I’m anticipating Christmas, which should be really good for me.”

Hoekstra was taught by a number of faculty members at GVSU, notably professors Renee Zettle-Sterling and Beverly Seley, who she cited as critical influences on her education. These professors said they are immensely proud of Hoekstra, speaking highly on her drive and creativity.

“Emma was an outstanding student. She has always been dedicated to learning ideas and her craft,” Zettle-Sterline said. “One time she wanted to set a stone, and I didn’t exactly know how, so she just did it on her own. She is great at discovering her own way to do things.”

Hoekstra specifically pointed to Seley as an incredibly important figure in her life as a student, helping her to cultivate her craft and hone her skills. Seley, now retired, said she praises Emma’s passion and creativity. 

“Emma is one of the most ambitious and driven students I have had,” Seley said. “She embraced every opportunity to reach her goals… she’s smart, she’s talented, she’s passionate, she really has it all. I felt like I expected a lot from her, and she always did amazing.”

Hoekstra’s achievement in the Halstead Grant competition is an impressive and important step in her career and things only look positive from here on out. For those pursuing a career in the same field, she shared some advice.

“You just need to keep pushing forward,” Hoekstra said. “You need to be consistent, you need to create cohesion in everything. This is something you need to be patient with. Go one step at a time, and don’t get discouraged.”