By Rachel Gibson | email@example.com
Artists near and far join together in sparking creativity to pursue their passions, a culture that is prominent in St. Augustine, Florida. Art walks, pop up events, exhibits and much more make it onto the monthly calendar in St. Augustine’s growing and innovative community.
Shyla Macaluso, 20, began wire wrapping in October of 2018 and has been able to make a living out of it while attending college.
“Where I come from in New York there isn’t any live music, local art, or farmers markets,” Macaluso said. “I’ve always been obsessed with handmade jewelry and art but never got to see much when I was younger.”
In downtown St. Augustine, Aviles Street hosts art walks on the first Friday of every month. The nations oldest street has also been declared as St. Augustine’s original art district, with gallery spaces, live music and of course, the Friday art walks.
Macaluso has attended the art walks and local pop up art shows, such as ‘Girl Gang STA’. This is a St. Augustine based empowerment group that supports females and their craft.
“It’s an awesome way to get my name out and meet other artists,” she said.
When she began wire wrapping, Macaluso learned from the many tutorials on YouTube and was able to freestyle and develop her own style over time.
In the beginning, she was only creating necklaces for herself. Family and friends convinced her to start posting and sharing her pieces on social media, where she then created her Instagram page @island_soul_designs, and Etsy page ‘WireWrapsByShyla.’
“Word of mouth and social media has helped my business in so many ways,” she said.
The process of wire wrapping itself can be very tedious and require a lot of patience, she expressed. Various techniques and designs can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over four hours to create. Materials, such as the wire, vary in gauge size and thickness as well as coating.
“My favorite wire to wrap with is copper because of the rustic look it gets,” she said. “My favorite things to wire wrap is anything blue. Especially the stone, larimar, because of the resemblance of tropic waters.”
She purchases stones and crystals online, from all around the world or in stores where she has traveled to. Prices vary from $1 to $30. Factoring in the price of the stone, and the time it took to wrap is how she determines the price of the piece.
“The goal at some point is to travel to some mines around the world and find my own crystals,” she said. “I love the reaction I get when people ask where I got my necklace from, and I tell them I made it. I’ve gotten multiple clients just by wearing my own jewelry out, so I always keep business cards on me.”
The spike in her business gave her the opportunity to leave her job a few months back. She explains that she was making at least triple her rent from sales. Quitting her job has allowed her to spend more time on her business and on creating a lot more pieces.
“I was inspired to make my own jewelry with things I’d find on the beach,” she said. “I grew up 4 hours from the beach my whole life before I came to Flagler, and now that I’m living by the beach, I can see the environmental impact that we’re making on the earth.”
As both a business and environmental science major at Flagler College, her mission is to help change the ways in which we leave our mark on the planet.
Sea glass is often regarded as beautiful; however, it serves as a constant reminder of the pollution we have brought to our oceans.
It was once common for communities to empty trash into the ocean. In our world today, we know all too well how plastic does not break down like glass, and in return our ecosystems are declining rapidly.
Macaluso has started a project to help raise money and awareness for ocean conservation and research by dedicating 25 percent of all her shark teeth and sea glass pieces sold to the cause.
“Hopefully when people are wearing my jewelry it will inspire them to make small changes and pick something off the ground when they would typically walk over it,” she said.
Some believe in the powers and properties that a certain stone or crystal may exhibit. This is a pseudoscientific alternative medicine technique that certain individuals live by, and this belief has grown exponentially in since its first bloom in the 1970s.
“I’ve always felt a comforting and relaxing feeling when I have a specific stone around my neck and feel lost if I’m not wearing it,” she said. “I find wire wrapping very therapeutic and soothing during the process. I bring wire and pliers almost everywhere with me so I can create a piece whenever I feel like it.”
Macaluso is unsure of where her business will go next, but she enjoys sharing her art with customers and other artists like her. The impact she has had on the environment and in people’s lives motivates her to continue.
“I’m fully dedicated to spending every day creating new pieces, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”