By Nicolas Fernandes
A quadriplegic has defied the odds by making jewelry with her head and now sells them to customers around the world.
Ashley Hughes, 30, of Claremont, California, USA, creates hundreds of homemade bracelets and other beaded products, shipping them to the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe and Africa.
She was paralyzed from the neck down her whole life, after suffering from a spinal cord injury during birth.
Needing something to occupy her time while off from school in 2013, she bought some materials from the local craft store and experimented with making her own bracelets.
She has been using her head pointer – a long wooden stick attached to a band around her head — to perform daily tasks that most people use their hands for and has been making the bracelets with it for the past five years.
After deciding to put one up for sale on an e-commerce site, someone sent her a message that same day expressing interest in buying it.
Ashley realized her talent could add meaning to peoples’ lives and since then she’s learned to make bracelets in as little as 20 minutes for her business BDelight Jewelry.
Ashley, who also works as an online tutor, said: “I was home one day in the summer with nothing to do, so I decided to go to the craft store.
“I got some beads, started poking around and figured it out.
“I start by using my head pointer to place the beads on the tray and rearrange them until I find a pattern that works.
“Then I put each bead on the string one by one. Sometimes I have to take them all off and redo it because I don’t like the way it came out.
“Once all the beads are on, my aunt ties the knot to complete the bracelet.
“My aunt Lety and grandma Linda were both very supportive in helping me launch my new idea.
“It took me a while to figure it out, just like anything when you first start.
“I’ve been using my head pointer since I was two years old, so using it for this was the same concept.
“I was really surprised when that first customer emailed me so fast. That was when I realized that this would be big.
“I love that I was able to turn something I enjoy into something that makes a difference in peoples’ lives.”
Ashley’s products have become so popular that she is busier making jewelry than she ever imagined.
She said: “I decided I needed something that looked more professional and would make it easier for people to find me.
“Of course, I hoped that people would like my jewelry, but I never knew it would get this big.”
Ashley has also welcomed special requests, which have been occupying most of her time these days.
Customers will ask her to make a particular type of bracelet for someone’s birthday or other special occasions.
One recent request included a bracelet for a baby named Olivia, with her name carved into it.
She said: “I’ve been so busy with special requests lately, that I don’t even have much time to make my regular jewelry.
“I think that each bracelet tells a story and that’s why my customers find them so special.”
The jewelry maker also does special bracelets for different holidays. Last month, she made a heart bracelet and will be doing a green one for St. Patrick’s Day.
In addition, her lime green bracelets symbolize spinal cord injuries, which she plans to donate all proceeds from to fund further medical research.
Ashley said: “People seem to really like the holiday bracelets I’ve designed.
“It’s my goal to help others with spinal cord injuries become more independent.”
Ashley is grateful for the opportunity to generate income from something she loves doing.
She said: “I work hard on these bracelets because I enjoy making them. I’ve loved every single one I’ve made.
“To see that people like my jewelry really makes me happy and the fact that I’m able to make money from it is a dream come true.”
To purchase homemade jewelry from Ashley, visit https://www.bdelightjewelry.com/