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Spiritual Alchemy

Thursday, September 07, 2017

On a recent trip back to my hometown, I realized the melancholy mix of art and loss that shaped my childhood, and my jewelry design.

Humble creatives and wide open spaces surrounded my childhood. A poetry-reciting farmer, loom artist, pet portrait painter and chronic mechanical tinkerer were all at work in my midst. No one was ever idle; things were always being invented and made. My mother encouraged my every artistic whim, and we often sat together carving animals out of bars of soap, sketching with charcoal, and writing storybooks. Music played, always. I befriended field mice and hid in dense pastures of milkweed and thistle. I believed I could control the clouds with my mind, and sensed that my young heart's home was among the trees and fields.

And alongside this earthy creativity, my youth was marked by loss and depression. It culminated in my teens as my dad suffered a terminal illness. Overwhelmed with worry about his impending death, I turned to my great grandfather's 19th-century poetry books. I secretly carried them in my high school bag and escaped into their world of Emerson, Browning, and Poe. The gold leaf and delicate bindings clashed with the 80s neon of the day, but I found comfort in those dog-eared pages. They seemed suspended in time and impervious to reality. These books led me to more modern poets like Plath and Roethke, and I quieted my anxiety by writing binders upon binders of my own poems and journals.

When my dad succumbed, I was a university sophomore. I struggled through my shock and grief to complete my BFA, but the experience of his suffering tamped my young spirit into a profound and lasting depression. Faithful to the fabric of my upbringing, I climbed my way out by turning to the arts and creativity.

Now, of course, I know that loss is a part of life, and it is bound to arrive in abundance for all of us. The trick is how we cope, and where we put the pain. For me, there is a healing magic in turning grief – whether mine or my clients' – into an object of beauty. This is why I make jewelry. Metalsmithing, for me, is spiritual alchemy.


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