Before My Diagnosis
I’ve always been an artist, but making jewelry was not my original career path. In 1996, I graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, Massachusetts, where I had been making and exhibiting artist’s books and mixed media collages. My plan was to launch my career as a fine artist while also working as a self-employed copyeditor in the arts and humanities.
In 2002, just as I began to establish myself as an artist, my life took an unexpected turn. I developed severe chronic pain. It took several months and visits to many doctors before I finally got a diagnosis of vulvodynia. This challenging chronic pain condition causes varying degrees of pain and affects women of all ages, including adolescents. It has no cure, and there is no consistently reliable treatment that lessens symptoms for everyone.
Over the next three years, constant severe pain, persistent fatigue, and side effects of powerful drugs I was prescribed derailed my art career, sidelined my work as a copyeditor, and curtailed nearly all other physical and leisure activities. As too often happens with “invisible” physical conditions, because I had no outward symptoms, family, friends, and sometimes even my doctors doubted the reality of my condition. This invalidation of my pain only compounded the anger, sadness, and anxiety I felt as my personal, artistic, and career goals grew ever more unattainable. I had to find a way to reverse my devastating loss of identity and self-worth.
Reshaping My Life Through Polymer Clay
Prior to my diagnosis, I’d been experimenting with polymer clay, making beads and other small objects. I’ve always had an innate tendency to work with my hands and to make small-scale objects, so it was not a huge jump to making jewelry. While pain still limited my ability to sit, I found I could continue to make beads and jewelry in small blocks of time. The work was relaxing and gave me a sense of purpose and identity. Over the next several years, this creative outlet helped me to persist as, through many medical and holistic interventions, mindset shifts, discipline, and sheer effort, I managed to regain parts of my former life.
In creating my namesake brand, I wanted to create wearable jewelry for other women as a tangible reminder to uplift their spirit and help them stay connected to their purpose. I also wanted to share the healing and empowering nature of creative work and well-crafted beauty with other women as they face the challenges life throws at us. By sharing my experiences with vulvodynia I hoped I could help spread awareness and understanding of this painful condition.
As my jewelry-making skills improved, my design process became more playful. I began to add to my designs handmade and carefully sourced elements, as well as some alternative materials like sequins, acrylic paint, rubber tubing, and occasionally found objects. Although I capture ideas with sketches, the materials often speak their own needs. Juxtaposition, association, and chance also play a part in how each design develops.
Designing and making jewelry requires focus and concentration of both mind and body that distracts and frees my mind from the pain. The process of making my own beads and components from clay and other materials is a calming, highly meditative process that grounds me. When I’m deeply immersed in the creative process, I feel a release. The negative emotions, tensions, and stress of my everyday life fall away. When this happens, the pain recedes and sometimes even briefly disappears.
Creating My Namesake Brand
In 2012, I shifted my career path to designing and making jewelry. My experiences living with a devastating chronic pain condition inspired the development of my namesake brand. Making jewelry has been essential to my healing in helping me process uncertainties, erasing grief over my losses, and normalizing and giving meaning to my life. When I wear my jewelry it reminds me of my resilience in overcoming this challenging part of my life.
When you wear jewelry, doesn’t it have a special way of changing how you feel about yourself? You can wear my jewelry as a visible reminder to be strong when life throws you unexpected challenges. You can feel renewed, confident and beautiful in jewelry designed to help you honor your best authentic self. Discover a piece that resonates with you!