The Life Cycle of a Guitar String, from Castoff to Keepsake

How one Nashville organization’s handcrafted pieces make the journey from worthy mission to happy recipient.

Kristin Luna
Jan 30 · 4 min read

Illustration by Soeren Kunz

A few years ago, a rehabilitation program focused on jewelry-making brought together two women in recovery. Today, their vision for a rehabilitation service of their own, Halo Missions, employees 23 women and has sold hundreds of unique baubles, crafted out of guitar strings. You can learn to make one of these guitar-string rings on an Airbnb Experience, and read Halo’s inspiring story here.

1. The cause

Longtime Nashville residents Kristen Thorbjornsen and Brooke Anderson met when they were both in recovery, in a rehabilitation program focused on jewelry-making. “We loved working with our hands,” says Thorbjornsen (above). In 2017 they were almost three years clean when they decided to help others in a similar position. “We wanted to focus on women in recovery and provide them with supplemental income,” says Thorbjornsen. They launched Halo Missions, their own rehabilitation service dedicated to making jewelry out of used guitar strings. But just three days later, tragedy struck: Anderson unexpectedly relapsed and passed away from an overdose. A devastated Thorbjornsen forged ahead. “It was a message that more women needed help,” she says. “And it’s what Brooke would’ve wanted.” Today, Halo Missions has employed 23 women and sold hundreds of bracelets, necklaces, and rings.

2. The source

Halo Missions’ process begins at a guitar store. One of their regulars is Corner Music, a Nashville institution since 1976. (Brad Paisley’s first job was at the shop.) Discarded strings are a form of mixed metal that can be complicated to recycle. “We’re constantly restringing guitars and basses,” says Nolan Lucas, who handles sales for Corner Music. “Kristen called us one day and asked if we’d be willing to donate. My immediate answer was yes. It helps us reduce waste, and we can provide materials to a great organization.” After Thorbjornsen sorts through the strings, employees like Lizz Moser shape them into rings and bracelets based on Halo Missions’ inventory needs each week.

3. The craft

Moser, who went through the same recovery program as ­Thorbjornsen and Anderson, is a former hairstylist who joined Halo Missions full-time last summer. “At the salon, my bosses wouldn’t allow me to talk about [my] recovery,” she explains. “I wasn’t spiritually fed.” Several pieces are named after songs — top sellers include Three Little Birds and Under the Boardwalk. “We let the women name the ­pieces,” Thorbjornsen says. “In recovery, you want that pat on the back, especially early on.” The Rainbow Connection, made with multihued guitar picks, was dedicated in Anderson’s honor.

4. The customer

Once finished, the jewelry is sent to Halo Missions’ cart on downtown Nashville’s busy tourist boulevard, Broadway (also known as Honky Tonk Row), where thousands of people like Sandra Stinson stroll by each week. Stinson, a Nashville native who now lives in nearby Hendersonville, first heard about Halo Missions via word of mouth and then happened upon Thorbjornsen working the cart on Broadway one day. She’s been hooked ever since, often purchasing the jewelry as gifts for herself and her friends. “I like stories about women getting beyond the problems they’ve had,” she says. Her favorite piece is the Lariat, a chain with a pearl attached at the end. “When someone says, ‘Hey, I like that necklace,’ I can tell them all about ­Kristen and what she’s doing for women,” says Stinson.

String Along

Take a piece of Halo Missions home.

Learn to make one of Halo Missions’ guitar-­string rings through an Airbnb Experience hosted by Tori King. “To me, the most valuable result of the class is the connection we’ve been able to forge with our customers,” she says. All pieces are available at The Tennessee State Museum gift shop and ten House of Blues locations also carry the line.

About the author: Kristin Luna is a journalist, photographer, and digital storyteller with more than 15 years of magazine experience, as well as a decade of work in the online space. Kristin has penned more than a dozen guidebooks for Frommer’s and contributed to 50+ print titles, including Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, AFAR, Southern Living, Real Simple, and USA Today. Through her blog, Camels and Chocolate, she and her business partner, Scott, have produced multimedia campaigns for numerous DMOs, from Visit Britain to Visit Florida, in addition to hospitality brands like Fairmont Hotels, Hilton, Airbnb, and Viator.

Airbnb Magazine

Airbnb Magazine celebrates humanity wherever it exists: across borders, time zones, languages, and skin tones.

Kristin Luna

Written by

Tennessee-born travel writer, photographer and content creator. Loves mural-hunting, bourbon and AcroYoga.

Airbnb Magazine

Airbnb Magazine celebrates humanity wherever it exists: across borders, time zones, languages, and skin tones.

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