"Hi Erica, I love following you on social media. Your jewelry is amazing, but more your commitment to showing up to every moment (whether you look the part or not) and rolling with life as it comes is inspiring. I am running the Smoky Mountain Half Marathon on Sept. 12. The race is significant to me because it will be my first race (and half actually) since I ran the Brooklyn Marathon back in 2013. Since then, I joined the Peace Corps, got sick and was medically separated, gained 30 pounds, and have seen the rough edges of life. I finally have lost most of the weight, am making strides with my running, and slowly finding the courage to be bold and chase dreams. This half really represents this journey for me. I was hoping that you could create a special necklace for the big day. I am giving you free artistic freedom if you are up for it. My only stipulation is that it is under $200."
I received this email from Cara and I was immediately honored, humbled and then nervous. I take my work very seriously, especially when my job is to celebrate someone's hard work or represent their struggles, their strength and courage. I consider the responsibility an honor and always do my best to meet their expectations, and hopefully rise above them.
I responded to Cara asking for a bit more guidance. Artistic freedom is a wonderful thing but without actually meeting my customers in person, sometimes it's difficult to get them and represent their story. So I wrote "I know you said you'd like to give me artistic freedom but I find that often, once I start coming up with ideas, my customers bring up elements that they'd like incorporated. So, before I get started, are there any specific ideas you'd like me to incorporate? For example, race logos, etc… "
Cara responded: "I know a lot of artists (read architects) so know it can be frustrating to have limits on your designs. I trust you. I do envision something with a mantra though — I want it to representative of the race and the journey it's taken to get there. Maybe you could incorporate on of the ones I've been using lately (below) but I also believe that mantras can find you so am open to others if you have one you think would fit the design well.
Aham Prema (which is sanskrit for "I am love")"I had an epiphany on my long run this weekend and would like the mantra to be "every mile becomes a part of me." On this journey I've struggled a lot with regret and things not working out the way I would have liked. I've worked a lot for remember that even if it doesn't come in the packaging I expected, every mile in running and life is moving forward towards my dreams and has brought me to where I am — happy and healthy."
Follow your heart, your mind will follow
I wanna see you be brave
So much inspiration with which to create! I knew Cara liked the heart shape charm and decided to represent Aham Prema and "follow your heart" by engraving the sanskrit words on the heart charm. I added the "every mile becomes a part of me" rectangle in gold, one of my favorite charms. For the race, I thought it might be cool to engrave something representative but not 100% literal, meaning, not the actual race name. I looked at the race logo and saw that it included the Smoky Mountains framed with trees so I worked on an image that incorporated those ideas and that I could engrave on a round charm. This way, we'd have three charms, all different sizes and shapes, to create texture and interest.
The above image is the final necklace and I can honestly say that it's one of my favorite custom pieces ever. I love how the Smoky Mountains came out and am eager to continue down this path, engraving images that represent races or events, instead of the actual titles themselves. What do you think? Like it?
Thank you Cara for honoring me with this job! I had a blast doing it and truly hope you love your necklace. And thank you for giving me permission to share your story. (Note to readers: I never share personal stories or details without first asking permission. Your privacy is important.) Wishing Cara the best of luck in these last few weeks of training and a kick ass race on September 12th!!!