Ethan Hurst has had a rough morning. His arms ache after swimming laps. “Practice was terrible,” he mutters. Now he relaxes with a cool drink, recovering before the next go-round.
Terrible, tedious, maddening
You’d never guess Ethan is describing his favorite pursuits. He’s the sort of kid who seeks out pastimes that require precision and physical control. When swimming, he pushes to improve his speed by hundredths of a second. Then, with a needle, he carefully stitches glass beads together to make jewelry.
Once a bracelet is finished or swim time eclipsed, the 13-year-old can celebrate. After school, Ethan practices with Germantown Gators or with his school team at Memphis University School. Last summer, at the Southeastern Championship, he earned second place in the mile and finished in the top five in several other events. Competing with the Gators, the eighth-grader splashed to fast times in the 400 and 800-meter freestyles at Southern Section Senior Sectionals.
As age 12, Ethan broke many swim records set by MUS’s Pace Clark. “That was exciting because I didn’t think I was gonna do it,” he says, grinning.
But on weekends, he nurtures his creative side. Ethan cleans his glasses, sorts out beads, and picks up a needle. Hours pass as patterns form. The design grows clear but can unravel quickly. “Every time a thread snaps, or I realize that I made a mistake back at the beginning of the project, those are infuriating experiences.” Ethan aptly calls his business Beads of Fury.
There’s angst in this work
But when unwrapping a lavender cuff bracelet, his enthusiasm shows. For the bracelet, he started with fire-polished Swarovski crystals, then layered in pearls, and added a crisscross design. After 11 hours of work, the piece is complete. It’s a mix of bright colors, crafting, and geometric exploration. “I put bicones together to create a diamond shape and a right-angle weave creates a nice, solid effect.”
While beading, Ethan listens to The Great Courses educational math and science DVD’s, closely following professors’ lectures. That wouldn’t surprise teachers at MUS, where Ethan is on an advanced math track, currently taking geometry.
He finds creative inspiration in Beadwork magazine, combining projects with ideas of his own. At a swim meet last year, Ethan sat in the stands, studying the magazine. Local jewelry maker Alice Springfield, who owns Trace Elements, saw they had a common interest and stopped to chat. Liking his jewelry, she showed some of Ethan’s pieces in her booth at last year’s Cooper-Young Festival. Springfield is now a friend and mentor.
Behind the glasses, a thoughtful demeanor
“When I was seven years old, I wanted to do something for the old lady who lived across the street,” Ethan recalls. “I made a shell necklace for her. I got bored with just stringing stuff, and so I started beading.” Favorite models include his mother Denise, who wears earrings to parties, and 10-year-old sister Emma. His dad Daniel, an anesthetist, looks forward to sporting a leather bracelet.
For the budding business, there’s Ethan Hurst’s Facebook page, where folks can order custom pieces. He plans to offer jewelry in school colors, along with men’s leather bracelets. But it’s been a demanding year academically, and spare time is hard to find. As a seventh-grader, he earned national recognition by scoring a 30 on the ACT. Later, Ethan earned eleventh place in the countywide MATHCOUNTS Competition and finished seventh in the Tennessee Math Teachers Association Competition.
With such accomplishments, he may have his pick of colleges. “Ivy League,” Ethan says confidently. “For Harvard, I’d need a 31 on the ACT, but Yale will accept 30. I think beading will always be with me, but I hope to have a career in astrophysics or chemistry.”
Still, a creative outlet is good for the soul. “Just be yourself when you’re doing stuff like this,” he suggests. “Let your creativity flow, and try to come up with your own ideas.”
Scoring 30 on the ACT? Made his day. Shaving one second off time in the short course? A thrill. Creating unique jewelry designs? Rewarding. Doing it all? Priceless.