Plowsharing Crafts Volunteer is Designer of New Earrings from Cambodian Artisans

Unexploded ordinance and the casings from military guns litter the Cambodian countryside, a legacy left by decades of war in Southeast Asia. Cambodian silversmiths are using gun shell casings to fashion jewelry, reshaping the raw materials of war to promote a new legacy of peace.

The Cambodian peace dove jewelry made from the shell casings has been available for several years at St. Louis’s Plowsharing Crafts, a non-profit store that sells Fair Trade gift items from around the world. Now Plowsharing is announcing the arrival of a new item in the gun shell collection, and they have just the person to tell the story—store volunteer LynAnne Wiest, who also happens to be the earrings’ designer.

Prior to coming to Plowsharing, Wiest served as a handicraft design and marketing advisor in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for Ten Thousand Villages, a major fair trade supplier to Plowsharing. In that role, Wiest worked with the Cambodian artisans to design earrings to coordinate with their “Resurrection Tree” pendant.

“We talked about what is possible for them to make and how that should influence the designs we propose,” Wiest recalled. The silversmiths’ technique involves cutting open the shell casings and flattening them before tracing and cutting the shapes. The designs they considered included stamping the tree on a flat teardrop shape or a cut-out design.

Ten Thousand Villages selected the more delicate cut-out option and the Cambodian artisans went to work producing them. Nearly a year after Wiest presented the designs, the earrings are now available for purchase to their North American retailers.

“Trees in just about every culture are a symbol of life,” Wiest noted, “Creating a symbol of peace and life out of an object war reflects the attitude of the Cambodian people who have been through so much tragedy and yet are filled with so much hope for their future.”

“Not only does the final design make a statement of peace, but the entire process, working in Fair Trade organizations, is an act of peace as we pay fair wages and treat all people involved with respect.”

The Resurrection Tree earrings and pendant from Cambodia are among hundreds products—from jewelry and clothing to tabletop and home décor—available at the non-profit Plowsharing Crafts stores which can be found in The Loop at 6271 Delmar and in downtown Kirkwood at 137 W. Jefferson. Staffed primarily with volunteers, the stores are a project of the St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship.