Written by Birgitta Kastenbaum,
featured guest blogger from the Foundations for Artful Success Program
We never know when we will put all the pieces together and receive clarity.
In the work I am doing as a student in the Foundation of Artful Success program.
I was asked what drives my passion, what my story is, what motivates me to make jewelry?
Having spent time on these questions finally helped me put into words some of the passions that stir me to create art jewelry that give women beautiful, emotionally relevant pieces that become an outward manifestation of their beliefs, hopes and dreams.
I am the child of a holocaust survivor.
As a young girl growing up in Holland I was constantly aware of the fact that a symbol could mean death.
The jewish star of David was not a symbol of hope or a symbol of a religion practiced, to me; it was a way to identify those of us who, if another war came, should be killed.
When I received a beautiful gold star of David necklace as a gift from my grandmother, I was torn, I knew it was a special gift, but I also knew my grandmother who lived far away in “safe” America was not aware of the danger I believed this beautiful gift could still put me in.
I tried many hiding places in and around my home but was sure the necklace would reveal itself and be my demise if ever the world would once again find itself divided over symbols, ancestry, faith and loyalty to fatherland.
It was 1975 and I was 10 years old, 30 years after the end of the Second World War this symbol proved so powerful that I made a plan for it’s destruction.
One day in the late afternoon, I biked through the wind and cold over to a building site on the outskirts of our little village. The building crew had gone home for the day and I found myself alone in the erie skeleton of future homes.
With a heavy heart I pushed my necklace into the still wet mortar between the building blocks of someones soon to be residence, a secret forever.
I cried because it was hard to let go of the only precious piece of jewelry I owned.
I cried because I knew the gift had been given to me with nothing but love.
I cried because this beautiful symbol had filled me with dread instead of joy.
I cried because a symbol of belonging had become a symbol of suffering.
My “star of David” story used to make me sad, but now years later I see the gifts that came from it and how it keeps me connected to the gift my grandmother gave me.
I use this memory as a motivator, it reminds me of the importance of using symbolism for our greater good, to show our shared humanity, to practice tolerance in our faith, to come from love every time I create a piece of art jewelry, to stay true to my intent of creating jewelry to celebrate our individual and shared stories, to celebrate life!
The power of symbols and charms brings out our common humanity, but it also distinguishes us as we use them to show alliances with faith or political entities.
I love antique saint relics, hindu gods in all its many forms, buddhist tranquil statues, Celtic Runes, victorian flower languages, facades on old buildings, they all tell stories, they are in many ways the memory markers of our world.
In my work I find I am constantly using symbolism to show that we are not so different after all.
I infuse each piece of Artwear jewelry I make with a blessing to bring a sense of wellbeing and harmony to the wearer, it is part of my gift to the world.
By Birgitta Kastenbaum – artwear by birgitta