Read an Excerpt
From the Rhineland to the Island of Aloha
When I begin reading a book I always like to know more about the person who wrote it. I appreciate seeing a picture of the author and reading about the author's life and work. This gives me a sense of who the writer is and gives me a deeper connection with the book.
Creating jewelry from beautiful gemstones is a highly personal spiritual experience for me. In my work I draw deeply on my life experience and what I've learned during my spiritual journey in response to my life challenges. Perhaps reading about how my work grew out of my life course will help you to understand what I strive to achieve in my work, and you will better see how Jewelry for the Soul can help you on your own journey.
My Fascination with Ethnic Jewelry
I spent fourteen years of my early life in Cologne, Germany, the cultural capital of the Rhineland, with its beautiful medieval cathedral, thirty-one museums, and Germany's largest arts fair. When I discovered the museums and all their beautiful collections of jewelry from other times and places on the Earth, I was utterly enchanted and touched by the art from the Egyptians, Etruscan, American Indians, Greeks, Celts, and the Roman Empire. From then on, my own European heritage has greatly influenced my work as a jeweler.
I decided I wanted to pursue a trade that would allow me to be self-employed and express myself creatively. I was drawn to jewelry making for the intimate, personal connection I felt with jewelry: you admire it, enjoy it, and wear it on your body.
Apprenticeship and Studies
In Germany there is a long tradition of apprenticeship in the crafts, reaching back to the Middle Ages. I began my apprenticeship at age twenty-one at a master jeweler's studio in the outskirts of Cologne, working under harsh conditions in a cold cellar. But I was an independent-minded young woman with a vision for my future. After a year and a half, I left my apprenticeship and began studies at Fachhochschule für Kunst und Design in Cologne. I'd miraculously been chosen out of hundreds of applicants for an art and jewelry class of just ten students.
I knew clearly that jewelry making was my passion and my future and I was determined to learn it.
My most important teacher, Mechtild Baumann, was in her forties and an accomplished master jeweler, and I was a young woman of twenty-two in need of a mentor. She befriended me and took me under her wing, and this became a very fruitful relationship. I went to study and work with her at her studio and home in Cologne, and it was Mechtild who taught me true goldsmithing.
Under the medieval guild system, a craftsman became a journeyman upon finishing an apprenticeship. For a period of at least five years, the journeyman would travel from town to town, looking for work with different masters in order to perfect his skills. Only after further training and taking an exam could the journeyman achieve the level of master. In accordance with that long tradition, I signed a new contract with Mechtild, finished out my apprenticeship with her, and successfully passed my final exam to become a journeywoman.
I have precious memories of the time I spent with Mechtild. We were together the entire day, from morning to night. She was my guardian angel and a wonderful teacher. She not only taught me jewelry-making techniques, but opened my eyes and my heart to a deeper level of the craft that had been lacking in my previous training. She had piles of books about ancient cultures and their jewelry making. We would spend the day at the bench with a big pot of tea between us, working, investigating those books, listening to the music of legendary jazz and New Age musician Paul Horn, and discussing the meaning of life.
Finding a Spiritual Path
I was brought up in a religious family-my grandfather was a Protestant minister-and I had a spiritual orientation in life even as a child. I always felt an inner connection to God.
As a Gemini rising, I am compelled to constantly learn about a great many things that awaken my curiosity. That thirst for knowledge took me on a journey that immersed me in spirituality and a quest to understand how I could express my spirituality through my work. Mechtild used to say that her art was her spiritual path. At that time I didn't really grasp what that meant for her, but as I explored my own spirituality through my art, I began to understand. Today I know that sitting at my jeweler's bench with awareness, presence, and openness to my own being is integrating spirituality into my daily life. I feel very connected and joyful in the process of creation. I love feeling connected to something larger than my ego identity.
From my beginning in art school, I had studied symbols and sacred geometry-the spiritual meaning of the patterns found in nature, from the tiniest things to the cosmos-which led me to learn about astrology. Astrology is one of the oldest systems of seeing and interpreting the world through symbols. It is a system of divination, the discovering of hidden knowledge. Astrology opened my eyes to a vast new world.
I also encountered teachers from all over the world who worked with the healing aspects of crystals and gemstones. My first teacher in the area of healing with gemstones was Daya Chocron, who wrote the first book on this topic many years ago. At about that time, I had a very striking experience in a meditation with a Rubellite Tourmaline. I felt an all-encompassing love spreading throughout my body, especially my heart. My being was filled with sweetness and joy. When I later read about the qualities of Rubellite, I was amazed at how accurate my vision had been. This experience opened me up to the metaphysical world of gemstones and my direct experience convinced me of the energy they contained.
Another teacher I was fortunate to meet was scientist Marcel Vogel, an IBM researcher who developed the first liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and went on to investigate the healing properties of crystals and become a well-known healer. He created ways of cutting crystals to enhance their powers for healing purposes. I met him at several seminars and was invited by him to do research at his laboratory in San José, California. This was my first visit to the United States, in the 1990s.
Others I met started out as healers or spiritual teachers and then began to use crystals to enhance transmission of their own healing energy. Some used crystals for meditation or laid them in healing patterns on the body. What I learned from these teachers allowed me to deepen my knowledge of healing and my connection to my own inner being.
Astrology is both a science and an art form. Anyone can learn the science of astrology, but to apply that science to help people understand the forces at work in their lives, it is necessary to develop a degree of psychic skill as well as communication skill to convey those concepts to people who are seeking understanding.
I always knew I could read people very well. I am able to reach down to subtle levels of people, to sense their inner being, who they are. Sometimes I would see images of them in different settings, like past lives. When I give an astrological reading, I tune in through the chart and have a pretty good feel for how it applies to the client. When I began to work with gemstones, I could hold a stone and tune into it and know its qualities and feel them in my body.
During my training as a jeweler I sought to further develop these psychic skills to enhance my art and the lives of my clients. I learned chakra reading (interpreting the energetic imprints in a person's energy field) with psychic healers.
I was passionate about being a jeweler and excited to discover the deeper meanings of jewelry beyond its simple surface beauty. My loose schedule in art school gave me ample time to pursue my own research and my personal spiritual journey.
After five years of study, I passed my final exam and became a certified artist, which enabled me to be self-employed as a jewelry artist in Germany.
I used to live in an old neighborhood in the center of Cologne. One day on my way home I came across a small shop that seemed to be empty. I thought this might be a wonderful little shop for a jewelry gallery. I christened it "Gallery Phoenix."
The shop took off almost immediately. Six months later I had another jeweler working for me, and then a second one. Two years later I moved next door to a much larger and nicer gallery space and had five employees.
I very much enjoyed both my work and the success of the gallery. What I found most satisfying at my gallery in Cologne was creating jewelry that had deep personal meaning for people. I learned to create Soul Jewelry that connects us to the spirit and deeper level of our soul, where it becomes an expression of who we are as a being. My clients were involved in the process of design and picking out stones for healing, balance, or expansion into higher aspects of themselves. I gave them an astrological reading, showed them their healing stones, and then designed a very personal piece of Soul Jewelry for them.
In the seven years that I owned my gallery in Cologne, I gave about a thousand astrology readings and many seminars all over Germany about using gemstones and crystals to enhance healing and meditation. This afforded me a great deal of experience and feedback from my clients and others who used gems and crystals in their lives. I heard some amazing stories from them. I had very beautiful and deep connections with people I met through this aspect of my work and found many friends.
In 1994, without a specific plan in mind, knowing only that I needed to take the next step on my journey, I sold the gallery to my partner and moved on into an unknown future. I did some traveling around the world, met more spiritual teachers and healers, and did a lot of soul searching and growing.
My search was to understand how the human mind functions, how to heal trauma, and how to recondition ourselves to live deeper lives. I became very interested in Tibetan Buddhism and saw the Dalai Lama and Tibetan lamas. I did not adopt that path, though, because I sensed that it was very complex and foreign to my Western mind. I did Zen meditation retreats, but found those to be too rigid (and hard on my back!). I learned about Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy from masters such as Tony Robbins and Eli Jaxon-Bear, and I presented introductory seminars in NLP myself. I traveled to India several times, learning from a Siddha yoga master teacher in Kerala, South India, and went to the Oneness University near Chennai.
All of these experiences added to my understanding and deepened my own connection with the divine.
Hawaii, Love, and Soul Jewelry
I had been to Maui in 1991 for a seminar and had fallen in love with the island. I returned here in 1995 initially for a sabbatical and to write. Then I met Will, a jeweler who specialized in creating the most beautiful jewelry with natural crystals. I had done some work with crystals in Germany, but in general it is very unusual for jewelers to work with natural crystals rather than cut stones. Happily, my plan to stay in Hawaii for only one year was foiled by falling in love with Will! Our two souls recognized each other instantly. We embarked on a new life and a new business together here on Maui. And that is how I came to live and work in paradise with my husband.
Will and I have been happily living on Maui for thirteen years now, working in our home studio on the slopes of Haleakala Mountain, an ancient dormant volcano. Maui is a truly magical place. Astrologically it is a place of Pluto (transformation) and Venus (love and art). Maui is home to a great variety of artists: our many writers, painters, jewelers, sculptors, and woodworkers find that the island is a conductor that frees creative energies and helps them to manifest their visions.
When I first came here, I was very deeply touched by the spirit and beauty of the island. I am awed by the beauty of nature in all its different forms. From our house we have a view over the West Maui Mountains, surrounded by the ocean, and we watch the most breathtaking sunsets here almost every evening. The colors here are very intense: the blue of the sky and the ocean, the greens of the tropical plants, the bright colors of the flowers. I started painting here with oils and a pallet knife, trying to catch the beauty around me.
Maui is called the island of aloha, a Hawaiian word that means "sharing the breath of life." It is a greeting of unconditional love, which I find expressed in the friendliness and close relationships of the people here.
Apprentices have come from all over the world to learn jewelry making with me. It feels good to pass on some of what I have learned and received over the years. Happily, I am back at the bench myself, creating jewelry with my own hands. I have come full circle with the teachings of my most cherished mentor, Mechtild, to find that jewelry making is a spiritual journey and a sacred act.
I create my own jewelry with attention to harmony of form, conscious use of metals, and, of course, colorful combinations of gemstones. I also do personal counseling and Gemstone Profiles for people who are interested in discovering the gemstones that heal, nurture, and support them. Occasionally I lead weekend seminars on Meditation and Healing with Gemstones and Crystals and hold Oneness Deeksha events. You can find all kinds of creations from my heart to yours at my web-site, www.shaktijewelry.com.
I lead a quiet life where there is time to meditate, sit with my cat, work in the garden, and continue my inner spiritual work, which is most important for me. I feel nourished by the beauty all around me and feel very grateful for where my life's journey has brought me.
In this book, I share with you the spiritual principles and information about gemstones and crystals that have brought beauty, insight, and energy into my own life for over thirty years so that you may engage more deeply and with greater joy in your own life journey.