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@Work: Craft of Life

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Nov 26, 2006 — Daniil Heywood-Landers transformed a part-time hobby into a lucrative career. Now he helps others make their dreams come true through making jewelry.
As a youth, Heywood-Landers wanted to work as an entertainer. "I went to school for audio engineering because I wanted to record music," he says. But once he got there, he realized it was not the career for him and he dropped out.
Working odd jobs during the week, Heywood-Landers would go hiking with friends on the weekend. It was this activity that sparked the artist in him. Spying a friend's hand-carved hiking stick, he borrowed some tools, carved one of his own and gave it to his hiking partner: "His reaction opened my eyes to art."
Though Heywood-Landers started carving hiking sticks for fun, eventually he sold his first stick for $10. "After that, I started making and selling hiking sticks, or staffs," he says. In 2000 he established his first company, Thy Rod and Thy Staff.
The young entrepreneur moved to Atlanta and continued selling his staffs while working for jewelers and artists, soaking up knowledge from every artisan he encountered. "I met a guy who made jewelry," Heywood-Landers says. "I went to his house every night," to learn his craft. "He wouldn't let me touch anything, so I just watched." When the friend moved, he left all his jewelry-making tools to Heywood-Landers.
Deciding it was time to get a formal education in the art, he enrolled in a jewelry-making school in Atlanta. He began displaying and selling his pieces, and eventually the income from his art began surpassing his regular job. He decided to come back home to St. Croix to sell his wares at the annual Agricultural and Food Fair. His one-of-a-kind pieces proved a success with fairgoers. "I got a really good response," he says.
After spending some time traveling from St. Croix to Atlanta designing and selling his jewelry, someone suggested Heywood-Landers should teach others — something he had not previously considered.
"I thought the status quo was to make jewelry and sell it, but found out training others was the way to go," he says. By that time he was living on St. Croix full time. His first class had only six paying students, but he was not deterred.
In January Heywood-Landers opened his store, Craft of Life, selling his own jewelry and some made by other artists. In his fourth month of business he connected with the Department of Human Service's job-training program, which assisted him in connecting with local artists to train. This class had 10 students who trained for six months.
The students learned everything about making jewelry from beading to soldering, and received certificates of completion at the end of their training. Heywood-Landers continues to teach, holding his classes in a room behind his retail store in the Caravelle Arcade in Christiansted. He is the first person to teach jewelry soldering on the island.
"The market here is very competitive," he says. Since it's a specialty trade, he says, most people would not teach soldering. Heywood-Landers plans to continue teaching.
"Ideally I'd like to open up the first jewelry-training institute," he says. "I'd like to be the largest institute in the territory."
The institute would teach a variety of specialty trades, including catering, cake decorating and restaurant management. One portion of Heywood-Landers' current curriculum teaches students how to navigate the system and attain their business licenses. He has made the painstaking effort to be thorough because he "hates for anyone to struggle to figure things out."
Heywood-Landers says his journey has been a great effort, and he expresses pride and satisfaction in his work.
"It's been a fun ride," he says. "I enjoy it."
You can find Heywood-Landers at Craft of Life in Christiansted's Caravelle Arcade. For more information on his jewelry-making classes, contact him at 332-2933 or email him.
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