The Florida Everglades have a problem with Burmese pythons invading the area and threatening the wildlife surrounding it—and if uncontrolled, the snakes will cause extensive and irreversible damage to the national park.
So Dusty “Wildman” Crum, an environmentalist and the owner of Orchid Envy in Venice, and designer Nikki Sedacca, owner of 530 Burns Gallery, are coming together to raise awareness about the issue—in style.
Crum was one of the 25 people selected from more than 1,000 applicants to be part of the Python Elimination Program, in which a group travels into the Everglades to hunt the snakes in an effort to restore the Everglades' delicate ecosystem.
His partnership with Sedacca was a natural fit.
“We're friends; I had been buying orchids from him for years and years," Sedacca says. "I knew he got involved in the python program, and I said, ‘What are you doing with [the snakes]?’ At first, he was catching them and keeping them alive, bringing them to the University of Florida, where he knew someone there who was analyzing them. Then the program changed, and he was able to get [the pythons'] skins.
"So I said, ‘Why don’t we design kind of a Florida project using the snakes that are found in the Everglades? We’ll get them tanned in Florida and we’ll manufacture them in Florida, too.’ He thought it was a great idea, so we cooked up this collaboration."
Sedacca says that the goal of the collaboration is to help save the Everglades, because at the moment there are no predators against the pythons.
“These snakes are eating all of the wildlife that's there, from birds to American alligators, devastating the Everglades," she explains. "The No. 1 reason for [this partnership] is trying to protect the Everglades, so we’ll do it as long as we have the ability to get the point across."
The pieces are made using an intricate process that, true to Sedacca's word, all takes place in the Sunshine State. The snake is skinned and sent to be tanned, then brought to Sedacca, who uses those tanned skins to create jewelry and accessories.
“We’re doing long lariats, and we’re mixing some of the earring and necklace designs with black diamonds, pearls and different stones, which will be really cool," Sedacca says. "Some of the designs will be done in sterling silver. The skins are very strong, and they really hold up. We’re also going to do accessories, bags and belts."
The first run, to be unveiled on April 6, will have a limited number of pieces—including some one-of-a-kinds—but within a couple months Sedacca hopes to have a bigger collection and expects it will evolve. She's planning on creating new designs a few times a year; the price point will range $150 but to thousands of dollars depending on the piece.
“I enjoy [creating] accessories," Sedacca says. "I love using exotic materials, and the pattern of snakes are so beautiful and are all so different."
But, she adds, the most important thing about the collection is the environmental aspect.
"We want people to understand that [Crum] is not out there catching something for fashion," she says. "There’s a reason for it, and we're able to create something beautiful out of these predators."
She's also looking into finding an organization to which she can give money to help the Everglades and the python hunters, who aren’t making much to cover the cost of the work and the expenses and danger that come along with it. And she's excited to think about how the collection will take shape in the future.
“We’ll continue to keep pushing the envelope," she says. "We will continually try to make fabulous designs and expose them to everybody and get the story across."
The opening reception for the collaboration will be at 530 Burns Gallery on Friday, April 6, at 6 p.m., featuring hangings of the snakeskin, samples of the luxury snakeskin jewelry and accessories from the new collection. It will also feature art done by Gary Borse, whose pieces are centered around Florida’s landscape. For more information, visit 530burnsgallery.com.