Rocks in my backpack
If you know our company, you’ve probably heard Saskia’s origin story: a year spent traveling around the world, making new connections and beginning a bead collection. What we don’t talk about as much is exactly how that collecting began and who was the lucky one with 20lbs of rocks in his backpack.
That would be me, Scott “the Mule” Kerns. As you can tell from the jewelry she designs, Saskia has an amazing eye for color and composition. I’ve known that since we first met 18 years ago and she commented on my (only slightly clashing) clothing choices. Once we landed in S. Korea, that artistic eye took in the textural and color differences, the beauty and unknown artistry of Asian style.
At first Saskia just walked through the street markets, eyes traveling over items new and old with an appraising eye. She had a secret mission. We planned to marry a year later back in the States, which served as a perfect excuse to keep shopping wherever we went.
One country later - in the markets halls of Beijing - the looking changed to buying, and I realized my predicament. Amid friendly haggling and the intricacies of currency exchange, items began filling my already-full backpack. All our belongings fit in one camping pack each, so you can imagine how little extra space we had. After Saskia bought several pounds of multi-colored beads, three sets of chopsticks, two paintings and a scroll, I realized that I would need another bag.
Tibet found us stuffing more stones for my already-overweight load, but Nepal proved the breaking point. There Saskia discovered the motherload: hand-pressed paper, inlaid turquoise beads, shirts made of old saris, jewelry, notebooks, hats - more than my puny pack could handle. We made our first trip to the post office in Kathmandu, wrapped our goods as best we could and prayed they would find their way back home.
For the next seven months, this became our pattern: discover, haggle, purchase, haul around for as long as possible, ship. In a way, this same pattern still remains. Saskia no longer has a wedding to plan (she affectionately calls it her “greatest craft project ever”), but rather new designs to create. Whenever and wherever we travel, Saskia begins and ends at the craft markets, among the vendors. Her eye - now well trained - surveys, assesses, and falls in love. The beads she now uses span the gamut from “lost wax” brass from West Africa to Nepalese focal beads, Thai silver to Indian gold, with gemstones, pearls and glass sprinkled in between.
We say “every bead tells a story,” and I swear that Saskia knows them all. I watch her sometimes look at a necklace and name the person who sold her every bead. These designs are more than beads and stones, they’re stories. Every element connects to a craftsperson somewhere in the world. Saskia is the conduit. And I, I suppose, am still the mule.