If you’ve ever found a piece of jewelry at a truck stop with a note reading “This is Yours – Take It,” you may have stumbled upon one of truck driver Natalie Shult’s custom pieces.
Shult creates handmade jewelry in her cab and then leaves some of her pieces in public spaces, like truck stops and rest areas, for others to find and keep. She does it as part of a nationwide art abandonment project, in which artists leave their work for others to find.
“People will take their art and add a little note to it saying, ‘Free gift for you,'” Shult said. “It’s like a way of practicing random acts of kindness. We take our stuff and we leave it in places for random strangers to find. That’s what I do with a lot of my jewelry.”
Shult, from Jacksonville, Florida, is a company driver for Shoreside Logistics. She creates her jewelry out of wire and stones that she stores in a tool bag in her truck. Most of her stones come from Quartzsite, Arizona.
Shult started making jewelry when her youngest daughter was born. She wanted to make a mother’s bracelet with her kids’ names on it because she couldn’t find one that had more than six entries. Shult has eight children, seven daughters and one son.
“I picked up some beads in Quartzsite, Arizona, and just started making stuff. Everyone in my family thought it was really cool,” she said.
Family members started asking her to make similar items for them and it became a hobby.
About a year later, she met a woman who owned a truck stop in Oregon and made custom jewelry, as well. Shult saw the woman’s work in a display case at the truck stop and liked how she did her style of jewelry. It involved wire and stones, and now Shult emulates that style in her current work.
“I pick up wire, just normal electrical wire of different grades from Lowe’s or Home Depot of wherever. I’ll strip it down into separate pieces. I get an idea for something and cut them to length and just start wrapping them up,” Shult said.
Shult’s favorite piece is a steel and amethyst collar that took her about 20 hours to make over a week and a half. The project started off as a bracelet, but it didn’t come together the way she wanted it to. She thought about scrapping it, but decided to salvage it into a necklace instead.
“It was too big for a bracelet and I got the idea to turn it into a necklace. I shaped it more into a collar style. I liked the way it looked but it didn’t seem like it was finished,” Shult said.
She decided to add two smaller pieces to the collar to make it more of a complete necklace instead of a partial collar.
She likes jewelry making because it gives her a creative outlet while she’s over the road. She shares photos of her work on her Facebook page, “Stone & Steel & 18 Wheels.” She occasionally takes custom requests and sells them on her Etsy, “StoneNSteelDesign,” though she prefers to focus on giving her work away as part of the art abandonment project.
“It’s a form of expression. I like to be able to create things and create art. It’s nice to be able to take ordinary, mundane everyday items – like the hardware store wire – and make something completely different out of it, like a work of art,” Shult said.
Jewelry making isn’t her only hobby. Shult has been a cyclist her entire life and carries a Schwinn road bike in her truck’s passenger seat. She tries to cycle about 50 miles a week, seeking out trails close to truck stops and rest areas. Her favorite place to go cycling is the Jekyll Island area in Georgia because of its natural beauty.
“When you’re driving a truck, there’s so many places that you can’t go because of commercial restrictions. It’s like looking at life through a windshield in a way. I like to stop at places and go to the places that could only look at through the windshield,” Shult said.