New Orleans-inspired jewelry is not hard to find. Fleurs-de-lis, streetcars and water meters are all over the place. But if you want something different, Porter Lyons (504-264-1374; www.porterlyons.com) has an earthy selection inspired by southeast Louisiana.
Owner Ashley Porter hadn't planned on designing jewelry for a living. She describes it as a "happy accident." Porter, who attained her masters in finance from Tulane University, moved to Los Angeles to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, where a school project inspired her to design alligator belts.
"I wrote up a business plan to start making belts, because I knew alligators are most prevalent in Louisiana," Porter says. "I had this plan to move back and source alligator."
From there, Porter began to experiment with other raw materials.
"I use a lot of agate, which is Louisiana's state mineral, and a lot of alligator, and I try to preserve what is local to the culture," Porter says.
Porter Lyons offers bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings and belts. One of Porter's most unusual pieces comes from the backbones she collects from a gator graveyard. She places them in hydrogen peroxide for a month and bleaches them for another month before casting them in bronze.
Porter uses her talents to support wetland preservation. Five percent of proceeds go to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. She also volunteers planting cypress trees.
"I think the wetlands (erosion) is a huge issue," Porter says. "Wetlands serve as a great barrier to protect New Orleans and southern Louisiana from incoming hurricanes. It's devastating to see such a beautiful and natural place be destroyed when it can be preventable."
The California native established Porter Lyons in April. She wanted to explore the home of her ancestors, who lived in New Orleans circa 1860.
"New Orleans inspires me from the moment I open my eyes until I rest my head on a pillow at night," she says. "I've lived in a lot of places, and there is no other place that is as inspiring and rich in culture as New Orleans." — Angela Hernandez