In the spring of 1987 my studio in the Marin Danda was robbed. I had acquired a small inventory of precious metals and stones and other materials that I used to make jewelry and other objects. It was my life savings, my entire inventory. I had no money and no means to make money, pay rent, or buy groceries. This event provoked a quiet crisis. I sat in my Volkswagen bug in the driveway of the house that I was renting in San Rafael and contemplated what I should do without any sense of what it could be.

For six years I had been making jewelry and Sacred articles for Bhagavan Adi Da Samraj, gifts for Him to give to His intimates and friends on Naitauba. And gifts for others to give to Him. I had been involved in the production of hundreds of pieces of all kinds.

I was not a jeweler. I worked in wood. I had served as liason to a jeweler, Jeff Schmidt, who made jewelry for Bhagavan frequently in service, but was not a formal devotee. I was around the process of jewelry making, but I never put my hand to it until 1983. I agreed to make some pieces for Bhagavan, and the agreement just kept going and going, day and night, as I said, for six years.

It was my agreement to make the jewelry, but I did not have the ability to do it. My work with the traditional spiritual art required that I learn new techniques, occasionally I had to draw someone into a project for their expertise. Having never made jewelry I was starting at zero. I had neither skills nor tools. In order to do the work I had to pull other artisans into the projects. That was the beginnings of Sacred Fires. For four years Sacred Fires truly operated as a guild. Dozens of devotees contributed their talents on hundreds of projects, though the core group was comprised of a few devotees; Jeff Schmidt, Rebecca Atkinson, and Mary Nerney among them. I also drew upon the talents of artists who were not devotees, Timothy Wallace, Jerry Spalding, Yuri Kritchever, and many others. All contributed, and I learned from all of them. By 1987 I had thousands of hours of experience in wax working, casting, finishing, stone setting, and many fabrication techniques. However, the skills required in jewelry making are very refined if you want to do fine work, as I did, and I had not mastered them yet.

That changed after the robbery. It was as if a switch had been tripped. I found mastery. That is to say, I could feel the materials I was working with, the gold, the wax, the stones. I wasn't struggling with it. I was cooperating with it. Every material has its characteristics. It will yield this way, but not that, it will cut cleanly if you apply pressure to the blade just so.

It wasn't just the hand skills that exploded. My design sense, the ideas and the directions, opened up to the horizon. I had spent the last fourteen years working in very exacting and constrained circumstances, repairing and duplicating traditional art and making sacred images, or duplicating jewelry pieces selected from books surveying the entire history of jewelry in ancient and modern cultures. The yoke was removed. I was designing freely, without constraint.

I felt that I had to sell my work outside of the ashram community. I had barely made enough to subsist making devotional jewelry. I had to make it work in the world at large. I heard about a curator in San Francisco, Michael Bell. He was curating the Museum of Modern Art. I was told that he took on private clients from time-to-time. I made an appointment to see him at his apartment near the museum. The only work in my portfolio was what I had been doing for Bhagavan. I had selected several pieces that were not of too personal a nature, and presented them. When I showed him my portfolio he immediately accepted me as a client.

In order for Michael to represent me I had to agree to subscribe to Artweek Magazine, and I had to enter three competitions each month. First I had to produce a body of work that could be shown. I didn't feel that the kind of work that I had been doing would show or sell well. It was all sacred or esoteric in nature. I felt that most people would not be able to relate to it. So, I designed jewelry for a secular audience, and I was immediately successful. I got into shows, won awards, and sold pieces to a very elite clientele. I would meet clients in their hotel rooms and apartments when they flew into San Francisco. They would buy two or three pieces at a time, peeling hundred dollar bills off of thick rolls. I would be contacted by people from both coasts wishing to commission a piece, and I was in the best galleries on the best streets in the best towns. It was an artist's dream-come-true, and it all happened in little more than a year's time. I had made it.

Nine or ten months after I began working with Michael he was going through the portfolio of the work that I had done during that time. He said nothing as he turned the pages and scanned the photographs. Then he looked up at me and said, What happened to your work? I was surprised. I presumed that he would prefer my made-for-the-world-at-large body of work. But the quality that attracted Michael to my work had been eliminated from it. I was not making these pieces for God. My attention and intention were in a different place.

I knew what Michael was addressing. I worked hard and achieved success very quickly. Just as quickly I was becoming bored with what I was doing. I liked the pieces I was making. I felt they were strong, and I felt that I executed them well. But they didn't have any usefulness beyond being pretty, and the work did not have the purpose, the urgency, the force of service to the Guru. I didn't feel the work that I was doing was beneath me. But the intensity wasn't there, the fire.

So, I lost interest in it. In 1989 I moved to Naitauba Island. One of my functions was to make jewelry and Sacred articles, just as before. Galleries and clients contacted me from time-to-time, but I turned them down. What I chose to do then, and what my preference is now, is to make Sacred articles, articles of remembrance.

Sacred Fires was founded as a guild in 1983. Years earlier, in 1975, I had a dialog with Bhagavan about guilds when I was doing restorations of the traditional art. I told Him that I could not complete all the projects that He had given me in my lifetime, and suggested that a guild/apprenticeship program was necessary. His response was, Sounds good. Do it. I was reminded of this conversation when I told Bhagavan that I would like to make devotional jewelry for devotees in order to support myself and maximize my service and help to finance projects. I wanted to create a business for that purpose, and requested a name for the business. He Blessed the enterprise, and offered the name Sacred Fires. He said that was the name because I serve Him and His community of devotees. I felt Blessed to be given such a beautiful name, and I asked Bhagavan if I could use the phrase Articles and adornments for remembrance of The Bright together with the name. It is that intention that I have for Color and Substance.

Sacred Fires was founded as a guild in 1983. Years earlier, in 1975, I had a dialog with Bhagavan about guilds when I was doing restorations of the traditional art. I told Him that I could not complete all the projects that He had given me in my lifetime, and suggested that a guild/apprenticeship program was necessary. His response was, Sounds good. Do it. I was reminded of this conversation when I told Bhagavan that I would like to make devotional jewelry for devotees in order to support myself and maximize my service and help to finance projects. I wanted to create a business for that purpose, and requested a name for the business. He Blessed the enterprise, and offered the name Sacred Fires. He said that was the name because I serve Him and His community of devotees. I felt Blessed to be given such a beautiful name, and I asked Bhagavan if I could use the phrase Articles and adornments for remembrance of The Bright together with the name. It is that intention that I have for Color and Substance.

Simply said, I want to make things that honor my Guru. I always loved making Bhagavan things that delighted Him. I always strove to exceed myself to do that. Color and Substance is the result. And I still am moved to serve Him in the same way. What I choose to do is make articles of remembrance. That's why most of my work is one-of-a-kind, because what serves as an article of remembrance is personal to every individual.

Bhagavan said that giving a gift of jewelry was bringing love into life. That sums up the purpose: serving the Sacred and bringing love into life.

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