In the Studio with Susan Tyler of Essentia Jewelry

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Susan Tyler of Essentia holds some of the mala necklaces that she makes by hand in her Newport, RI studio.

Located off Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Susan Tyler’s home studio is a calm yet vibrant space, where brightly upholstered and rustic furnishings coexist without tension. Light floods the sunroom and seeps into the kitchen where she works, filling up every inch of the space, and that brightness seems to infuse the jewelry and prayer beads that Susan, whose line is called Essentia, makes by hand here.

Color, light, family, and art are recurring themes throughout the space, as is nature, and access to the outdoors – whether by sightline or through a door – is always available; this is unsurprising, since the artisan finds nature a source of inspiration. And although her children were not home the day we visited, little footprints were all around – an activity table in the sunroom, artwork pinned on walls and doors, toys visible but tidily tucked away. This is a workspace where family, home, and vocation all flow together.

Inspired by traditional Buddhist and Hindu prayer beads, Susan’s two-and-a-half-year-old line of adornments is crafted primarily from minerals, crystals, and semi-precious gems. In fact, she’s a certified crystal healer, and can tell you the meanings and energetic qualities associated with any stone in the place.

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While taking a class on mudras – symbolic hand gestures used in Buddhism and Hinduism – Susan learned about the use of these prayer beads, called malas, for mediation. The first time she placed one around her neck, she says, she felt the presence of a powerful force. “I put on a mala and that was it,” she says. “I just felt it.” Soon she was making them for her own practice; before long she was sharing them with friends. Eventually and organically, a business blossomed.

Crafted mainly of silk cord and various beads – moonstone and pearl are some current favorites to work with – Susan designs, threads, and knots the malas by hand – finishing each with a requisite “guru bead” and tassel, which she also hand ties. “It’s very zen and satisfying to tie all these knots,” she says. “It forces me to sit. It’s meditative and that’s healing, and the people that wear them get a little part of that, too.”

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Of course, you don’t have to practice yoga or meditation to wear a mala necklace or bracelet, nor is her collection limited to just these. Susan also crafts gorgeous modern-bohemian earrings, beaded bracelets, and puts those fabulous tassels to good use on cuff bracelets. Plus, her work – available locally at Long Time Sun Apparel, Thames Street Yoga, and Swift Morris Interiors – supports Kundalini Yoga for Youth, a foundation that helps at-risk children manage their stress and emotions.

In addition, Susan concocts unique aromatherapy room sprays called gem elixirs. The current batch is infused with citrine as well as lemongrass, eucalyptus, and peppermint essential oils, and it smells like a walk in springtime (minus the allergies). The recipe is designed to awaken and strengthen the third chakra, or lower belly – considered the region of the core self in yoga philosophy. Susan describes the scent as “uplifting and relaxing at the same time,” which also happens to be the perfect way to describe her studio. No wonder why her jewelry is such a pleasure both to admire and to wear.

Photos by Maaike Bernstrom Photography. Click on any image below to launch the gallery.

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Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

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