Images provided by Assistant Warden, Cathy Fontenot, Louisiana State Penitentiary at
||Meet the Designer-Artist
Most evenings, between 8 and 11pm, Steven can be found in the hobby shop creating jewelry. "Each night, when I first go into the shop, I lay everything out--all my jewelry-making supplies," he says. "I pray a little bit and start to work. I just put things together and see what happens." Steven often works alone and enjoys the solitude. Occasionally, though, fellow jewelry designers join him. "When we're together, we inspire each other. We bounce ideas off each other and then come up with new ones. There are four or five here who do stones and beads," he says.
Passionate about designing jewelry, Steven would make more time for this work if he could. However, he's also a graduate assistant tutor for the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as a clerk in the Classification Department at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. Steven is also an inmate in this facility, and has been since 1990. Despite his very busy schedule, Steven still finds about 15 hours a week to create jewelry.
Steven started making jewelry in 2007. Originally, he did woodworking in the facility, but became disenchanted with the process. According to Steven, "I wasn't enjoying woodworking. The items are cumbersome and take much too long to finish," he says. "So I started looking around for something else." He'd heard good things about the jewelry shop program. Jewelry-making "keeps guys busy in their off time. It's very therapeutic for guys to stay busy and not let their time go to waste."
Steven decided to explore the jewelry program. "I started with a small box in the hobby shop," he recalls. "I found a Fire Mountain Gems® catalog and ordered jewelry stuff. The tools were inexpensive. I ordered a few hundred dollars worth of stuff, gemstones and wire, and I started experimenting," Steven recalls. "Fire Mountain is the only company I do business with. You have the best discount program on bulk purchases. It works well for what I do. I buy so many different items but I don't have a lot of storage or resources. I can get one each of two hundred different items and get the bulk discount. I can expand inventory without buying too much of one item."