A way to free the heart

Standing at the mouth of a cave, a black place where you are unable to see, unsure what waits inside as you journey into the dark, what do you do? What scares you in that moment?

What would happen if you had no fear? You can have no fear. Hold this thought firm in your mind, then begin your walk there and see.

To fear or not to fear

Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle. Arnold Böcklin (1872)

Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle. Arnold Böcklin (1872)

On a recent hike, I rounded a corner with dense trees to find a very large cave or perhaps an old mine—two times my height and maybe 100 feet deep, the day's light reached inside just enough that I could see a drop straight down into ink black. Nearby was a large flat rock, with geodes and crystals stacked upon it and I wondered if these came from the deep. I also wondered what made their finders decide to leave them there instead of taking them home as a prize. I stood a little distance away and felt fear rush over me, of nothing in particular at first except the unknown. The thought of going into this cave made me want to run fast and far back down the mountain away from it, for what if in the next second something large came out and took me in and down with it... my mind sometimes likes to go to the largest terror it can imagine and then play there with it. I began to dislike the cave and the power it had taken over my actions.

I am ever learning, and practicing, that when these feelings of fear arise, I do not have to run away from what is causing them. That is giving away your power to another force, where something you fear is controlling you, your spirit, your free will, your heart. We do not have to let this happen.

Down into the cave

I sat down in front of the cave. I sat in front of this giant hole in the earth, where I could see to the back as it dropped who knows how deep, and wondered Why I am afraid of this dearth? Is it the unknown depth? Is it the way I feel compelled to jump into the hole—an invading imp of the perverse. Is it the irrational fear of some force pulling me down into it? Is it buried emotion from watching and reading Alice in Wonderland daily for months on end as a kid? Perhaps it's the simple explanation that it looks ready to cave in at any second, building up for the cataclysmic moment since it was dug. Maybe it is all of these reasons.

In sitting there ruminating on the questions, I realized a very important thing: the source of the fear, the cave, no longer scared me. I still had no desire to enter it, but I did not feel a resentment for a lack of ability to do so—it was a calm knowing that I could now if I wanted. There were no binding feelings. I had achieved freedom. The simple act of sitting there with the fear instead of reacting gave my mind time to realize what my heart knew: I, my heart, my free will, my spirit, I am stronger than my mind and the things it faces.

Forward to the light

This is a small example, and I was quick to come to the conclusion I was not going to be afraid of a cave in the woods. Some, most, cases in life are far more complex and to navigate the maze is a lengthier process. But I believe the lesson is the same. As you sit with fear and understand it instead of run away from it, you move through it and toward the freeing of your heart.

I believe this is a major human dilemma: we are always, in everything we do, striving to reach our own state we imagine of our content heart but fear is the ultimate enslaver of this, our most desired self. And it can be strong. The secret is we are always more powerful over it, if we believe ourselves to be. 

I have applied this to many things in my life prior to the cave, and others I am still working through; some have been lifelong, common and esoteric. I know that when I put work in toward combatting, accepting, embracing, moving through dark and fear, I am met every single time with light—with a happier heart, for I find myself freed, yet again. That's not to say the process isn't sometimes painful, or scary in itself, it can be met with unexpected trials and hardships, or go much differently than planned... but all the while I am confident that I am moving toward something good instead of something bad, and so I remain steady on the path. I've learned this thoroughly enough to be ever braver in my steps through life, where change is most often a joy.

And onward

I look at all of it as sort of an initiation, this process from dark to light shedding fears, onward to our bliss, Eden, true happiness, pure love. It is possible to find it, but we must work and earn our way there by moving in ways that are brave and true, in whichever ways that means to us—to our hearts. 
 

Listening to the Creative Spirit

Good news, the tl;dr:

I have figured a way I can do custom orders based on my creation and work process.

The new page is in the works explaining details, and I look forward to connecting with you about your request when you feel called. 


Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni, 1884. Marie Spartali Stillman ; Photos taken by me

Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni, 1884. Marie Spartali Stillman ; Photos taken by me

When plans go awry

I spent the last year trying to make a 'plan' work for my business—I later learned it was not the way I was meant to truly work—and in that time, my creativity became very blocked. I have a handful of creative spirits that insist I work in certain ways or else the ideas slow down until they disappear. I must listen to this and work within a certain process or I cannot create. This may sound 'out there' to some but it is how I know to articulate it. Every time I sat at the jewelry bench, aside from perhaps two months time, of the entire year, I had a block so intense I could not generate and develop ideas. That space-that-gives-my-life-meaning was almost empty. I would pitter around here and there with different things, and always put love into what I made, but I could not find any particular thing to demand my focus. I have been there, when the creative spirit is so strong that it becomes you, you become it. In this state, there are so many ideas that not many things are more important than expressing them, through whatever your medium may be. It is difficult to even spend time preparing healthy food for yourself or getting proper sleep. Creating takes over. (I am practicing balance here.) I could not access this no matter what I tried, and I felt lifeless.

My goal was to produce a lot of simpler pieces so I could sell many things. I wanted to market to galleries, boutiques, et cetera. A lot of people do this beautifully, successfully, with a swagger, so I planned to get there as well. I figured this would be the way to direct my business. But as I say, the creativity suffered deeply.

A quiet pause

I took a month or so off from making things to try and identify what was trapping my creative flow. This is the pain of using your creativity as what sustains you in the material realm. It is a must to consistently produce, despite the state of your ability to do so, and if you do not then you may not have a roof over your head next month. There is a lot on the line and you had better figure out why the ideas have gone. I honored this demand to be quiet and reflect. 'Coincidentally' it timed with the winter solstice when I ceased to make. I spent a good part of the winter season hibernating, so to speak, on the creative front. It was almost equally painful to idle my hands but through reading, meditation, walking, and building luxurious fires against the snow, I became much better at it.

Herein I learned a great deal. I learned why this energy was blocked. I discovered the way I am supposed to work. I tapped into wells of inspiration that run so deep, they have been inspiring people for a very very long time.

Where love grows

I find my inspiration grows, my creative spirits are happy, and the output flows, when I do not try to produce large quantities of things at a quick pace. That business model will not work for me. And that is okay! It is okay to spend many hours on one piece of jewelry: from the exploration process of giving shape to ideas from the ether, to the moment of decision 'This is what I will make!', to the physical creation, to the piece's completion packaged as a gift, every step with intention. This is what enables me to have more ideas than my hands can physically keep up with. This is the state I desire to maintain, as well as the stamina to spend many hours at the bench each day... back to balance and eating / sleeping / moving / loving well.

Custom orders fit into this How, you ask. Being told exactly how to make something is also a gigantic creativity killer, for my way of working. I have done it and know my aversion to it. I don't intend for this to sound grandiose, rather it goes back to as I said above: if I don't feed the creativity properly, then it goes away, as does a roof over my head.


A gift I now bestow upon my creative spirit is listening to it. As should we all!


At your service

After a period of 2-4 weeks when I have completed a collection, there is a period of time where I feel very open to creating an interested person's ideas of their own talisman. The creative spirits need a rest I suppose, because they quiet down and I have an exciting free energy to follow ideas down your path. In keeping the request simple, for example: 'I would like a wolf with a piece of moonstone', everything flows. That I can do. That I would love to do. I do not want to be told how to draw the ears or create the symbol. Then when it's complete, if you do not like it for whatever reason, that is perfectly okay because I know someone else will—lots of people love wolves and moonstone, and would love to use this talisman.

I also do not mind recreating a style that is already featured in my shoppe, where we can select a stone that is uniquely yours, or you can provide your own. I know many wonderful stone sellers online or if you are local, nearby, where you can go and pick out your stone. You can also leave it to me as that is my love and my specialty.

That is an overview of how custom orders will work. If you have questions about whether an idea would work, we can talk about that too. I hope this doesn't sound impossible to work with, I don't intend to sound that way. I do know if this all sounds good to you, then we will work together splendidly. You will become keeper of a talisman you will cherish and it will last long enough to be passed down for hundreds of years.

I welcome your inquiries.

~Christi

 

Painting with coffee

In photographing my jewelry collections, I haven't been completely satisfied with the background textures behind the pieces themselves. In product photography, every little tiny detail counts—and it counts for a lot! The photography is a vital piece in continuing the story of a brand. 

Photography of the Simpla Collection in progress

Photography of the Simpla Collection in progress

In the realm of handmade objects, there is a world of difference in holding and feeling a physical thing versus seeing it in a photo on a computer screen. With jewelry, a less detail oriented photo may not capture the qualities of the stones and handiwork; it may miss the nuances of character and intention in the way a piece of metal has been hammered, or the indescribable depth a piece of labradorite or moonstone flashes when the light hits oh so right.

Final photo of the collection

Final photo of the collection

Final photo of the Kyanite with Ruby necklace

Final photo of the Kyanite with Ruby necklace

The background sets the scene for this part of the brand experience, this chapter in the story. If I used a piece of gray slate or steel, how cool and modern the photo—and so the jewelry—would feel. A backdrop of fabric woven with a heavier thread gives a warmer and definite handmade look, but it's too heavy, and so it lends a look of less refinement than I'd like to achieve. A great amount of precision and planning is involved in the creation process of a piece and any detail that does not perpetuate these qualities must be discarded. That's my design philosophy anyway, and it led me to painting a gigantic piece of watercolor paper with coffee. Offsetting the seriousness of the design process with childlike fun is always imperative. 

First I gathered my tools: coffee, paintbrush, and scrap paper. I like minimal setups.

Next I tested the strength of the color in relation to the amounts of coffee and water within the brush. With French press coffee, some "sediment" settles to the bottom of the cup and this gave me darker colors (and some grit). 

Once I stepped over that small learning curve, I set out to cover my piece of 22x30 inch paper. It made me miss painting with watercolors, but I cannot get sidetracked with another endeavor at the moment!

Post_PaintingWithCoffee3.png

So, you may wonder what did not satisfy me with the Simpla photos. For one, keeping the fabric from wrinkling, and thus ironing (both with a real iron and with Photoshop), is a job I do not wish to add to my plate. I'd rather spend that time building other parts of this wheel. White fabric betrays every speck of lint that floats over it and lands within the weave. I felt the crisp color looked too new for the story I am trying to tell. I'd like for the aesthetic to stir feelings of something more timeless and classic. I think I am getting closer to that with this stained paper that looks almost like windblown sand—as if you might find a necklace with gleaming jewels laying in the sand at the foot of an ancient temple, waiting just for you.

Hobbes is the boss around here, the Creative Director. His approval consisted of a sniff, a look that said Good, keep working, followed by his departure. Like any good director.

Hobbes is the boss around here, the Creative Director. His approval consisted of a sniff, a look that said Good, keep working, followed by his departure. Like any good director.

So what will the new photos look like? Let me finish up the collection I'm working on, Mare, and we shall sea! (Do you see what I did there? Oh I did it again.)

Deserts are not empty

A man said to the Universe:
’Sir, I exist!’
’However,’ replied the Universe,
’The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.’
— Stephen Crane
Owens Valley, through the Sierra on the way down to Death Valley

Owens Valley, through the Sierra on the way down to Death Valley

Dear Indifferent Universe,

You know that I am intrigued by coincidences, and also that I am a problem solver. You've probably noticed the satisfaction I feel in that bright moment when connections happen, when things make sense. The connecting of dots stirs within me an almost primordial sense of joy. That is to say: it runs very deep. Through the life of a problem, question, or exploration, my mind holds a timeline from the beginning and it adds thumbtacks to hold clues when they emerge along the way. An elephant never forgets.

In this journey of creating jewelry (because it is something more than putting beads on a string, but that's another chapter in this story), a timeline has formed. The beginning swirls around those moments as a very small child when I would go and dig for shiny rocks in the dirt around my home. My parents, sister, and I spent many summer days looking for fossilized shark teeth and whale bone in the cliffs of the nearby riverbank. I remember the elation over a pile of gravel that was to be used for fancying up our driveway, but only so I could dig amongst all the gray stones for the few pieces of quartz that lie hidden inside.

My father and I on the Irish Sea, hounding the beach in Bray, 2014

My father and I on the Irish Sea, hounding the beach in Bray, 2014

I have always been intrigued by stones and crystals. I may have looked normal going about my childhood, but I frequently wondered about things that, had I voiced them, were probably quite odd. I would wonder as I sat on a playground: What sort of shiny rocks are in the earth, under my feet, at this very moment? I would imagine them in their foreign textures and colors. I dreamed of being an archaeologist. Now that I spend time with stones unearthed by someone else, I suppose that is the next best thing.

Later on the timeline is a moment when I first traveled through the Mojave desert. A quick survey of the landscape painted a story of desolation. I saw myriad hues of brown with endless bare mountains and immense, empty, valleys. I wanted to get out of the car and feel the sun on my skin so I parked it next to a dune covered in rocks and cactus. As I sat in the dusty earth, I took note of the things lying around me. I became mesmerized by all of the colors within the rocks—they were purple, blue like the sky and turquoise as the sea, brown was flecked with gold and fiery orange. These colors were all muted, the rocks sitting in the sun and taking many windy sand scrubs over time—but they were all there. My lifelong mantra arose in my mind: What else lies inside the earth? I made a huge heart out of rocks on the side of the road for passersby and continued on my way.

The descent into the valley; cacti in Palm Springs

The descent into the valley; cacti in Palm Springs

A new moment on the timeline has emerged. I've learned of other people who enjoy digging for rocks, and in the Mojave no less. I am not a geologist and I do not pretend to know each location around the world where various rocks are found. To learn that some of my favorites are under all of that sand, here in California—a land I hold so dear—leads me to see dots being connected. Joy.

The Mojave palette of colors

The Mojave palette of colors

Universe, I would like the opportunity to explore that land with a fellow rockhound or two. I need a guide as I have no idea where to begin, and cacti are not always the best conversationalists (though they do have their moments). I want to go treasure hunting in the most primitive sense!

Yours truly,
Christi