When people see designer Ashley Porter's light bulb earrings, they invariably ask whether the bulbs light up. The answer is no, but the conversation pieces do spark dialogue about an important issue.
"The concept for the design was about spreading awareness ... about the literacy crisis," Porter says. "It's believed that 20 percent of adults in Louisiana are illiterate — a fact that should be more well-known in order to take measures to eradicate it. "
The "Light Up for Literacy" light bulb earrings are part of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities' (LEH) campaign to improve literacy in Louisiana. Porter came up with the design concept during a "light bulb" moment while sketching in her studio. Soon after, she stumbled upon hundreds of old automotive bulbs in a Texas flea market, which she crafted into drop earrings. The earrings cost $95, and 50 percent of proceeds benefits the LEH.
A California native and Tulane University alumn, Porter returned to New Orleans after attending the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. She launched her jewelry and accessories label, Porter Lyons, in 2012. Sales of the earthy, Louisiana-inspired pieces benefit the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.
Porter is happy to turn her attention to another pressing local issue. "I'd love to thank the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities for taking a chance on what was just an idea last year," Porter says.
She's at work on next year's literacy campaign design, which will include one crucial new element.
"I'm working with a sensor technology to make the [light bulbs] turn on," she says.