"malas"

Its been an emotional few days... well... its been an emotional year (but I'll save that for some other time...) nothing terrible has happened... in fact, some really awesome things have happened! but still, some times you just feel a lot of feelings... and I feel like expressing some of them...

I've worked a fair and a farmers market in the last two days and in these last two days I've had more people pick up a bracelet and excitedly ask, "is this one of those mala things?!" than all the other times I've heard that question combined... and although no, the bracelet was not a mala.... I was elated that someone knew the word and was interested in the idea of it! but then another person asked.. and another.... and another.... and I started wondering, "how in the world has everyone become so excited by 'malas' all of a sudden??" I didn't dwell on the why too much and took it as an opportunity to engage in one of my favorite topics.... but tonight, as I was finally taking a moment to relax before bed and scrolling through to see what all my friends had been up to all weekend, I stop on an ad of a plain bracelet made from matte amazonite stones with the word "MALA" scrawled next to it. I couldn't help but click on it.... and I was taken to a page filled with pictures of these bracelets and necklaces with gemstones and brightly colored tassels and Czech glass beads and girls by the pool "adding a little fashion to their swimsuits".... all with the description "authentic malas".... I was almost brought to tears. 

I was so distraught, in fact, that I launched into a half hour tirade to my boyfriend about how upsetting it was to see this company with 22k followers, undoubtedly popular and trendy.... using the description "authentic malas" and #bohochic and #womensfashion to describe something that has absolutely nothing to do with Bohemia and, after counting the beads on the bracelets, can't even truly be called "authentic".... it bothered me so much that they were using "mala", such a meaningful thing, as way to sell trendy jewelry...

an "authentic" mala has meaning... it has purpose.... its made a certain way.... and its used a certain way... and although they were including hashtags like #meditate and #yoga... I have a feeling the intentions were a little skewed... traditional malas are made using sacred numbers and materials... even the method in which its made is sacred... the bracelets contain 27 beads and the necklaces 108... their bracelets were all different numbers of beads... and, while their necklaces did indeed have 108 beads, there were no knots between them. traditional malas are hand knotted and take hours to make... the point is to put intention into every knot... a pause... a separation of the beads so they are easier to count while you're chanting your mantra, which is the true purpose of a mala. And although no, I don't suspect every person I've knotted a mala for chants all day or even uses them deliberately, I do know that the reason they bought or commissioned the piece was because they cared about its intention. They were moved when I explained its significance and symbolism.  

I couldn't stand the idea that so many people were buying and wearing these pieces without any deeper understanding to their purpose or meaning... they are wearing "malas" that aren't malas and they aren't even sure why...

It kills me that people don't dig deeper... that someone would wear a "mala" to spruce up a swim suit... it kills me that someone would sell a "mala" to spruce up a swim suit... doesn't anyone care what it means?

As I was expressing all of this through gritted teeth and a few choice words, I started to think more deeply about my emotions over the whole thing.... when I'm explaining to people the different gemstones I use and telling them all the different meanings and properties of them, I hear all the time: "yeah but I mean come on they're just rocks." and it hurts my feelings every time. but its because it matters to me. I can't expect it to matter to everyone. I say to those people "well, its all about intention." and I believe that. LIFE is all about intention. And although yes, I've spent hours and hours and hours of my life studying all these different religions and cultures and developing a deep affection for all the traditions and rituals and subtleties.... I have to remind myself that I can't expect to share that with everyone... every person that steps up to my table has an interest that I don't share.... and if life really is all about intention, then why am I so upset by this? Isn't the fact that these people, who otherwise might never had even heard the word mala, gained although a somewhat vague idea of it meaningful enough?

I'm not sure.... I haven't landed on a solid feeling for that yet... (I'd like to say no open minded Buddhist would look down on these people for their naïvety or lack of understanding)  but I can tell you what I've decided for sure.... I've decided that I'm grateful for you all. I know the only people reading this are people who care... people who have enjoyed engaging with me about my work and my passions. even if I kept you at my booth talking your ear off about Eskimo folklore or my favorite Hindu goddesses or even my twenty minute spiel about all the significance of a traditional mala, I know that you cared enough to make the effort to engage with me further on my blog... you're the reason I'll never use the hashtag #womensfashion to sell you something... you're the reason I'll never stop learning about my stones or my materials or the purposes and intentions behind the pieces I make that are inspired by meaningful objects.

The feeling I get when someone's mouth drops open as I show them a bracelet made from the kind of stones Cleopatra wore or the stone King Tut's sarcophagus was inlaid with or help them choose a stone for a suffering loved one based on its healing properties is ten times more overwhelming than the feeling I get when I see cultural appropriation without appreciation.... I feel so warm and happy thinking about all my hand knotted malas out there in the world being worn by lovely people who wear them not for beauty, but for the beauty of their intention. 

Thank you. Thank you for digging deeper. Thank you for all your love. You're what makes my work mean something to me.

pi day

It's my FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR!!! It's pi day!!! Pie is my favorite food.... no kidding. My favorite food ever. I love all kinds... blueberry, apple, key lime, chess, pecan, raspberry, chocolate, lemon, but most especially BLACKBERRY. So in honor of this most amazing holiday... I made a blackberry lemon zest pie!!

Here's the catch.... it's actually pretty healthy! (well, maybe not healthy... but it's at least not terrible for you!) It's gluten-free.... organic... and it has a bit less sugar than other "healthy" pie recipes! So you can feel a little less guilty indulging!! I even served it with dairy-free almond milk vanilla ice cream!! yummmmm....

This is the first time I've ever made a gluten-free pie crust from scratch, so I was a little anxious about how it would turn out... I used a regular pie recipe I have (why I didn't specifically use a gluten-free recipe I have no idea... so silly) but I adjusted it to fit my gluten-free flour. It helps when the dough is chilled in the fridge, but I got a little impatient and just went for it... it definitely turned out a bit more "rustic" than I had hoped... I love a perfectly pinched edge... but it tasted so good I didn't even care! 

I will also mention, because it makes QUITE the difference... I used an 8" cast iron skillet.. so it's a bit smaller than a typical pie tin... but if you skip hand making the crust and just go with a packaged kind, you should be fine!

Anyway... below is the recipe and I hope you enjoy making my favorite dessert... with a healthy little twist!

crust:

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (I used glutino brand)

2 tblsp organic brown sugar

1/2 tsp organic cinnamon

1/2 cup + 1/2 tblsp warm water

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt

6 tblsp grass fed butter

1 1/2 tbsp organic coconut oil

 

filling:

3 - 6oz containers of organic blackberries

1/4 cup organic sugar

1/4 cup organic brown sugar

1/2 tbsp organic agave syrup

1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt

3 tbsp arrowroot powder

2 tbsp grass fed butter softened

lemon zest

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

First you want to get your dough made and chilling in the fridge while you work on the filling...

to make crust:

1. combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl

2. fold in butter, coconut oil and warm water... mixing with a fork until dough ball forms...

(it's beneficial if you know a bit what to look for in a pie crust... it needs to be soft enough that it won't break apart easily, but firm enough that it holds its shape against the edge of the pan)

3. leave the dough in the fridge while you work on the filling!

 

to make filling:

1. wash berries (duh!)

2. melt butter in saucepan (I used my wok...) add berries and heat over medium temperature

3. once the berries get a little soft mash them with a large wooden spoon against the side of the pan

4. stir in both sugars, salt, agave syrup, and lemon zest... bring to a simmer

5. slowly stir in arrowroot until the mixture thickens... turn temp to low and return to making crust

 

Rub coconut oil inside the pie pan.

Roll crust out to about 1/4" thick and place into the pie pan (if your dough isn't chilled enough, which mine was not, you can place a lump in the bottom of the pan and mash along the bottoms and side to about 1/4" thick) using a fork, poke holes all around the bottom of the crust.

Use the excess dough to make a lattice... or like me, you can cut it into little flower shapes or stars or letters or get creative!!

Pour in filling and place topping crust... brush on a little melted butter (or a bit of egg white for a nice glaze, I wish I had but this time I skipped it) and sprinkle on a bit of sugar!

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes depending on thickness of crust (or bake to directions of packaged dough!) until the crust is nice and brown and the filling is hot and bubbly!

Let pie cool before cutting to help keep the filling from running too much and serve with your favorite ice cream!!

HAPPY PI DAY EVERYONE!!!!

 


 

hello two thousand sixteen!

happy new year!!    

I can't believe I've made it this far! When I first opened the shop, I was so excited but also so unsure of what the future would hold. I was confident in myself that with enough hard work, love and support that being successful wouldn't be too far out of reach. But I guess a part of me, in the back of my mind, still wondered if it was all really that feasible. Can I really do this long-term or is this just an exciting little journey I can enjoy for a while? Where will boxwood really be a year from now? just a happy memory? I think there is always a little tiny bit of doubt in the back of every small business owner's mind. I guess the key (it is for me anyway) is to continue to believe in yourself and your work... to constantly pat yourself on the back and give yourself encouragement through the hard days... to remind yourself how lucky you are to live out your dreams.

A lot has changed in the year though... none of which I have shared here. I opened the store at the beginning of February and spent nearly all my time there. I hosted some art openings, held a few fun classes, even a birthday party! But in the spring, an interesting opportunity presented itself. Anytime I visit my parents at home in Chattanooga, we always go down to the farmer's market on Sundays. Its always been my favorite weekend tradition... they have the best food trucks, flowers, music, activities, so many vendors you could spend hours there. I can't tell you how many times I've walked through that market wishing I could have a booth of my own. So finally, I applied for a space. I was accepted and started traveling to Chattanooga most weekends for the arts market at the aquarium on Saturdays and the big farmer's market on Sundays. I couldn't have been happier! I loved spending so much time outdoors and meeting so many people and making new friends with all the other vendors... I loved the community. I started to realize that as much as I enjoyed the shop, I was spending most of my days inside alone... sure, people would come in and I've made a few really dear friends from people just "stopping by to browse"... but I found I was so much happier at the farmer's market.

I know it sounds strange to trade in a beautiful brick and mortar for a 10x10ft pop up tent, but I'm so thankful I did. I decided in July that since I was packing up most of my shop to take for my booth and spending my busiest days, the weekend, closed and in another city that maybe I ought to consider closing the store permanently. I felt bad having to leave a sign on the locked door apologizing for any inconvenience... my hours became so unpredictable... I knew my priorities were shifting and I didn't want to give my sweet little shop a bad reputation because its owner was always off being a gypsy. I had a tough decision to make. I didn't have the means to hire any help, and since I was enjoying the markets so much, that as hard as it was imagining closing the store after such a short time, it was the right thing to do. I loved the store, I really did. I enjoyed being there and creating in that space, and I miss it all the time.... but I couldn't be any happier with my decision. I have the freedom now to travel anywhere, anytime, for any event. I've done markets and events all over Tennessee and even a few in Georgia and North Carolina! I spend most weekends in my spot at the farmer's market, but occasionally I'll spend a weekend at a music festival or an arts and crafts fair (or even once at a storytelling and junior YODELING competition)! Doing farmer's markets and events like that are so much fun and are always interesting, but having a job that depends so heavily on the weather isn't always easy, and wasn't something I worried so much about at the store! My new lifestyle has its own challenges, (like now, in the winter when the market is closed until April!) but I had a very successful first season and I'm counting down the days til we open back up! (only 107 more!)

But the most difficult part for me through everything this past year has been learning to balance my time. I spend the majority of it making things and being creative (which yes, is arguably the most important part since without the things I make I wouldn't have a business at all) but I've struggled to make the time for proper bookkeeping, keeping up with my etsy shop (its empty now, I know, I suck), making any posts on here at all, I forget I even have a facebook.... which are all vital to the health of my business! So my goals going into my second year are to work on balancing my time, to devote serious effort to having well kept books and records, to load up my etsy shop (especially for this winter break!), to make posts here more regularly and to try and remember I have a facebook page!

I suppose having your own business is always going to be an ongoing process of learning, adapting, overcoming and growing... it will always have its ups and downs... but boy, am I lucky to have it all.

I just thought I'd share a little bit of the journey from this past year and take a moment to thank you all for your continued support going into 2016... I can't wait to see what this year holds!!

 

 

 

 

 

unplug..

It may seem ironic... and even a little hypocritical to write a blog post about the overuse of technology. Especially this being only the second post I've even written! But it's something that weighs on my mind a lot lately, and I figure I might as well write about it in the beginning.

I've become increasingly more aware of how much I use my phone and computer for reasons that are unnecessary and add no value to my life. I realized not long ago that my phone was the last thing I touch before I go to sleep, and the first thing I touch when I wake up. It's my alarm clock. It's the reason I open my eyes in the morning. Its the first thing I reach for each and every day. Instead of being woken up by a clock- who's sole purpose of existence is to tell the time- I wake up to missed calls, text messages, emails, and the endless scroll of social media. I am immediately immersed in the chaos of the day before I've even scratched the sleep out of my eyes. And at bedtime? I've been startled awake by the tone of an email and actually replied right then and there... in the middle of the night... as if it couldn't wait until the next day.

We are becoming a society who cannot fathom the thought of being disconnected, for even a moment. What stress we feel when our batteries are on 2% and we forgot to CARRY OUR CHARGER WITH US! We swerve to avoid oncoming traffic because we just HAD to reply "ok" to a text message. We are lost in this idea of the importance of "connectedness." The usefulness of the network has been so decimated that now we use it to let all others know what we ate for lunch. We have begun to overvalue our every thought. The most mundane and often even hurtful thoughts are typed up for all to see. How is this adding value to our lives? We are abusing the unique opportunity we have to use the internet to inform, uplift, and learn from each other. Sure, I'm guilty of scrolling and scrolling and scrolling on social media... I've posted a picture of my breakfast more than once... I've even recently discovered pinterest (shoot me.) It can be addicting. There is something about knowing that there is truly no end to what you can see online... The thought, "but if I just scrolled a LITTLE further I'm going to see something I just know I couldn't have lived without seeing!" But is this true? Am I really going to just fall over dead if I didn't see that picture of your salad? Did you REALLY need to see mine? And sure, pinterest is FULL of great ideas and how-to's that truly are helpful to me and my business... but, I don't think I would die if I didn't scroll for two hours looking at every single post about recycling pallet wood. I think I might survive.

That's why I have decided (and encourage you) to take a real, good look at your use of technology. I've made a pact with myself that I'm going to make an effort to put my phone on "do not disturb" (because let's get real, emergencies DO happen and with the disappearance of the landline... I should at least be able to be reached) at and after dinnertime, until I go to work, when I'm out with friends, when I'm reading - yes, I read. A lot. And any other time I would rather be fully immersed in real life than distracted by virtual reality. I'm going to wake up and enjoy the first bit of the day under the covers, laughing and talking with my love and snuggling with my puppy. I hear by solemnly swear to quit scrolling in bed. And I promise to fill up my blog with things that are interesting, cultural, helpful, unusual, creative, beautiful and enlightening. I'm going to ask myself every time my finger is poised over the "post" button, "is this going to inform or uplift? Will someone be glad they saw this? Will it help someone, or at least brighten their day? Should I be outside right now?" I'm sure that I'll cave to the occasional pointless post just like everyone else. But, being aware is always the beginning of change, and I hope to lead a life less consumed by technology and more concerned with living and learning. Time is the most precious stuff in the world, let's not waste it.

 

the journey begins...

I guess I should start by telling a little about myself and the journey I've just begun. I was always a little artist when I was a kid... constantly drawing and making things... I grew up and even went to university for a degree in painting and art history. After I graduated though, I got a job managing a salon. And for the first time in my life, stopped creating. I was making great money and the benefits were nice, I even loved my team... I just felt so empty. I stayed there for a couple more years before I knew it was time to be myself again. I'm a true believer in fate. The universe gives you exactly what you need when the time is right. It puts you in just the right places and with the right people. Always trust the universe. So when I got a call one day with a job offer to paint murals... I knew it was fate. I put in my notice, picked up my paintbrush and began my life as an artist.

It wasn't long before I started imagining having my own place... I started to miss throwing ceramics, sewing, making paper, book binding, photography, and all the other things I had learned over the years. As happy as I was painting, I had a yearning for a place I could do and make anything I felt like. A place for learning and teaching and creating. My boyfriend and I (we met in art school... and accidentally fell in love...) got invited to be a part of a group painting show at the beginning of December. I was too busy to participate, but he hung a new piece with them- and that weekend we went to the space for the opening. It was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen. Huge windows and skylights...white brick walls... light concrete floors... 20 foot wooden ceilings... a glass wall leading out into an enclosed patio covered in a mossy green patina.... I commented to my friend hosting the show how fabulous the building was and she said, "I know, it's for rent too... I hope whoever takes it keeps it an artistic space, it's just too perfect." I knew it was fate. I signed the lease in less than a month, and began the journey that is boxwood brake.

I opened the shop in 28 days. It was an overwhelming 28 days. Overwhelmingly hectic and stressful, but also especially exciting and so much fun too! My mother and I refinished 15 pieces of furniture, made a collection of jewelry, a collection of pillow covers, my grandmother helped to make a line of women's shirts and wraps, I assembled a selection of oils for custom perfumes and body scrubs, and we styled the shop to absolute perfection. It was exactly as I had envisioned from the moment I first heard the words "for rent." My boyfriend, Woods, has always supported himself with his art. He makes incredible paintings, he designs logos and art work for different companies and events, he even welds together dinosaur skeletons for museums. He's pretty amazing. I was always jealous of his life as an artist and he had always encouraged me to believe in myself and my abilities. The shop was the perfect way for us to have a life supported by our own hands.  He helps me teach painting classes and works for me when I'm at a market or pop-up shop. My mother and grandmother still make a lot of the clothes and bags. It really is a family affair- and that's my favorite part! Opening the shop has brought us together and given us a unique outlet to be creative and collaborative.

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As a creative space, we use the shop as a studio, a gallery for various shows, and a classroom where we teach and host different tutorials and special creative events. I book private parties for crafts and cocktails, and I host bridal and baby showers too! It's such a neat thing that I'm getting to live and work as an artist- and to share my skills and my beautiful space with others! I decided that writing was another one of those arts I missed... and maybe I should start a blog. I would love to share all the neat things that I come across in my daily research for new techniques, inspiration and my incessant quest to learn everything I can. So, here's to boxwood brake.... hope to have you on the journey with me.