Local artist turns tornado debris into jewelry as a fundraiser for the recovery

Tornado Jewelry
Posted at 4:48 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 19:45:59-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — In the aftermath of the March 2020 tornadoes, debris and despair could be found for as far as the eye could see. "East Nashville was just out in droves, like helping chainsaws, shovels, rakes, cleaning up," said Drakeford Lanier, who lives with his wife in Nashville.

Like so many of us, Lanier was whittling down the ways he could help his neighborhood recover. He was out volunteering with the cleanup when something caught his eye. "I saw this beautiful, massive Osage orange tree that was just down and I know when crews come through, it’s just going to get chipped up and either burned for firewood or stained for mulch," he said.

That's when, out of destruction, came new creations. "I just thought, this could probably have a second life as something that people like to look at or wear or have on them to represent what we went through in the tornado," he said.

Lanier takes small pieces of the Osage tree and carves them into jewelry pendants. Each one has a unique design. "It kinda lets me know this little edge right here wants to be flat and not concave as it is right now," said Lanier, as he carves his creations.

Then for hours, Lanier uses varying degrees of sandpaper to smooth out the surface of the pendant. Finally, he takes an unusual step. Using polishing pads, he rubs the carving until it's shiny enough to see his reflection. "And then before you know it, it’s just a glossy little masterpiece," said Lanier.

But his true triumph comes in how he sells his work. "I give a good chunk of what I make from these pieces back to local Nashville charities or relief efforts," he said.

Because when tornadoes hit, it's not just about destruction, there's also beauty in what we can save. "We rose above this, we got through it, we’re Nashville," said Lanier.

Lanier and his wife are also expectant parents, so he plans to hold on to a few of the carvings to give his future son so that he will also know the story of the Nashville recovery from the tornadoes.

If you'd like to purchase a pendant, Lanier's Etsy page can be found here.