I have the privilege to have a large number of wonderful artists among my friends and acquaintances. In an entirely selfish urge, I like to explore their stories to look for echoes in their experiences that help to reinforce my own devotion to creative work. It no longer surprises me when I am drawn to an artist’s work because of its depth, layered meaning and beauty , to find that the maker of the art is as interesting and complex as their work. Wisconsin’s Georgia Lang Weithe is such a person.
An artist and author as well as an educator who focuses on healing practices, Georgia Lang Weithe creates unique one-of-a-kind and production art jewelry pieces that, to me, reflect depth of spirit and subtle life-rich meaning. Her art and other creative and critical work are informed by the concept of Reflection, with its dual distinct meanings: meditative—the inner and spiritual journey. I see this in her artworks as well as her writing. Georgia makes her art metals pieces available in multiple venues through her art business Reflection Jewelry.
Georgia discovered jewelry making when she was newly graduated from college. She took a course at a technical school where she had a very inspiring instructor and access to an extensive array of equipment. Several years later she moved to Germany with her husband where she took private lessons with a master goldsmith, named Lutz Quambusch. Many of her early designs had moons and stars and suns, while his work was strictly geometrical and abstract. He declared her style to be distinctly American. Georgia originally puzzled over that, but has come to think he might be right, declaring “I am definitely a product of my culture and my environment, and it shows. ”
When she was living in Germany they had a tiny apartment. It consisted of two rooms: there was a living room and a bedroom. In the tiny bedroom she managed to cram a jewelry workbench on one wall and a meditation corner in a small alcove. When she became pregnant they and had to figure out where to put the baby’s crib, and the choice was clear. She rolled up her mat and set up the crib in the meditation corner, putting her daily meditation period on pause for a few years, and demonstrating how strong her commitment to her jewelry has been.
Over the years Georgia has come to realize that with the elimination of the meditation corner, she didn’t stop meditating. Making jewelry for her is in its own way, a meditation. The designs flow from within when she is connected to her deepest self, and what they say is an expression of her own unique quality of spirit. She says “Everyone has a unique quality spirit, and we each do things and express ourselves in ways that nobody else can… it can be a work of art, or it can be how we solve a problem or care for a friend.”
It is endlessly interesting to me to explore what drives the creative process in other artists, who like me, are compelled to make despite the reality that being an artist in this culture holds such an odd place in terms of being both devalued (as the chair of a university art department I spent many an hour reassuring parents that their child’s desire to be an art major was not actually a tragedy), and sometimes admired, almost as magic, when individuals spend the time to achieve mastery of their chosen mediums. I do believe it takes courage to be an artist, to commit to making the space in your life for your creative work, and the ability willingness to determined your own criteria for success, and to map your own journey with no clear set path.
Georgia’s path is interesting too. She says, “When I look back over the years I realize there has never been a period of my life when I didn’t feel compelled to surround myself with a torch and the equipment I needed to make jewelry, even during my career in education. So a few years ago, I decided to honor the pull I have felt my entire life, and spend all my time making jewelry. After all, I have learned I can’t NOT do it. ”
In my occasional coaching of other artists I have learned that we need three things to maintain a creative life centered around art making: time, money, and space. Too many times we think we need a lot of each to even start our creative work. The reality is that we can find a way to make some kind of art with whatever time, money and space we have. To wait to have our creative life until we have all three is a devastating mistake. However, to start where you are and create the time and space for the creative in your life no matter what your economic situation is can lead to a bigger and bigger commitment of all three.
Three years ago Georgia decided to stop renting studio space and use the money she would have paid for rent to purchase a log cabin from a local Amish man. She now has the dream commute (several hundred feet) and spends her days in her beautiful cabin studio, surrounded by a lovely flower garden, wild woods, and the birds and animals that inhabit it.
As an artist, a collector of art, and in my daily life I happen to be the kind of person who is not neutral about objects. I like to surround myself with objects that I find aesthetically pleasing and that have a deeper meaning to me. As a result I tend to approach any jewelry I wear more like talismans than body decorations. As a result I am most interested in jewelry that have symbolic meaning for me on a personal, political, spiritual or social level, or that remind me of a person, place or occurrence that matters to me.
Georgia’s jewelry works for me in that way. I recognize in her imagery the same love of nature and the patterns of life and death that I aspire to as well. Her wearable artworks resonated with me in the same way as some of the images I bring into my own paintings.
The symbolism of Georgia’s wings, trees, branches, spirals, and shapes, for me imply a depth of knowledge and larger connections with our own bodies in relation to the body of the earth, recognizing our relationships to the other creatures that inhabit it. This is a true gift for me and many of her other collectors. When I wear a piece of Georgia’s jewelry I am preparing for a day of mindful connections.
As I alluded to earlier, like so many artists, myself included, Georgia Lang Weithe can be considered a ‘hybrid-artist’ in that she has a foot on more than one career path. While she has long pursued her work as a metal artist and jeweler she has brought abilities to connect larger pattens to her work as an educator and an
In addition to creating wonderful art, Georgia a certified teacher, and since founding the Reflections Educational Consulting Firm in 1988, she has appeared as a guest speaker presenting workshops on a variety of topics to professionals in the fields of education and health care.
Georgia has enjoyed a long-term affiliation with the Courage to Teach Program, created by the Fetzer Institute. She is also a certified Well-Springs Facilitator, and has a private practice in which she incorporates the Well-Springs massage, Reiki and Healing Touch.
In all of her life’s work, be it art or teaching, Georgia has the ability to offer up a remarkable degree of reflection about things that matter. In 2008 this included authoring the book ‘Shining Moments: Finding Hope in Facing Death.’ The book offers what she learned while navigating unknown territory of supporting her father through the process of dying.
“I kept a journal to help me find my way. When I read through it after my father died, I realized it contained exactly the kind of information I had been seeking from others, but was unable to find. So I offer my story to help those who, like myself, have been terrified of death and who feel the need to have a conversation—even if it’s only with themselves—about this phenomenon, which has generally become unspeakable. By sharing my experiences and the insights gained through them, perhaps I can provide you with a tool for courageously facing the death of others and the prospect of your own.”
A review of her book describes it this way: “In Shining Moments: Finding Hope in Facing Death, Georgia Weithe provides an intellectual rationale for the importance of coming to terms with death, an emotional glimpse into what it is like to sit vigil while someone we love is dying, and spiritual directions for how to create an atmosphere of comfort and safety to support the dying person and help them let go.
The book shines a positive light on death to help us accept its presence in our lives. It offers readers the hopeful message that when we have found the key to living with the knowledge of our own death, the door to inner peace and the hope of fulfilling our true purpose on earth is opened.
Shining Moments is a valuable resource for all who have an intellectual curiosity about death, for friends and family members of loved ones who are in the final stage of life, and for Hospice and other end-of-life care professionals who assist them with their journey.”
Georgia Lang Weithe is an artist whose metal arts extend to fabulous art jewelry that draws on the connections she has made in her own life’s journey that has included travel through the places that allow us to reflect on our relationship to the cycles of life and death.
“This is a piece I have been dreaming about for a long time. I am very attracted to ancient Egyptian artifacts, and I have always wanted to make a pectoral – a large necklace that sits on the chest.”
Thank you for bringing beauty and rich insights to the world Georgia Lang Weithe.