We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristie Stephenson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristie, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
One of the first shows I did in the beginning was in Miami. There were other makers around me, their message was clear. You could tell what they made and what it was and what it did. I didn’t have a collection at the time, a story or branding. I didn’t know myself exactly what to do to fix the situation I was in but I had a gut feeling I’d figure it out, I really loved these magical seeds and I wanted to make something beautiful with them and do them justice. I did shows between Jamaica and Miami, shows are always an opportunity to learn from especially those around you and customer feedback. I’m still learning. But any wisdom and encouragement I’ve received or realized I’m happy to share with others in the same boat. Keep going be open to hearing everything.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My background is in architecture, I lived in Kendall and worked for firms in downtown Miami, Hollywood, FL, Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. Pretty quickly I realized I was in the wrong profession but didn’t know how to get out especially when you are on an HIBI work visa. There were moments when I squeezed in art, like that time I participated in a Saturday workshop in the design district all I had to do was create. And I choose to paint these figures of women that came to me in my head. Another time I fundraised by painting symbols of Peace, Goodwill and Protection to go to Sri Lanka to help rebuild after the December 2004 Tsunami, my former Coconut Grove boss Gail Baldwin’s daughter Brandi Baldwin organized the trip to Sri Lanka. I sold everything in a 24 hour period and her dad Gail came to my show and bought a piece, he was always kind and supportive. Those symbols I use today in my jewelry, the evil eye and hamsa hand and I’ve since added more, but that Sri Lanka trip planted the seed for Story and Myth but I didn’t know it at the time, it was there I saw elephants, Buddha’s and gemstones and I use them today in my line. The stories I heard from there influenced me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’d take them to Stush in Bush in Free Hill, St Ann for an adventure, garden walk and meal, up in the hills. I told the story of Free Hill in one of my drawings. Stush in Bush is a love story marrying two people to ancestral land and food. Chris and Lisa Binns tell their love story. I was privy to learn about stories and folklore from the area from Chris and that is what I told in my story.
Jakes Hotel in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth is another place I’d take them to. This part of the island is magical with stories of lovers leap, Scottish shipwrecks and the indigenous peoples. I was invited to tell stories there and our blessing beads are available in their gift shop.
The Appleton Estate Rum Tour is somewhere I’d take them to for Rum Tasting. The black river runs through the property and is home to the River Maid who lives in the river. She is one of the symbols in a set of bracelets we have done for the Appleton Estate Rum Tour.
Jamaica is an archipelago of 28 little islands around us, I’ve been to a few and would recommend they go to at least one. Our indigenous people cruised around these island in their dug out cotton tree canoes.
The indigenous Taíno people called Jamaica Xamayca it means land of wood and water. We are home to so many rivers. A visit to a river is a must. Our fresh water mermaid is called the River Maid or River Mumma she is the guardian of Jamaica’s fresh waterways, rivers, streams and canals and she lives at the mouth of the river.
If someone in my party was wheel chair bound I’d recommend the Jewel Resorts, Jewel Paradise Cove is one of their properties in St Ann and the property is accessible to someone in a wheel chair. They also support local artisans and our Story and Myth Blessing Beads are available in their gift shop.
If my friend was an equestrian we’d have to go riding or see a polo match at the Kingston Polo Club out at Caymanas and hopefully there is a party afterwards.. There are riding schools in Jamaica that take great care of their horses and which offer one day out rides through the canefields or classes. One of my bracelet charms is the horse, a symbol of power and freedom. A horse ride through the fields allows me to face my fear as I’m a scaredy-cat overcoming her fear. The horse has taught me to trust both it and myself. It’s a lesson I’m learning and I love sharing the experience of being on such a majestic animal with others.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d love to shout out to my now dear friend and mentor Subhadra Bowman of Yoga Angels International. I over heard her comment at one of these yoga conferences I went to where these big shot international yogis were gifted my blessing beads and I was also a vendor but the string I had used was popping for some of them, I overheard her saying that this was a great idea using these seeds and that “she’ll figure it out”. I’d run into her again by chance at another show in Miami where I was too shy to sell, she got out there for me and was vocal inviting people over to my table, engaging them. I felt like she was placed there, divine timing like a fairy godmother at key moments in my life. I feel the universe places people in our paths to offer us encouragement and direction.