Ruthie & Doug Shewan – Jewellery and Gemstones

Ruthie & Doug Shewan – Jewellery and Gemstones

As children we are always fascinated with the wonder of our surroundings. Any eye-catching object that we can get at is not safe from our exploring appendages. I know for myself that in addition to the buckets of snakes I would catch and release (sometimes in the house!) when I was a little kid, I would also walk the beaches and river banks finding rocks and even pieces of wood that had unique shapes and colours. Why not? As kids our responsibilities and obligations are relatively few, so we had the time to let our imaginations soar. It is our preeminent time of discovery and creativity. So what happens after that? Education, work, family; as beneficial as they can be, can temporarily dry up the creative juices we enjoyed as children. It seems that the only phase in our life that could afford us the same freedom to explore those options once again is in retirement, where we get to go back to being a kid again with no rigid commitments of school, working or raising a family.

Doug and Ruthie Shewan’s retirement plans have enabled them to do just that. Discovering stones and beads with beauty and historical fascination is a passion of theirs that takes them to Quartzsite, Arizona for four months out of the year to not only savour the southern climes, but also to seek out new finds for their collections of beads and precious stones. These acquisitions will lead to the design and making of magnificent necklaces, bracelets and pendants that we have given a glimpse of in our interview and photographs with them.

Click on the images below to enlarge them for a closer look:

Doug and Ruthie tell of the compelling history of beads that were once touched by people in the 14th century and beyond to pre-Buddhist times over 2500 years ago. The brief clip below shows two such rare beads that Ruthie and Doug had acquired.

The first one is a Venetian Millefiori bead with a very unique, hexagonal shape to it. Not knowing much about it at first, they had it authenticated by a lady that lives high up in the Sierras in a gold mining camp with her husband; both of them very knowledgeable. They knew beads like this were made but had never seen one before. Upon further research it was discovered that this particular bead had only been made in the one colour. The Venetians were leaders in Lampwork, which is the process under which this bead was produced. This extraordinary bead was framed by two smaller rectangular Millefiori’s, Russian blue faceted beads and 16th century cobalt Dutch Dogan beads, which are gorgeous when the light hits them!

The second bead is an ancient Tibetan dZi bead that pre-dates buddhism and is carved from Agate stone, then etched through a chemical process with heat. This bead has “eyes” on it in a three and two pattern around it. The older ones are becoming quite prized and expensive to collect. This bead is featured with red coral and copper to accent it, a nice way to display a collectible item such as this.

Vancouver Island Dreaming

Vancouver Island Dreaming

Our recent excursion to Vancouver Island; to boldly seek out more artisans where no one has gone before (cue Star Trek theme) was a mixture of both familiarity and discovery. Having been born and raised in Comox for the first 18 years of my life, our visit gave way to nostalgic musings of places I used to hang out, beaches I used to bum at, and woods I used to play in and drum up trouble. Some areas, such as the forests, can easily be forced to change and succumb to more subdivisions, while other environments such as the beaches have the strength to retain their identity by sheer force of nature. So it’s no wonder that the many great childhood memories, in now less than rural settings, also gave way to some feelings of melancholy for this trip down memory lane.

Ironically, spending so much time in my youth on “the island” did not lead to much travel and discovery, rather much of it coming from visits after I had left. Hiking the world famous West Coast Trail in 1997, Corinne and I paddling around the Broken Group Islands for a six day sea kayaking adventure, and now discovering that there are goats on a roof as a roadside attraction in Coombs on top of the Old Country Market, are just a few of the attractions I found since leaving.

The Old Country Market bakery filled with many delights

The market has an eclectic array of foods from all over the world, a bakery chock full of every type of bread and sweet enticement you could imagine, a deli counter with yummies such as candied salmon, pepperoni sticks and smoked salmon to name a few. There is a wall of pasta of every imaginable sort and shape, jars of specialty condiments galore, as well as a lunch counter and sitting area to satisfy your taste buds after drooling around the store. Stop in, shop up, order up and sit down to the smells and tastes of this unique country market!

The tales of our travels along Vancouver Island would not be complete without mentioning the incredible outpouring of generosity and friendship that we received from “strangers,” whose first introduction to us was by email and not knowing anything about us.

Carolyn and Kim in Nanaimo are friends of a friend of ours in Calgary and they welcomed us into their home without a second thought, none that we knew about anyway :). We also went out with Carolyn to a wonderful country pub in Nanaimo called The Crow & Gate while Kim was out of town. He missed out on a great bratwurst dinner but I’m sure he has indulged in their delicious fare once or twice before. They made us feel at home and we are grateful for that.

Our other beacons of hospitality, Ruthie and Doug of Dragntalz Art, are artisans of fine jewelry and they also gave us a place to hang our hats for a couple of nights. They shared some fabulous meals with us and also extended their trust to us, allowing us to come and go as we please in between artist interviews. This trust is something that we do not take lightly; for in a world of increasing distrust resulting from dishonest people it would be easy to become cynical and jaded towards strangers’ motives. It was therefore refreshing to meet these wonderful couples who chose to give us the benefit of the doubt and to believe in the goodness of people. Thank you all for a wonderful Vancouver Island experience!