Healing jewels

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Kristi Smith of Dolores shows off some of her custom-made jewelry.

When most people use the term “healing arts,” they are referring to the medical profession – alternative healing techniques such as acupuncture, massage, reiki, or traditional medicine involving doctors and nurses.

Yet the idea of “art therapy” or the use of art in healing work is becoming more common. Think about the custom of sending flowers to people who are recovering from illness — expressing our love in a way that brings beauty to the person suffering. Art and artists share this process of transformation with healers, in that both are engaged in taking people from one state of being to another.

Kristi Smith of Silver Sparrow Designs in Dolores is no stranger to this transformative process. She explains, “The reason I make jewelry, the reason I have always had to create, is to keep my demons away, to battle my darkness. The process of transforming raw materials into something new and beautiful also transforms something inside of me, changes the darkness into light.”

Smith, the mother of two young daughters, Hazel and Juniper, is full of light as she speaks. She works out of a hundred-year-old barn in the back of her house. Smith acknowledges that she has arrived at this moment by following her passions – which is never as easy at it seems. In high school, she took a silversmithing class and loved it. But her parents advised her against pursuing this work, and suggested she become a teacher. Smith followed their practical advice and after getting a degree at Ft. Lewis College and landing a job in Dolores as a fourth-grade teacher, her life was set. Yet her creative capacity was not being tapped to its full extent, and Smith yearned to get back to making jewelry.

On a whim, she made a flyer asking for old silversmithing equipment. “I thought, there’s just got to be some old guy with a garage full of stuff that’s not being used.” Sure enough, her flyer caught the attention of Arky, a Dolores man who did have the tools, time and energy to help Smith get started. He even made a buffer out of an old dryer motor, which Smith uses to this day.

Other helpers appeared, including Maegan Crowley of Iron Maegan Metalworks, who provided Smith with tips and whom Smith refers to as her “teacher/mentor/guru.” Another friend provided more tools, and before she knew it, Smith was on her way.

Five years ago, after the birth of her second child, she went full-time. Smith says the way everything fell into place gave her the sense that, “This is what I’m meant to be doing. It’s amazing that I can make a living doing something that is good for my soul.”

Smith sells her jewelry on Etsy, at Silver Sparrow Designs and Gold Sparrow Designs, where she specializes in custom wedding bands and other custom items. She has some jewelry at Sideshow Emporium in Dolores, and is also a regular at the Telluride Farmer’s Market, which starts Friday, June 7. Smith recently began to be represented in a gallery in San Francisco, and is selling so much she can hardly keep up with the demand.

“My jewelry is inspired by music and art, and a lot of my pieces have lyrics on them,” notes Smith, who has gained notoriety for including words and quotes in her pieces. Smith, who is also a musician, loves to listen to music while creating her jewelry. She believes there is a relationship between music, art and healing, mentioning that many people have told her that her jewelry is special.

“Your jewelry has power,” one customer told her.

Smith does think there is an emotional and spiritual aspect to jewelry that goes beyond the stones and design. For a custom piece, Smith works with the customer to find the right stones, each of which has special traits. For instance, chrysoprase, an applegreen variant of chalcedony, is said to encourage hope and joy, help make conscious what was unconscious, clarify problems and protect the individual. For one piece, Smith put the stone into a lotus-like silver setting and stamped the word “Grace” on the back of the ring. The result is somehow more than just another pretty ring – because, as she notes, “It’s not just the power of the stones – I add to this when I’m creating and then the energy I’m putting into it when I’m making it comes through.”

Dolores resident Tracy Murphy says, “Every single thing I see of hers is magical. You pick up a piece and feel how special it is.” Murphy commissioned Smith for her 50th birthday. “I love her jewelry and there was this specific quote special to me, so I thought maybe she could make something for me that had that quote on it.” The quote was the refrain from Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”:

Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.

The two of them picked out a piece of laguna agate. “We found this stone with a crystal inclusion – that is a crack, and Kristi explained why this stone would work. I didn’t have a design in mind, so I said, ‘surprise me’.”

Murphy was thrilled with the results. “It’s perfect. Even if I didn’t know Kristi, it would be the most spectacular thing I own, but the fact that we worked together to make it is what makes it important.”

Does jewelry have the power to heal? Smith has no doubt that it does. She says the pieces generate an energy of their own. “Sometimes I can’t sell them!” she smiles. “You have to have faith in yourself.”

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From June 2013.