Jewel Whisperer & Artisan of Sea, Spirit, Earth and Light: Meet Kim Wildthorne

At least once a month on Annapurna Living, we spotlight a creative entrepreneur who chooses to do business with integrity and soul. Today, please enjoy our conversation with soulful artisan Kim Wildthorne.
Kim Wildthorne

Hello! Please introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do? How does your heart manifest in the world?

Hello, my name is Kim Gish also known as Kim 'Wildthorne'. I am a jewelry artist, a mother, a thinker and doer, a creative problem solver who is solemn and quiet at times but I also don't mind having a chuckle and laughing at myself. My heart manifests in the world with humility, sensitivity and gratitude.

Please fill in the blank: My work is important because____.

My work is important because it is my own unique personal voice and vision, a culmination of my experiences and knowledge that has been shared from various cultural and spiritual traditions handed down through generations of women. It is a modern descended thread of energetic work linked to ancestral matriarchal wisdom, an honoring of the divine feminine. I like to think that my art touches men and women who connect with jewelry on a deeper personal level that invites spirit. My ideal client is someone who wants something crafted with equal parts respect for the source, meaning in the material, and harmony in aesthetic and design. I care about my work, and pour my heart into my creations, this transference of energy from artist to client connects them to deeper mysteries, a tangible manifestation of intuited perception. I make a difference by offering individuals a choice in choosing ethical adornment crafted with intention, reverence and good vibes. Just as when nourishing my family I never prepare meals from a place of anger or frustration (because I don't want them to eat those feelings and internalize them), while working with my jewels I also make sure that I am centered and grounded. That the space I hold energetically is clean and positive, and that when I approach my work it is done with humility and gratitude for those who came before me. I pull in and weave materials like crystals, metal, clay, wood and seashells in a way that honors their natural beauty but never overshadows them.

As an entrepreneur, who in business do you admire, and why?

I admire Grant Petersen owner of Rivendell Bicycle Works. Grant is an intelligent, thoughtful and kind leader. When I first visited his warehouse he actually tried to dissuade me from buying one of his bicycles (or at least to postpone my purchase) in my best interests. He built his company from the ground up and maintains a high level of integrity in his business decisions, readily speaking about issues that Rivendell faces financially each year. He also gives back to the community through donating a share of his profits to charitable causes, and recommends and sells products through his site that have nothing to do with bicycles like parenting and poetry books.

What does soulful business mean to you?

A soulful business to me means that there is well thought out intention in all aspects of a company. That integrity is never compromised for the sake of convenience or profit. That form, beauty and function should be executed at a high level with quality materials sourced ethically with harm to neither animal or human. That heart and passion should be put into each creation, and a compassionate standard of ethics towards clientele employing accountability and kindness are of the utmost importance. A soulful business to me also means that it is transparent in its practices, responsible for its actions, and that the business contributes in some way to helping others and giving back.

Why do you create? Why is a soulful business important to you? What motivates you?

I create because if I don't acknowledge and manifest my dreams I would suffocate, and live an unfulfilled life. I wear many hats, I am a mother, a spouse, a daughter, a friend... but creating art is my own personal expression where I can be wild and free, and tap into that spark of the divine. A soulful business is important to me because it provides a reputable alternative to unethical business corporations. I am motivated to help others by making beauty and sharing it. Life can be difficult and rough at times, and engaging with the world can be exhausting. If I can help to provide a little beauty or comfort to others or even something for people to dream and delve into then I feel that my purpose in art has been met.

Where did you cultivate your work ethic?

I cultivated my work ethic at a very young age from watching my parents and being raised in a very strict household. I remember spending hours hand polishing carved Rosewood furniture ornamented with dragons and phoenixes. This taught me perseverance and that oftentimes the work itself is truly its own reward.

What is the best piece of business advice you have received?

To be confident in the value of your work.

What is the best business advice you would give?

To be your own authentic self. People are drawn to those who have originality and creative expression. Each person has their own unique story to share and there is tremendous value in that. When you first start off creating your own business you are told to focus all of your attention on branding. To select 3 to 4 limited colors and always keep your work within this color scheme, to pick a font type in line with your brand, and have a photographic background for your product that is continuous and the same, to carefully edit your social media and blogs to keep within your limited color scheme so your client has this easily presentable, manipulated world to enter into where everything is neatly laid out, and they don't have to think about understanding who you are or what your product really is. I never did that. My product backgrounds are constantly shifting based upon my mood and what materials are readily at hand in my environment. I work with a full range of colors that compliment the natural cycles and the seasons. I credit my clientele with being intelligent and capable of comprehending subtleties and nuances, and they are, and it has worked for me. Don't compromise your personality or sacrifice the full range of your being to make sales, embrace your individuality and share your vision with the world. People will respond to your genuine character and appreciate your honesty.

How do you stay connected to loved ones when deeply entrenched in work?

As a self-employed business owner working from home it can be difficult balancing work and my personal life. I am pretty much always working, but I make sure to set aside time each day to engage with my family in a meaningful way, this means that eye contact is made, and electronic devices are put away. We play together out in nature in the forest or by the ocean when homework and chores are done. Mealtimes are sacred, I light a candle and we gather together to discuss the day's events. We have a custom where each person at dinner shares the answers to the following questions: “Name three things you are grateful for,” “If you could wish for anything what would it be?” and “What was one kind thing you did for someone else today?” This creates an easy open dialogue, and encourages engaged listening to each other where everyone gets a turn to speak.

What is your biggest challenge as an entrepreneur? How do you work with or around it?

My biggest challenge as an entrepreneur was figuring out how to share enough of myself and communicate with my clientele while being naturally a very quiet, reserved and private person. I am grateful for social media as I have been able to connect with so many wonderful people that I would not have met otherwise, but at times I have to disengage and step away to re-center myself because I can feel overwhelmed at times. I had an accident about a year ago that has left me with post concussion symptoms, and so I struggle with vertigo induced by gazing at screens for too long, and have to take frequent breaks. Luckily my clientele is very understanding and kindhearted towards me, and I try to answer all of my correspondence as quickly as I can.

Please share a personal mantra, motto, or ritual for when you feel drained.

This personal ritual of mine was given to me by an elder, as a reminder that the more centered I am the better able I am to help others. Whenever I feel drained she would tell me to go out and step barefoot onto the Earth Mother. To breathe and keep an open and soft heart.

Wildthorne Jewels

When you feel burned out or uninspired, what lights your fire again?

It is rare when I feel uninspired, I often have too many ideas that I cannot get to as I don't have extra hands or enough time to manifest all of my ideas, but if I am feeling burned out I like to watch interesting films or immerse myself in nature. Inevitably something will captivate my interest and recharge my enthusiasm.

How do you start your work day?

I start my work day by setting aside time to do my morning meditation and yoga practice, it is simple, effective, and helps to center me for the day. I also make my offerings and walk in the forest, brew up a warm cup of tea, and smudge my workspace to clear and balance the environment around me.

If you could do something else as a vocation, what would it be?

I would have loved to have been an ethnobotanist working with indigenous tribes and cultures to document and share the use of traditional plant medicines. This knowledge is being lost as elders are passing, and the natural environment is being destroyed. However I feel it is of particular importance, and so I am slowly learning the uses of a few Native plants and medicines in our area that I am gathering to pass down to my daughter.

When do you feel most creative?

I feel most creative when I am alone working and the light is soft, and there are no distractions nearby, when it is quiet and the energy around me is relaxed and serene.

Who inspires you and where or how is their influence felt in your work?

I look outside of jewelry for inspiration as I try to keep my own art as original as possible and not be affected by the work of others. I am greatly inspired by traditional potters who use wood firing in their techniques. Artists like Anne Mette Hjortshøj, and Lisa Hammond. I think that the thoughtfulness, commitment to their craft, and direct approach in facing challenges influences my mindset and therefore my work. In an interview Anne speaks about “paying honest attention” and how “we've got enough things in this world.” I agree that there are more than enough things on this planet, and jewelry is an over-saturated market, and so I try to think very carefully about what I want to create and why, and be responsible for what I put out in the world.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I had always dreamed of being an independent self-supporting artist, and there was never a time where I was not creating in some form. Before the birth of my daughter I had a successful career in the corporate industry, where I would reserve creating for the weekends, but after she came along my life goals changed, and I felt the urge stronger than ever to take hold of my life and really pursue what I loved. So I decided to take a leap of faith years ago and transition into being a full time artist. It has been a difficult road at times, there are many sacrifices you make on this path, but as a result my family also lives more humbly and mindfully because of it.

What did you want to be when you were a little girl?

When I was a little girl I wanted to be an archaeologist like Indiana Jones, going on adventures, studying other cultures, traveling and saving the world.

What did you know you did NOT want to be?

I knew that I did not want to be a lawyer or dentist, the only options that my father considered to be worthy and lucrative professions.

Do you have a first memory from childhood that connects you to what you have created today?

Yes, I remember that when I was a little girl my mother took me into an Asian grocery store and let me pick out this small carved wooden doll bead on a silk string as a trinket. I loved that little doll and whenever I did something like accidentally injure myself I would drape that little wooden doll bead over the affected area to help “heal” it. To this day I have seen how the power of focus, and a positive attitude can help people overcome obstacles. My crystal work is designed to compliment, assist and support these endeavors.

What did you learn from your childhood that impacts you today?

My childhood growing up was difficult being an only daughter, there were many high expectations placed upon me, and the pressure to excel was constant and continuous. I have learned and cultivated inner resilience and self acceptance from these experiences as a child, to step into my chosen profession with courage and defend my choices in being an artist. As a mother now myself I have learned to let go of any fixed expectations for my own daughter. Just being able to watch and witness her own individual growth, and the unfolding of her spirit with my guided assistance instead of forced influence is a gift.

If you could do or make something every day that you give away, what would it be?

If I could make something everyday to give away it would be a warm blanket for the homeless. There is an amazing illustrated children's book called “The Quiltmaker's Gift” where an old woman sews the most beautiful radiant quilts that are admired by the wealthy but she never sells them for money, and instead gives them away to those truly in need.

What is the thing that keeps you up at night?

I try to rest as much as possible, but when I am flowing with creative designs and ideas I tend to stay up late working.

How do you stay nourished and inspired as a soulful creative?

I stay nourished and inspired by practicing radical self care. I take long walks out in nature which revitalizes and inspires me. I connect deeply to my spiritual practice. I am constantly curious and like to explore by spontaneous meandering. Large mugs of tea and delicious food also help to sustain me.

Who supports you?

My business is run solely by myself, I handle all of the jewel creation, photography, writing, website management, social media, giftwrapping and postal runs, and so my dream team is comprised of my family and close friends who support me, and without whom I would be far less productive and sane. My partner and spouse is an invaluable resource he helps with shipping and even some metalwork out in the studio when available. He also supports me by being an equal partner in caring for our young daughter which frees up my time. My mother has always been a significant supporter of my work. She taught me to value and prize art since I was very young, and she encourages my creative expression with an open mind. My two best friends (who are also independent artists and business owners) Penelope Neil and Naomi Nowak are vital to me, I speak with them almost daily (even though they both reside on different continents) and with them not only do I have the blessing of their friendship, loyalty and support, we are all able to discuss and sound off creative ideas with each other, or vent and express concerns about our individual paths and businesses.

What is your business philosophy?

To work hard, be original, care for others, and know that setbacks are not failures.

What are your favorite entrepreneurial resources? Business mentors? Please share books, websites, and more.

My friend Penelope Neil that I mentioned before is and has been my biggest entrepreneurial resource, she is passionate about helping others achieve their dreams of making a living off of their art, and is an outspoken champion for handmade artists through mentoring and coaching.

What was the biggest “lesson” you've learned through your experience in business?

The biggest lesson I learned through my experience in business is actually something that I witnessed through two other jewelry designers in the industry. I purposefully use the term “designer” which is different from a hands-on artist. Both of these individuals had originally started off creating their own work but over time they converted and outsourced their products for others to make due to popularity and the lure of profit. They never disclosed, however, to their clientele that their jewelry was no longer or never was made by them. One woman ended up having her jewelry produced in a factory in China, and was unhappy and depressed at having lost her identity, and the creative process of making her own work. By perpetuating this deception both people were dishonest with themselves and their clientele, selling their jewelry under false pretenses. Because they did not have a direct hand in the products they were selling, they could not control the quality of the jewelry being produced which resulted in customer dissatisfaction. They were both constantly stressed out and paranoid at being revealed and “found out.” This created deep insecurities in their personal life which extended into the culture of their businesses. When people are uncertain, people talk, and when you are not open others know that you have something to hide. As the Dalai Lama says: “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” This taught me a very valuable lesson early on in being honest, transparent, accessible and vulnerable when I created my own business.

Tell us a story or describe a time when something occurred in your business that made your heart leap and you KNEW you were doing the right thing.

Creating my own website to sell my art was a very big step for me. I remember being so nervous the first day I was literally shaking when it went live, and felt so grateful that I had made some sales. Also the first time I completely sold out of one of my designs in less that 10 minutes, I was stunned and knew that I was on the right path, and that there were people out there who were interested in and valued what I do. My heart leaps every time someone writes to me with messages, personal stories, and kind feedback about my jewels. I am deeply honored to have insightful and discerning individuals choose my work.

Please share any messages, wisdom, stories, or insights you have gathered through your entrepreneurial journey.

I would encourage anyone looking to start their own creative business to keep it simple, and have unwavering faith. Work towards what you love and let your passion for what you do spill over naturally into your art and life. Be authentic and genuine and honest. Appreciate your clientele and reciprocate with them by offering giveaways if possible. If you are a person who works with their hands please take frequent breaks and stretch your wrists, few people in the industry talk about carpal tunnel or nerve damage but it does occur often for handmade artists. Have the courage to set boundaries that respect yourself and your process. If a request, transaction or customer doesn't feel right go with your gut and turn it down even if it is potentially lucrative for you. We are our decisions. Many thanks to Carrie-Anne Moss, Hillary Rain, and Annapurna Living for giving me the opportunity to share and speak about my own journey here. I am grateful.

About Kim

Kim is an intuitive spirit worker living in the ancient redwood forested hills of Northern California. Her healing jewelry is more than mere adornment; every element of her pieces is selected for it's properties; from the attributes of certain gemstones to the strength of iron, and the earthy connection of clay. When not creating intentional jewelry Kim nurtures her family's rural property and accompanies her daughter who dances on the indigenous pow wow trail. You can connect with her on her main site: Wildthorne Jewels, on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.