Did you ever have, as a child, a special piece of jewellery that was particularly meaningful? Maybe it was the cranberry glass clip on earrings your Mum gave you before she went away. Or the silver heart locket you talked your Dad into buying for your birthday instead of a 'sensible' present… Or the diamond ring you inherited from cuddly Nanna, and lost in the waves one summer evening at the beach... ouch.
Jewellery can be powerfully symbolic. I believe that's just one of the reasons why the craft of jewellery making emerged so early in human history! It is now and always has been central to cultural and personal expression. Holder of stories, keeper of memories. It can evoke the full spectrum of feelings - pleasurable and otherwise. The greatest jewels of all time are rich with generations of dramatic tales, but no less real, and closer to home for most of us, are our own jewels and trinkets from childhood. Beautiful objects that caught our innocent eyes and hearts regardless of their technical value.
I am honoured to share with you a heartfelt personal recollection from fibre artist and illustrator Stephanie Bletsas (@stephaniebletsas on Instagram) about a gorgeous piece from her childhood. This is a story based around a treasured anklet that attracted the ire of her traditional relatives, and became forever coupled in Steph's memory an immensely valuable life lesson about kindness. The story is set when Steph returned to her cultural homeland of Greece when she was about ten years old. Enjoy xo
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Shrink back, fade away, hold my tongue; don’t offend, don’t make a fuss, just get over it.
These may sound like weaknesses, yet they are signs of strength; of self-control. My mom always instilled this high moral standard, and if someone would say something rude, under her breath she would say to me “respect”. Or in a hush tone “be kind”.
As a child I vividly remember, I was wearing this ankle bracelet, I really loved. Oh! It had all these beautiful colored glass beads, they dangled and caught the light and reflected it back out so delicately. We had just gotten back from the beach, sun-kissed with salt in my hair, in all my bliss, and my aunt, that we were visiting, just said out in such an angry tone “What is that on your foot? Take it off, throw it out!”
My gaze turned to fire, I was ready to answer, but I saw from the corner of my eye, my mom. And again in hush tones, “respect”, like an ocean tide sweeping over me, the fire was gone. I just smiled politely, and went on my way.
Not everything needs a reply.
Follow Steph's gorgeous Instagram feed: here
My mom always used to tell me, don’t let anyone steal your beauty. She wasn’t talking about the artificial beauty. But she was talking about the deeper, inner beauty. When we reply back to someone in anger, we’re allowing their anger to take hold of us. That’s not being true to who we are.
As I grew older, I realized how true these sayings were. Some may take it as a weakness, but there is strength in exercising kindness and respect towards all others. The golden rule is this, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Regardless, of how they are to you! That is the key point, it doesn’t matter how they decide to treat you.
And I’m not saying to let people walk all over you. You need to know when to cut ties with that person. You have the control. Don’t allow them to be a part of your life, if they continually fail to recognize your worth.
In time you will see that your self-respect and kindness will bring like-minded people around you. Like myself, I don’t allow toxic people in my life anymore. Have you heard the saying four quarters are better than a hundred pennies? Having a few friends with good qualities is better than having many friends with no substance at all.
I believe in respect. I believe in kindness. And this deep rooted love is what helps me to want to share that with anyone I encounter. It’s definitely one thing I can thank my mom for. Thanks mom.
- Stephanie E.A. Bletsas on kindness
Seaside on the Greek Island of Skiathos and Skopelos. Photographs by Stephanie E. A. Bletsas
Sandy: When I talked with Steph about this story, I asked where the anklet was now. She told me that her cousin had taken it from her, having been instructed to do so by Steph's aunty. Steph explained that, unbeknownst to her at the time, the tradition of her family's culture held that women who wore anklets were advertising their sexual availability. So in fact her Aunty was trying to look out for young Steph... but her manner made it seem like an irrational attack.
Steph told me that if her family had explained to her what the problem was she would have respected their point of view and happily worn it as a bracelet. But, she wasn't given this opportunity. So this adored piece of jewellery lives only in her memory now, but serves as a potent reminder about the power that noone can take away from us, the power to choose how we react.
Stephanie is a warm wise and multi-talented illustrator and fibre artist living in Toronto, Canada. Do yourself a favour and follow her beautiful and soulful Instagram feed: here