Alumna awarded national grant for jewelry business


COURTESY \ Emma Hoekstra

Mary Racette, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Grand Valley State University alumna Emma Hoekstra was awarded the Halstead Grant, an achievement she said she has been working towards since the beginning of her education at GVSU.

Hoekstra graduated in December 2017 with a Bachelor of  Fine Arts with an emphasis in Metal and Jewelry Arts. In 2018, she started her jewelry business, Emma Elizabeth Jewelry.

After hearing professors talk about The Halstead Grant in class, Hoekstra was inspired to apply for the grant three years in a row. The Halstead Grant has been awarding $7,500 dollars to the grand prize winner for the last 14 years. 

Emma Elizabeth Jewelry sells one-of-a-kind pieces of silver jewelry which reflect the skills she gained through her GVSU education.

President of the Halstead Grant Hilary Scott said, “Emma really hit it out of the park in terms of an artistic vision that adds cohesion to her collection of jewelry.”

Scott said the content in Hoekstra’s design portfolio was “beautifully executed and all identifiable as Emma Elizabeth Jewelry.”

After transferring to GVSU from community college, Hoekstra enrolled in Introduction to Jewelry and Metalsmithing. There, Professor Renee Zettle-Sterling was one of the first professors to make an impact on Hoekstra. She said Zettle-Sterling gave her the freedom to be creative and explore the field. Zettle-Sterling helped Hoeskra see her potential which eventually led to Hoekstra changing her fine arts emphasis from sculpture to metals.

Another GVSU faculty member Hoektra mentioned as a key element to her education was Beverly Seley. Hoekstra said she feels like she owes much of her growth to Seley because of the way she always challenged her to take her art to the next level. 

During her time at GVSU, Hoekstra took advantage of the study abroad services at Padnos hall by working closely with advisers to help her find the right program for her. She found a program, not led by GVSU, that allowed her to study metal and jewelry techniques in Florence, Italy. She said she valued this experience because while she was not making pieces, she was able to learn and observe. 

“I was taught a lot of different life skills and learned how to handle certain things as a businesswoman because of my education,” Hoekstra said.

Hoekstra first applied for the Halstead grant in 2017, while she was still a GVSU student. In 2018 she applied again and placed in the top five. She said that even though she may have never verbalized it, the grant was always something she was working towards. 

Along with the money, Hoekstra acquired business techniques through the Halstead Grant’s application process. Applicants are asked to send in a design portfolio and answer 15 questions about their business plan. Each portion of the application was weighted equally. 

“All of our grant alumni are much better prepared to be independent artists after experiencing our application process,” Scott said. “Regardless of the outcome of the competition, it helps them be successful with their small business.”

Hoekstra said the application process helped her grow as a businesswoman. She said she found the application questions very difficult at first, however, after three years of applying and learning, she was able to hone her skills. 

“It means a lot because I don’t think that I would be where I am today without applying for that grant,” Hoekstra said.

Hoekstra said she plans on being smart with the grant money, and she will likely use it on her first trade show and equipment to help her weld jewelry quicker.