Without a clear intent or purpose, I found myself in Central America with a bag bursting with beautiful, intricate, bold jewelry I’d collected, this time around, from three countries. I loved speaking with the vendors, hearing their stories and watching the care they took in making their crafts. I was amazed at the art people could make out of natural materials, like coconut, seeds, hemp, and local gems.
And then, as I walked down the corridor of the international airport in Panama, it hit me. I would import these wearable works of art from Latin America to the US for two reasons. Firstly, it would allow people who were not able to travel to have access to the unique jewelry I had discovered on the road. Secondly, it would allow me to forge closer bonds with people in Latin America, and also give me an excuse to return more frequently to my most-loved region in the world.
The creation of Love. Spark. Fire. Jewelry was my first entrepreneurial endeavor, and, having sworn never to start my own business, my own fervor surprised me. I carefully chose these three words to signify the following:
LOVE: The connection of all beings through nature; compassion and acceptance for what you know and have yet to learn.
SPARK: Inspiration and enlightenment; a beautiful, serendipitous moment in life.
FIRE: An inner light that resides within us all; the will to reach our own individual potential and make each day unique.
I poured countless hours each day into starting a website, photographing each of the pieces, reaching out to potential clients, and individually wrapping each piece with care to whomever made a purchase.
There was nothing better than seeing the marvel on people’s faces when they first saw the crafts that others had made by hand in different parts of the world. Or the excited smiles on people’s faces when they unwrapped their gifts- gifts that were possible not only because of artisans’ hard work, but also because I had traveled to a destination they may not have known, carefully choosing designs, patterns, and shapes that the U.S. had yet to see. Pieces of the utmost quality whose mere existence told a story.
At the time, I was living in San Diego, getting my Master’s in Latin American Studies. A close, creative, hairstylist friend of mine (and also responsible for the kick-ass, colorful hair I had in that epoch) suggested that I start selling my jewelry at a local bar known for its up-and-coming bands. Shortly thereafter, after drawing a hideous, Costco-size sign to draw attention, I began forging bonds, telling and listening to travel tales, and bringing in a generous amount of sales. Not a bad gig, especially due to the perks of sipping on whiskey and cokes and listening to raw Rock n’ Roll on the job.
Soon enough, I was showing my jewelry collection at fairs, parties, and class gatherings. It was much, much more than about shopping- or, in my case, selling merchandise. It was about crossing boundaries, bringing cultural understanding from one place to another through works of art and past travels, and mainly human connection. It’s kind of beautiful how a material object can transcend into something much more important when shared.
Through this entrepreneurial effort, I reaped many more benefits than being able to save up to go on more trips throughout Latin America– though this was undeniably a feat in and of itself. I was able to receive and give joy on many levels, with many people, and for that I am forever grateful. I learned how many earn an arduous, yet precarious living, and also what obstacles and fears hold others back from travel. I delved back into that artistic part of me that I had forgotten, and realized an industrious part of myself that I hadn’t yet known. I began to make my own jewelry. I started to recognize the cojones of having one’s own business. It was an enriching, invaluable adventure that I will continue to carry with me throughout my years, no matter where my feet rest.
But every epoch has its end, every warranty has its expiry date. After attending this year’s Travel Writers and Photographers Conference at Book Passage, many things have become clear. I know what my direction is, and the focus that begs my attention. It’s been a beautiful run, and creating Love. Spark. Fire. Jewelry brought me so many unforgettable experiences and profound relationships that otherwise would have been nearly impossible. Nonetheless, it’s time to move on. My travel writing begs me like never before, and, for the life of me, I must obey its howl.
With that, so many gorgeous artisanal works from Latin America and beyond still surround me, searching for a home. As every day passes, they grow in their magical candor, beauty, and ability to transport one throughout physical space and time. They are sacred treasures to me, but they must be released into the world in order for me to embrace the next phase of my life. A phase in which I focus on something that has been welling, bubbling, surging within me for years: writing my first travel memoir. Now more than ever, I know that I must dedicate my time and energy to completing this ode to travel, Latin America, the craziness of life, and ultimately who I have become.
From now until these pieces of art each find a home, I am offering an indefinite sale of buying one item, getting another (for equal or lesser value) for free. This includes all jewelry, jewelry boxes, purses, and so on. If you spend more than $100 USD, I will ship to you for free- no matter where in the world you reside. Please refer to my Facebook page for more information, and let me know if you have any questions.
The next chapter beckons!