BUCKLEY – Have you ever owned something so precious that you wished it could be preserved forever?
DNA artist Laura Hoch makes people’s memories last a lifetime by turning them into jewelry. Whether it’s a loved one’s ashes, strands of hair, or breast milk, Hoch can use the substance to create a stone or a pendant, which is then set on a ring or strung on a necklace.
Before starting her business, Laura’s Timeless Keepsakes, Hoch was a full-time stay-at-home mom. She wanted to find a way to contribute to household expenses that would allow her to still be with her children every day. After learning how to condense substances into stones and using her own breast milk for training, she decided to provide her DNA art to others in the community.
“Initially I just wanted to make myself a piece out of my own milk, maybe a ring or a necklace or something,” she said. “And then, while doing all the research, I realized how bad it was getting, and then I realized it’s not just milk, you can make ashes, or clothes, or sand or even dried umbilical cord.”
For materials that have already been naturally preserved, such as ash, Hoch said the stone-making process is much easier. She simply adds the ashes to the epoxy resin, along with whatever colors or accents the customer wants.
To preserve breast milk, it is first warmed on the stove and then mixed with a special preserving powder. Once the mixture becomes pasty, it is left to dry, then ground into a powder and added to the resin. When Hoch first became interested in preserving milk for jewelry, she said other DNA artists were reluctant to give their tips online, but she was able to find a recipe to buy.
So far, Hoch has only made pieces using ashes and breast milk, but as more orders come in, she hopes to expand and complete some projects using clothing and hair. Right now she’s trying to find a way to incorporate sea glass into a piece for a client.
Much of Hoch’s initial clientele were other local mothers looking for a way to commemorate their breastfeeding journey. She said it’s often a difficult and laborious process to go through, and many mothers like to have a physical reminder of this time.
Producing enough excess milk to make the stone can also be difficult for mothers, but once the piece is completed, Hoch said it can be emotional for the client. Last Christmas, she designed a piece of breast milk for her best friend, who she says cried when she received it.
Working with clients on pieces of DNA can be deeply personal, Hoch said. The materials they entrust to him represent someone or something they hold dear. Hoch usually learns a lot about his client during the design process and is usually able to relate his experience to his own.
“A girl was telling me about her grandfather and she had three rings made,” Hoch said. “Every time I touched the coins I thought of my own grandfather and how much I wish I could have done something like this.”
Little did Hoch know at the time that she would soon be able to create pieces from the ashes of her two grandparents, given to her by her father.
The idea of DNA art doesn’t always sit well with people when Hoch tells them what she does for a living. She said the idea of storing something like breastmilk or ashes is a little weird to some, but people who are interested in it appreciate finding someone who does this kind of work locally.
At the moment, Hoch only makes rings and necklaces, but she hopes to add key chains, crosses and bracelets to her repertoire. As the holiday season approaches, she said commissions usually go up, and this year she’ll be giving away gift certificates on her Facebook page.
Hoch actively accepts commissions through Laura’s Timeless Keepsakes page. She hasn’t created a website yet, but said a website could come about if the business continues to grow.