As a young woman, a favorite treat for the family was visiting Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA on Sunday afternoons. Several blocks (my memory shows an endless stretch) were lined with artisans of all varieties. The jewelry crafted by Willow was my special joy. The 1980s rolled on and while home from college one weekend I bought my first piece of jewelry: a ring that looked like rose petals cradling a dark stone, but was in reality a woman stretched out with a dark sapphire resting on her belly.
According to her website, Willow hadn’t been making jewelry much before I discovered her. Her inspiration comes from the rich variety of all the old Celtic, Chinese, Russian, Middle Eastern, and African designs. Although she reproduces common themes (like Celtic weavings) she does so in a way that makes them uniquely her own.
“Being a big woman, I related to the goddesses. Animals are a big part of my life, and they showed up in my work. I studied shamanism, world religions and healing methods, which became represented as well. As I worked with the stones and crystals, they began to work with me. I learned how to use them and determine how they interact with and influence the health and well being of the stone's wearers.” (from her website)
Moving to the East Coast and then to the Pacific Northwest took me far away from the Bay Area, and brief visits in the meantime didn’t allow for shopping excursions across the Bay. In 1999 I attended PantheaCon and walking into the vending room to do a little sightseeing. There, tucked into the corner, was a booth filled with extraordinary jewelry and I was overwhelmed by an urgent sense of familiarity. A woman’s voice came from behind me “That ring is one of my favorite designs, its good to see it again.” After all of these years I found Willow once again.
Imagine lilies dripping from your ears, holding blood-red garnets; or sinuous Celtic carvings crawling around a heavy silver bracelet. A dragon (inspired by McCaffrey, Willow admitted) launches from your throat, clasping a egg of fire-opal. Goddesses hold stones aloft, and fairies wink from atop gleaming flowers crafted in silver and gold. Cats crawl around the rim of a perfect orb of amber.
She also does custom work and can be found at various events all over the West Coast. If you can’t see her work in person, her website has many gorgeous images of her current offerings. Almost any design incorporating a stone can be fitted with the stone of your choice, including peridot, garnet, sapphire, moonstones, iolite, and many others.
The joy she takes in work is clear from the quality and the craftsmanship; her jewelry is well-made and sturdy. I have worn my Lady ring for more than two decades now, nearly every single day, and the stone has never come loose.
~review by Lisa Mc Sherry
Artist: Willow Zarlow