Ask Bri: Tacoma, holiday shopping, flamekeeping, using the word “queer” & more!

Heya, friends! I have so much work to do to get ready for our upcoming move, but I’ve been feeling too unwell to work on jewelry or do any physical work tonight, so I thought I’d answer some of the fantastic questions that have been asked of me recently. Thanks so much to everyone who took advantage of the extra entry option with my recent giveaways and asked some great, thoughtful questions! So, without further ado, let’s get to the 13 I’ve chosen to answer this time around.

How close are you guys to your move to Washington?

We’re almost there! We’ll be leaving Chattanooga on the 13th and flying into Seattle on the 15th. As mentioned here, we are incredibly excited… And we’ve got a lot of work to do in the next week or so! Click through to read the full Facebook post and snag a coupon good for 25% off all regularly-priced jewelry in my shop, now through the 15th.

Will you be able to have a garden when you move to Tacoma?

We’ll be renting rooms in other people’s homes for at least the first six weeks we’re there, and we have no idea yet what our longer-term home will be like. We’d love to end up renting a house, but apartments seem more plentiful in our budget, so we may not have much space. We also deal with a lot of fatigue and are pretty busy with my business (which I hope to be expanding in lots of exciting ways once we settle), our spiritual work, and just taking care of ourselves and one another, so we may not have the energy for something like this. We also have no idea whether we’d be any good at it, as we’ve both lived primarily in cities and haven’t had a lot of opportunity to find out whether we have green thumbs.

That said, we would absolutely love the opportunity to grow some herbs and maybe even food for ourselves, even if it’s just a window box or small container garden to start.

How can I view all of your work and order for the holidays? Also, what is your cutoff for custom orders for the holidays?

You can check my older posts here on the blog or poke around in my albums on Facebook to see my past work. Everything currently available for sale is listed in my shop, and I plan to be listing lots of new pieces between now and the holidays.

Unfortunately, because of all of the chaos surrounding various aspects of making our cross-country move, I will not be taking new custom orders until 2015, with the possible exception of a range of semi-customizable holiday baubles.

Where will we be able to find your work when you move to the Seattle area? And for those of us who live nearby, will we be able to connect with you?

I am sincerely hoping to have a solid real-world presence for Baubles & Blessings once we settle! I’m already looking into licensing so that I’ll be able to sell on the street in downtown Tacoma during the dry season, and checking out potential opportunities for displaying some of my wares at local shops. I’m most likely going to have some pieces included in a friend’s art show in Seattle in the spring. My first scheduled event will be at the Gritty City Gift Fair in Tacoma on Small Business Saturday, November 29th. Keep an eye on my blog and/or Facebook for updates! As soon as we recover from traveling, I’m planning on renting a PO box so that I’ll have an address I don’t mind being public knowledge, which means that I’ll finally be able to set up a real email newsletter — the weekly email will be another great way for people to stay caught up on what I’m doing and where I’ll be!

What is your favorite item to make?

For multiple reasons, I really love making necklaces. They take long enough to put together that I have enough time to really get lost in the piece, which I adore. I also feel that there is something very special about the stones and talismans that are chosen to hang close to someone’s heart. I have also recently started really digging working on circlets — they afford me the same luxury of having time to get lost in the work, which creates some very powerful pieces, and also sit in a precious position where they have the opportunity to help make a lot of magic and beauty happen.

Where do you find your unique beads?

After having a lot of people basically ask me how to copy my work, which never feels good, I have decided to decline to answer this question. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into finding the supplies and vendors that work for me, and if you put the effort in, I am certain that you’ll find the results that work for you as well!

How can someone¬†get started with tending Brighid’s Flame?

I have answered a version of this question here. ūüôā We would also absolutely love to start our own flamekeeping group, but it will be a while before we are settled enough to have the time and energy to make ourselves accountable to that many other human beings in such a profound way on a consistent basis, and we want to make sure that we do it right if we’re going to do it at all.

Have you ever felt drawn to make a piece and then just KNOW it was meant for yourself rather than to sell?

I am occasionally¬†drawn to pieces that I’ve made which have exceptionally lovely or powerful energy. I’d say that these pieces probably end up calling to me and remaining in my possession about 25% of the time. When I’m unsure whether the piece is meant to stay with me, I will sometimes set a deadline and end up keeping it if it hasn’t called strongly enough to anyone else to be purchased by that deadline. Other times, I know instantly that I just can’t bear — and am not meant — to list a piece for sale.

How do we order if we have a credit card but no PayPal account?

You actually do not need a PayPal account in order to complete checkout via PayPal in my shop! Just follow the checkout steps without logging in, and please feel free to comment on this post, shoot me an email or send a PM on Facebook if you get stuck or have any other questions.

When¬†speaking of yourself, you refer to a “queer woman”. I was told and have always believed that the word “queer” was more of a slur and it should not be used when describing someone.¬†Why do you refer to yourself in this way, rather than using “LGBT” or a similar term?

This is definitely a bit of a tricky topic, because it depends a lot on who you ask and how you mean it when you say it. For me, as a queer woman in my mid-30’s, it’s not an overly politicized word choice. I grew up in and around Boston in the 90’s, and reclaimed terms formerly used exclusively by oppressors as slurs — like “fag”, “queer” and “dyke” — were being used by many folks who were tired of being afraid, coming out of closets and creating firm boundaries. This was our home, these were now our words, and we were not going to allow hatemongers to use them to intimidate and hurt us. It certainly didn’t start with my generation, though — the true radicals and pioneers came in the Stonewall era.

Back to your question, to me, the word “queer” is a little different than the other terms mentioned. Most of them are considered by many members of the GLBTQ community to be words that are okay for those within the community to use, but off-limits for people who are not part of the community. Racial slurs are¬†actually a great parallel; when it comes to¬†reclaimed words that were¬†formerly solely used by oppressors, some people in various ethnic communities¬†feel that it is okay to use those¬†words within their community, that it removes the word’s power. Other members of those communities find the terms terribly offensive, regardless of whose mouths they’re coming out of. The opinions of people who are not part of the communities in question are generally irrelevant. (Just to be clear, I would like to point out that I am drawing a parallel to word usage that some people may find a bit easier to understand. I am not, by any means, trying to say that I can speak for people of color or understand the oppression that they¬†face, with my perspective being that¬†of a white woman.)¬†Many controversial¬†terms referring to folks in the GLBTQ community work the same way, and many people choose to self-identify as queer these days.

I feel like the term “queer” is a good fit for me personally because I am a woman primarily attracted to female-bodied people, but I am not exclusively attracted to people who identify as female. My spouse, who I’ve been with for 8 years, is a transman. For me, calling myself a lesbian would be awkward and kind of disrespectful to my amazing hubby. I’m definitely not straight, and calling myself bisexual doesn’t feel right either. To me, “queer” indicates that I am part of this community that is — to be idealistic for a moment — accepting of what falls outside of long-held societal “norms” and embraces diversity. I get that “LGBT” and similar terms feel more accurate and inclusive for other people, but “queer” is just what feels right to me. And even though I’m getting older, my hair is graying and I’ve been too sick to be much of an activist for most of the time that I’ve known my hubby, embracing my flower child hippie side more and more, the radical activism and punk rock that I came into adulthood surrounded by will always hold a piece of my heart in a chokehold. So I think I’ll always have a bit of a tendency to lovingly embrace those strong, controversial words that get people talking and connecting like we are here, with this question — as long as I have a right to claim them. ūüôā

What is the weirdest request you ever got for a custom piece?

I’ve actually answered this question in a previous Q&A post; click here to read my answer.

If you could go anywhere in the world and learn a new craft, where would you go and what would you learn?

My first thought on seeing this question was Ireland, without hesitation or doubt. After a moment’s reflection, I think that I would like to find one of Brighid’s people from whom I could learn a wee bit about metalsmithing. I would love to be able to make my own precious metal and copper pendants and beads, and perhaps completely forged items as well!

Why did you choose the Seattle area instead of Oregon or California?

The progressive parts of California are so expensive that they ruled themselves out of our search pretty quickly. We vacillated between Oregon and Washington for a short while, eventually choosing Seattle because a good friend is located in the area… We finally settled on Tacoma because¬†the LGBT¬†and artsy communities in Tacoma seem a little more down to earth and potentially¬†friendlier to newcomers¬†than their counterparts in Seattle, and the cost of living is also more reasonable.

Ask Bri: Ghosts, reincarnation, Leslie Feinberg, playing favorites & more!

Hey, friends! I had a few minutes, so I thought I’d finish up this Q&A post I’ve had in the making for a while. I also wanted to remind you about my Halloween/Samhain giveaway, which is open worldwide and closes in a few hours. I’ll be starting my autumn-themed giveaway as soon as possible, once this one ends.

I’m still offering 30% off everything in my shop while I work on raising funds to get new glasses, and have temporarily opened custom orders to help with this, since being able to see is so crucial to being able to work. If you’re able to take advantage of this deal or help spread the word to friends who you think would enjoy my work, I would appreciate that so much!

As always, feel free to leave your feedback in response to this post — or questions to be considered for future posts — in the comments. Thanks so much for your time and attention! ūüôā

Now, on to your questions…

Q: Do you believe in ghosts?

A: I do! I have had many first-hand experiences with spirits. As an adult, my mother told me in detail about how the “imaginary friends” I remembered from childhood were actually spirits who had haunted one of our apartments.

As an adult, I reached out to a confused spirit¬†hanging around a friend’s home and convinced him that it was time to move on to the next world. This experience was my first taste of empathy as a psychic gift; as soon as I encountered this spirit’s energy, I burst into tears and didn’t logically know why, but I instantly had such an immense, protective love for him after feeling the pain he’d experienced.

I also communicate regularly with my ancestors and spirits of departed friends; the method varies and is sometimes more abstract, other times more direct… But I have no doubt that they are actually there. This picture was taken on a walk when hubby and I first arrived in TN in the summer of 2012. Check out the face in the upper right corner! We didn’t notice him sniffing the flowers until after the image was enlarged; it hasn’t been edited at all.

Q: Do you believe in reincarnation, and have you had any past life experiences?

I do believe in reincarnation. I think that our souls keep coming back to this world until we have had the experiences we need to have in order to become further enlightened, and to help others to learn and grow. I have had visions, trance experiences and readings that make me 100% certain that my hubby and I have moved through this world together for many, many lives. I believe that Brighid has also followed us through those lives.

Q: If you could speak to one author, living or dead, with whom would you converse and what would you want to speak about?

A: I’ve always had a huge admiration for transgender author and activist Leslie Feinberg, who wrote one of my favorite novels ever (Stone Butch Blues) and helped me to have a decent grasp of non-binary gender as a young queer woman. I admire hir bravery in speaking and writing about these “taboo” things that people didn’t — and still often don’t — speak or write about much, especially so loudly and unashamedly. ¬†I know that we share the view that people who are oppressed on different levels should be supporting one another, rather than compartmentalizing and judging one another; I imagine that would factor into the conversation. I’d also love to tell Leslie how much hir books have meant to me, how much they helped shape my understanding of parts of the world as a young queer woman — and eventually helped to shape the person that I am today, not to mention that it helped provide me with the tools I needed to be the best possible cheerleader for the amazing, brave transman who is my husband.

Q: What is your favorite piece you have made to date?

A: I get questions like this a lot, but I’ve probably made about 1,500 pieces of jewelry over the past few years, and it’s a terribly difficult question for me to answer. All of my creations are like my babies; it can be especially hard to let some of them go, but I put so much love and energy into every single piece that it almost feels wrong to declare favorites. With that being said, I can say that this piece¬†has been calling to me; I’ve been repeatedly tempted to hang onto it, but haven’t given in to that temptation yet. ūüėČ

Q:  What would you say has been the best part of your journey to get to the Pacific Northwest?

A: I think that the biggest thing has been working our way from having nothing to forging relative stability in our daily lives. We never expect to be wealthy by any means, and we’re okay¬†with that. But being in a place where we have this stability after being destitute and constantly on the verge of homelessness for a few years has just felt amazing. I also consider myself blessed every day that I get to interact with all of the amazing people who I consider part of the Baubles & Blessings family. I have made amazing friends. I have heard from people that the talismans, devotional jewelry and energy work that I have done for them have helped make wonderful things happen in their lives, and hearing these things almost always brings tears of joy to my eyes. You all help fill my heart on a daily basis, and I couldn’t imagine my life without you.

Q: Do you incorporate items sent to you into the pieces that you make?

A: Absolutely! When I am taking custom orders, I am more than happy to work on jewelry makeovers, incorporate a pendant that you already own into a beaded piece, etc. ūüôā

Throwback Thursday

Good morning, sunshines!

While I work on waking up and remembering how to focus my eyes properly, here’s a piece for Throwback Thursday — this is one of the first rainbow pieces that I ever made. It looks like 3 here because it was stretched to fit around the tree, but this bracelet was actually 5 rows of rainbow awesomeness! Like many of my recent TBT pieces, this one was from 2011.

I would love to hear what you think! ūüôā