Q&A: Abbie Chesney Tells Us Why She's Obsessed With Broken Guitar Strings

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Using a combination of hope, creativity and instrument strings, Abbie Chesney is reaching out to the local music scene for help with a jewelry project she's calling Eye on the Sparrow Designs.

The whole idea started in response to the death of her close friend and musician Carter Albrecht. Chesney, a music fan herself, started using donated broken strings and instruments from local musicians and turning those worn items into pieces of jewelry. Relating directly to her day job as an eating disorder therapist, she offers her pieces to interested parties in three different sizes: chunky, thick and slim. And a portion of the proceeds go back into the music community as well, as donations to the Carter Albrecht Music Foundation.

We caught up with Chesney to talk about Eye on the Sparrow Designs, the inspiration behind it, and where she hopes to take it.

What does "Eye on the Sparrow" mean, and how did you come up with that name?
The name came from the idea of the sparrow originally. [Carter] fronted a band a while back that was called Sparrows. Ryann [Rathbone], his girlfriend, had drawn out four sparrow drawings, and after he died and we found them and thought "These are great."

In the process of grieving over Carter, I went out and bought a horse named Sparrow. In the horse riding I do, you come up with a horse show name and, so, when I was trying to think of a name for Sparrow, I came up with "Keep your eye on the sparrow"--so that's where the Eye on the Sparrows designs originated.

As a quick refresher, what is the Carter Albrecht Music Foundation?
Carter's foundation has been set up to basically try and do the things Carter wanted done in the music community. He was a huge fan of getting the Dallas music scene together and to get it known. The foundation does a lot of things to promote musicians. They're giving scholarships to kids are in high school and stuff like that, so that they can, y'know, get closer to reaching their dreams with music. They provide some instruments and those types of things.

What message are you trying to convey with this jewelry?
There's a couple different things. Certainly, one thing is just to bring the music community together. The strings have such story to them. Each one of those strings has all these memories for those musicians--the gigs, the people they've met, the venues they've been to. These strings hold those memories. Instead of throwing them away, they get to pass them on and, y'know, kind of connect to the fans in that way too. Plus, we're recycling.

Why did you choose to use guitar/bass strings?
It just kind of fit together. I really searched for some type of memory thing to really put together. If you use the whole string as a circle for the bracelet, it's perfect. The sparrow ends up on the tag.

Will you ever incorporate another part of an instrument? Picks? violin strings?
I actually just did some fiddle strings! Anything that's a string, I can do.

Are you open to using strings from a non-local act?
Most definitely. I do hope, at some point, this grows. I have gotten some strings from Austin. At some point, hopefully bigger names will get interested. It's starting locally because that's the people I know. I've been connected with the local music scene for a long time.

So far, how many pieces of jewelry have you sold?
I've sold 35 so far--just under $1,000, with $250 going to foundation.

What is your most popular bracelet style?
I like chunky the best, but a lot of people have got the slim. The slim has different color strings--copper, gold and stainless steel.

How much of the money made from he jewelry goes to the foundation?
25 percent.

How do you find the time to go out and get the strings and put it together with a full-time job as a therapist?
I need two of me--I really do. It's getting to be a full-time job. I'm working all day at my practice and then I'm coming home at night and painting tags or stamping tags or picking up strings--it takes a lot. Every kind of niche of time, I'm working on this.

Why is each piece of jewelry so unique?
No two look alike. Every time I try to construct a bracelet, they're a little bit different. I can't replicate them, which, I think, is what's cool about them. I try and use every part of the string.

Where can people find the jewelry?
I'm going to be in about six art bazaars between now and the end of the year, so there's going to be a lot of chances for people to come out. But most people have either bought them online or face-to-face. I try to have a couple on hand everywhere I go.

Visit Eye on the Sparrow Designs' etsy page to browse its inventory and purchase pieces of jewelry.

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