What are your most prized possessions?
What do you have that simply kept calling to you until it belonged to you?
What does it add to your life beyond its physical materiality?
I had absolutely no business, zero business buying this bracelet while I was studying abroad in Sydney, Australia during my junior year in college. I still remember the teeny boutique out Glebe Point Road opposite a coffee shop in the same courtyard. It had desert rose-rust colored walls, and jewelry displayed in dark wood and glass cases. I visited this bracelet once a week as if it were a friend. . . I had such an affection for it. It kept drawing me back until I caved.
I bought two bracelets from that boutique, and a sweater, actually ; ) if I'm being completely honest. I still wear all three, 18 years later. So treasured. They somehow represented the woman I aspired to become. In some ways, I guess I knew myself pretty well then. Do you have a story like that?
Silver, link, thoughtful, adjustable-length hook closure and the stone. . . I had never seen anything like it. I was enamored by the way it gleamed in the sunlight. Could a piece of jewelry actually ignite hope within? The back of the stone's setting told the truth. It was so honest. It was just quartz rock set in a silver bezel.
I knew it wasn't a precious stone, but, to me, it was pure magic. Turns out, the stone is Lodalite and was from Brazil. It is said to have soothing energies that put you in a meditative state, to bring energy into your life to manifest your heart's desires, inspire bravery and risk-taking.
Well how about that?
Who doesn't need that?
Do you listen to those nudging little voices of intuition?
What are they saying?
The second bracelet was leather, tribal and very direct. Richly colored beads were simply stitched on with straightforward velcro closure. While I'm not into velcro, it is still functional after all this time and it allows for a tight fit around my wrist and so the bracelet doesn't flop around. It works.
During my last semester of undergrad, I petitioned to take a jewelry elective at a local art school. Go figure. Maybe I found my calling. Have you found yours? Are you listening closely?
Life after graduation took me to NYC, where I was a live-in nanny for an affluent family. The mother had a collection of real jewelry. I took jewelry workshops at FIT and the Y and decided to pursue jewelry more seriously by applying for my MFA. I had come from an academic background and this seemed the most logical approach to more schooling. An advanced degree, opening up the possibility to teach.
Before classes began, I got a job at Nordstrom. I was in fine jewelry department working under the loveliest of lovely bosses, however because I was in fine jewelry, I was expected to wear a suit every day. This was so foreign to me. I alternated the two I had.
During my first week on the job, I earned the highest sales of the day and my name was announced the following morning over the loudspeaker. I felt like I was on a tv show or something, or I was wearing someone else's clothes or maybe I was in the witness protection program. I just didn’t feel like I was in my own life. Ever feel that way? And not to mention the fine jewelry department was a dichotomy to the studio art jewelry degree I was pursuing in my program.
It didn't take long for me to realize that I was silly to think I was going to have time for a job in this grad program. I did teach elective courses, managed an art gallery, monitored the shop. Grad school kept me on a very short leash. After graduation, I spent a summer treading water on Nantucket--teaching at an art and design school, babysitting, managing guest cottages (I’ve never done so much laundry), and hostessing at a restaurant. Then it was back to NYC for me. . .
Brooklyn this time, designing a fine jewelry collection with a dear friend from grad school. Truth was, while we shared an affinity for the same beauty, and a soul-sister bond, we were in different places in life, operating on disparate budgets, holding a different client in mind, and we hadn't properly hashed out the business details of the partnership. Oh the details! After a few months, we decided to head our separate ways, choosing friendship over business. I still had a wild hair and dreams of the West.
A friend’s wedding date was fast-approaching in Minneapolis but I wasn’t going to go because I was in such a huge life transition. He called me and said, “Look, there are some people you invite to your wedding out of obligation. Others you invite because you 100% expect that they are going to show up. So gas up the Jetta, take Amtrak or hop on a Greyhound, whatever you gotta do. You’re coming.”
And so I did. I'm glad he reminded me amidst my chaos, I still needed to show up for a friend; at my core, that is who I am. I packed up my 1999 Volvo (that I drove until 2016, by the way) with my camping gear, clothes and some of my favorite necessities and headed west. Freedom.
My aunt said, "You can’t get in the car and start driving if you don’t know where you are going." I smiled and shrugged. I instinctively knew if I made it through the Rockies without choosing a home or a home choosing me, that I was headed to California’s Central Coast. It is my longtime life dream of splitting time between both. What's yours?
Surrendered to my intuition to lead the way. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa. . .
I camped and visited friends on my cross-country drive. This wasn't my first XC drive. It was my 5th time and I only had one of those drives with a friend riding shotgun part of the way. I do love a long road trip. This was in 2008. I had a gold flip phone and the same paper atlas I have today. I never did download my TomTom navigation system that my mom gave to me nor did I put new songs on my first-generation iPod. Shoot.
Flash-forward about 2 months, a dozen campgrounds; weird motels; Wall Drug; big cities; friends’ couches; a long-time-coming yet very abrupt ending of a long-distance relationship; National and State Parks; a tornado warning in the Plains that I could see and feel from inside my little green tent; a summer of fires in California and oh so many tears. I was either grinning widely, footloose and fancy-free or crying my eyes out. I didn't reside much in the space between. Been there?
I was catching up with a college friend in Santa Cruz after I made my way down the rugged coastline from Oregon. What comfort to be with a good old friend. She gave me the grand tour in three days…wine tasting in the redwoods, a beach day on Seabright, a farmer’s market and bike ride on Westcliff. Still I wasn’t 100% convinced. I joined my aunt in San Fran the following week while she was there on business. Being crafty and very near the end of my shoestring budget, I scheduled for my car to be serviced at a Volvo Service Center in SF and they agreed to let me leave my car for a few days. . . and so I dodged paying for city parking. ; )
My aunt left and we checked out of the room. I went to pick up my car and was asked where the car had been. The whole steering column was rusting out from Northeast winters and I was told that I wasn’t taking that car anywhere. Crying in the fancy hotel lobby while the city buzzed about, I called my mom who stated the obvious while I was agonizing as if there was an actual decision to be made. "You have to fix the car," she said.
I have to fix the car.
Patty at Volvo rented me a car because the costly repair was going to take a week. I schlepped all my stuff from the dusty Volvo to my clean Enterprise rent-a-car and headed back down the coast. On that drive, I came to terms with the fact that my joyride had come to a screeching halt.
I needed a job and a place to live. Shoot.
At least in Santa Cruz, I had a "person". And she's a fun person. She followed Phish around. Her bedroom still looked, felt, even smelled strikingly similar to the one in our shared off-campus house in college. She'd get take-out from the hot bar at the local health food store and eat it while making vibrant beaded jewelry in her bed. Her company was such a comfort, but that day, the day I realized my trip was over, she just couldn’t "do company."
So I was a camper again. . . at Big Basin and at New Brighton State Beach. I spent my days in coffee shops combing through craigslist for jobs and house shares. By the end of the first week I had a job. After the end of the second week, and touring some pretty sketchy places, I had a home to share. A welcoming home with an attached, converted garage, and the garage part was all mine. So that’s the scoop. Eight years later, I still lived in the same dwelling. Had the same job for 7 years. Santa Cruz felt like a time warp... In hindsight, I know that Santa Cruz doesn't make it all fall together like that for everyone. I've lived in many places over the past 20 years since leaving home in Punxsutawney. Santa Cruz really welcomed me. Where have you felt embraced?
Over my time there, I worked in a handful of small, locally owned + operated + impeccably curated boutiques, selling everything from garments to camping stoves, from antiques to fine jewelry. And the restaurant. . . my beloved restaurant job. Service suits me. I loved the constant motion, the urban bustle, being completely present, facilitating a good time and leaving with cash in my pocket. I wasn't a starving artist thanks to this job. The forced social situations through my places of work helped me build a wide community and make a wealth of friends. These humanly-demanding jobs complemented my introvert, art loner. For years, I meddled in a shared metals studio only casually. Jewelry just wasn't calling to me. Or I was too booked to hear.
Years passed and eventually the cost of living and traffic wore on us; then, I suffered a tremendous loss with the tragic passing of my dad -- a month after he retired. One month. That experience provoked many questions about what I wanted to do with my time, about what I'd leave behind. What next? What were my dreams? What did I want from my life beyond being happy in the present moment? Thinking futuristically, which, if you can tell, I am not so inclined to do, I reflected on how I'd like my 80th birthday to feel looking back. We craved a slower pace, where a place of our own was attainable, more rural, with room to roam. Maybe even a guest room. A garden. Quiet. An art studio where I could reacquaint myself with my dreams of creative pursuits and cultivate them as my calling. It's been a long time coming; it's never too late to follow a dream.
This place had to be near the ocean or in the mountains. Must. Be. Beautiful.
So we moved to the coast of Northern California. I never tire of its beauty. I'm in constant awe of it, really.
Oh, and this is my boyfriend, Sannyceramics.com.
I have called California home for 9 years now. Santa Cruz for 8 and now the wild and serene Mendonoma coast. Maybe California has somewhat tamed the wanderer, but not the wonderer. I'm grateful for my day-to-day lifestyle here. I don't take it for granted. So here I am, finally putting my jewelry out into the world because I want to do for people what that bracelet in Australia did for me so many years ago. Ignite something deep within. Radiate your inner light, your magic, outward. Cultivate courage and inner strength to be the best version of yourself and manifest your heart's desire.
- Born in 1978 DuBois, Pennsylvania + raised in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. (Yes, Punxsutawney Phil the Groundhog.)
- Lehigh University BA Journalism + Communication , BA Studio Art , Bethlehem, PA
- Rhode Island School of Design, MFA Jewelry + Metalsmithing, Providence RI
Did you really read all of that?
You must be a relative. :)
Your turn! Tell me about yourself.
I promise my email updates won't be so long. ;)
Any info you share stays with me. . .