Aligning Your Values to Your Career: Meaning Making Machine – Memories Quantified

Today we have a guest post from Heidi Lowe. Heidi runs the Heidi Lowe Gallery in Rehoboth Beach, DE and I asked to write this us for a couple of reasons. First, Heidi is a super-awesome and talented entrepreneur. Having her describe what she does, along with her process, shows how we can take our skills and passion and turn that into a successful business based around our core-values. Secondly, I love what she does — creating unique jewelry that captures people’s emotions. I think it’s a great way to remember the good times, but also help cope with pain and loss. So, without further ado, here’s Heidi….

People ask what I do and my answer is “make jewelry.” But what I really do is make memorials to moments of joy and pain in people’s lives. I make wearable pieces that travel with you through each day to signify marriages, births, loves, and losses. About seven years ago I was contemplating a career change.  I felt I was not contributing enough to the greater good. I mean, I make shiny objects in a time when much of the world is struggling.  During this investigation I looked at the reason I started to make jewelry and took a quick quiz to find my core values. This investigation lead me back to where I started, back to the jewelers bench. My business and personal core values are generosity, connection, and creativity. At first glance, I was upset that creativity was not higher on my list. After a closer investigation I realized what I do at the bench is less about creativity and more about giving a “gift” and connecting with the people I serve, and metalsmithing is the method I use.   

When people come in for a custom piece of jewelry, they usually think I am going to show them images of jewelry I have made. I never show pictures of previously made jewelry.  Those pieces were for specific people, in a particular moment, and it would not make sense to make that piece again for the next person. So, I start with poetry. I ask people to be vulnerable and real within minutes of meeting them.  I ask for three words about what they are signifying, I get words like cancer, my mom’s passing, my best friend, my husband died suddenly, our union, bird watcher, ocean lover, honesty, courage, strength, and love. I ask for three words about the person or person’s style; organic, simple, geometric, bold, linear, round, structural, and streamlined.  

Then I ask for three words about the elements they know they want included in their piece of jewelry; yellow gold, white gold, diamonds, rubies, bi-metal, texture, ring, pendant. So it looks a something like this, for example;

  • husband, connected, cycle, rustic
  • organic, subtle, wearable
  • gold from our wedding rings, small diamonds,

It is from this story of a life that I start to sketch.  I find the piece usually within a few drawings. It’s a beautiful and uncomfortable and connecting process that allows me to know the person and the story in minutes. It allows me to get a glimpse and try to understand the hurt, the love, the tenderness I am honoring. Of course, it is about the craft and skill and creativity, but that part is secondary to the meaning and the moment. This realization was key for me to connect to my greater purpose, why I was drawn to jewelry in the first place and how it helps to mend and heal and celebrate.

The first time I realized the power of jewelry was when I was at college at Maine College of Art.  I was working at a small, amazing restaurant on Wharf Street in Portland, Maine called Street and Co.  Being part of the crew at Street and Co. was a unique experience. It was a small, connected group of people who worked together often. We were treated well, made lots of money, had plenty of time off to follow our dreams and loved and respected one another. We were all cruising through life when one of our co-workers and friend, Shane, flew to San Francisco for his best friends 30th birthday.  He never came home. He was gunned down by a shooter in a completely random and unbelievable hold up. His family, friends and coworkers were reeling from the experience of this unexplainable loss.

I did what felt good for me. I made everyone I knew affected by this tragedy a ring with an inscription “we miss you today.”  It was a simple gesture and cathartic process, but it made a lasting impression. I see people from that time in my life and they still wear the ring 10 years later. They say it brings them comfort and closeness to someone they can no longer connect with in real time. They express their gratitude for that little piece of silver that wraps around their finger and reminds them to check in with their loved ones often.   It was a selfish action to stamp, form, hammer and solder those rings in repetition, but the energy and love translated and was carried forward. This is what brings me back to jewelry time and time again. It’s powerful. When I look back at that moment I see how I was driven by my core values of generosity, connection, and creativity.

Today, my sense of fulfillment and contentment is directly connected to my alignment with those same values.  

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