Christi Schimpke, Andy Pitts and Jo Ann Graham

Meet three artisans making their mark with creative and repurposed accessories

Creative Q&As 

Story by Sheila Paz

In the world of artistry there exists a realm where passion converges with sustainability, where creativity breathes new life into forgotten materials and where dedication to craft transcends boundaries. Within this realm we find three extraordinary artisans, each with a unique and captivating story to tell. These three artisans have embarked on remarkable journeys, forging their own paths in the world of artistry. Their crafts are not merely artistic expressions; they are testaments to their passion, their commitment to sustainability and their ability to breathe life into the materials they work with. 

Christi Schimpke: Revving up style

Transforming cast-off metal from luxury cars into stylish accessories. 

Christi Schimpke - Headshot - CRASH Jewelry

Cars can be fast, stunning and sleek, but cars can also be jewelry or, should we say, turned into jewelry. Christi Schimpke is the founder and designer of CRASH Jewelry, sustainable uni-sex jewelry created from cast-off metal from luxury cars. 

Christi initially pursued a degree in art history. However, she later decided to change her course and enrolled in several metalsmithing courses, which sparked her interest in crafting jewelry. As her creative endeavors grew, she found herself in need of more studio space. Fortunately, she moved into one of her husband’s body shops, and it was there that she noticed the abundance of scrap metal, primarily sourced from the luxury automobiles her husband worked on. This observation led her to experiment with the metal, ultimately inspiring her to establish CRASH Jewelry.

Each piece of jewelry is handcrafted from different parts of cars with the original factory paint. With each piece of jewelry purchased, Christi sends a CRASH Jewelry Registration Card that informs purchasers of the model of the car it came from and the date it was made.

Q: What is your motivation? A: Coming up with new design ideas and how can we push this metal to make other things besides just jewelry. We’re always constantly thinking “What can we do with this?” 

Q: What is the best part about creating CRASH Jewelry? A:  Meeting all of the people I have met in the automotive world. it is just such a tight-knit group of people: the collectors, the enthusiasts, any aspect, especially the women in automotive.

Q: What has metalsmithing taught you? A: Perseverance and “don’t give up.”

Q: What is your favorite part of the car to use? A: Fenders, because there is not a lot of stuff on the backside. If you remove a door, there is a whole system of braces that you have to take off and clean. Fenders are pretty clean and do not have the back structure to them.” 

Q: What is your most unique piece? A: Certain luxury cars have Swarovoksi crystals in their headlights. I was able to get some of them and made a necklace out of the crystals from the headlights.

See her work

Visit the CRASH Jewelry tent at the Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance and Motoring Festival (Nov. 3-5), which she frequents annually, or visit her website at

Jo Ann Graham: Mastering the flame 

Shaping precious metals into one-of-a-kind masterpieces. 

MAIN - Headshot, Jo Ann Graham

When early retirement beckoned, Jo Ann Graham, a resident of St. Helena, refused to embrace idleness. Instead she embraced the call and embarked on an inspiring silversmithing journey. Jo Ann’s hands fashion unique, wearable art from a variety of metals, including sterling, fine and argentium silver, gold and steel. Each of her creations is meticulously handcrafted, taking shape through a process of form-folding, forging and intricate texturizing, resulting in one-of-a-kind masterpieces.

Silversmithing was not originally part of Jo Ann’s life plan. Having enjoyed a fulfilling career as a dance educator who played a pivotal role in building dance programs and schools in South Carolina, she had experienced a rewarding journey. However, the decision to retire early led her down an unexpected path when she stumbled upon a silversmithing brochure. Jo Ann courageously took a leap of faith and enrolled in the New Hampshire Institute of Art, where she kindled her passion for working with a torch. Two decades later she continues to create and derive immense joy from her craft.

With unwavering dedication and undeniable artistic prowess, Jo Ann meticulously crafts her pieces using raw materials. Her extensive years of study and practice have honed her expertise in intricate techniques such as forging, casting and the ancient arts of chasing and repoussé. Each piece of jewelry she creates exclusively originates from sheets of metal, showcasing her exceptional skills and unwavering commitment to the art of silversmithing. To Jo Ann, her work transcends craftsmanship; it is an art form that fosters a profound connection between artist and client.

Q: What is your motivation? A: Ideas. How can I combine tools and expert techniques that I know to do something new? 

Q: What is the best part of silversmithing? A: I like it all. I like forging the best because it’s all about moving the metal. I appreciate when people can connect to my work. It makes me feel good. When they connect to my work, they’re connecting with part of me.

Q: What has silversmithing taught you? A: Patience. It’s a lot of patience. 

Want to learn?

If you’re eager to learn more about the art of silversmithing and how to create your own jewelry from a simple sheet of metal, reach out to Jo Ann at for information on her latest class schedule.

Andy Pitts: Crafting beauty from bark 

Repurposing trees after they have fallen. 

Andy Pitts - Hilton Head Island

When breathing new life into fallen and felled trees, Andy Pitts transforms the timber from the Lowcountry into exquisite pieces of furniture, including tables, mantles, shelves and doors. Andy’s journey into the world of woodworking began during a visit to Florida, where he witnessed the transformation of cypress trees into lumber. This experience ignited a passion within him for crafting purposeful art from the heartwood of trees, embracing the romantic idea of giving tree trunks a second life.

After Hurricane Matthew swept through the Lowcountry, Andy felt compelled to realize his dream. He embarked on his woodworking venture by scouring for wood sources, but he now enjoys a network of friends, family and community members who notify him of available logs and trees slated for removal.

When selecting trees for his projects, Andy seeks those with distinctive features like rippled textures and natural irregularities on their exteriors. These characteristics often indicate the presence of exceptional grain patterns that enhance his creations. Overall, Andy’s approach is to let the wood’s inherent beauty shine through, preserving the integrity of these venerable giants. In his own words, “I let the trees speak for themselves. A lot of times a big, old tree is beautiful inside and you do not have to mess around with it.”

Q: What are the best trees to work with? A: Hickory, maple, cherry, pecan and, surprisingly, southern yellow pine. It’s long and straight, perfect for tables and mantles. It actually looks beautiful in the end.

Q: What is your motivation? A: It’s really fun milling and getting to run my chainsaw. It’s hard work that gets you dirty and breaking a sweat … the nervousness about receiving a commission on it also gives me a thrill. I get a kick out of all aspects.

Q: What is the best part about this hobby? A: It’s not the sexiest thing ever, but there is something cool about a tree that had to be removed or had fallen and giving it a place back in life at somebody’s house.

Q: What is your favorite piece of equipment? A: An Alaskan chainsaw mill. It lets me bring my tools to wherever the tree is, and I can mill boards there. That way I can move them without needing big tractors or trucks.

Similar Posts