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Jewelry From The Heart
Mendocino Art Center Summer 2004 issue
by Shani Christenson

 Chris and I were Mendocino High School sweethearts.  Jewelry making seemed to be our path in life even as children.  I would take apart and reconstruct old costume jewelry my grandfather would buy me at yard sales. Chris was always fascinated by fire and melting metal. He would experiment with melting old scrap metal and pour it into hand carved molds before he was a teenager. In high school he began apprenticing with a local goldsmith.  He was introduced to the basics in old world fabrication techniques and from that point on he knew that jewelry would be a focal point in his life.  At that same time I fell in love with a pair of beaded earrings in a Mendocino shop. Since the earrings were too expensive, I bought some beads and taught myself how to make them. Within three months I was selling earrings in the same shop. It was the start of my jewelry career.
     After high school Chris and I traveled the country together taking several jewelry apprenticeships.  We spent a year and a half at a small private jewelry school on an Indian reservation in Washington State.  Native American Shaman Heyoka Merrifield, a well-known spiritual artist and author, created the Lady of the Lake Foundation. Surrounded by nature, with bald eagles flying overhead, Heyoka taught students to observe the cycles of the earth and to celebrate the beauty in nature.  He taught us to bring spiritual meaning into jewelry making, using symbolism and ceremony.  We would 'awaken' our jewelry in a traditional Native American pipe ceremony and invest our jewelry with spiritual energies. To this day Chris still blesses each creation with a wing feather from a bald eagle that he found on his last day at the school.  We feel that jewelry can be more than just personal adornment; it can be a physical representation of a feeling or belief. It was here that our fascination with nature and the art of early cultures began. Native American, Egyptian, the Renaissance, and especially Celtic art, became a focus in our designs. A flower swaying in the cool spring breeze, a lone wolf howling at the full moon, an ancient symbol carved in stone hundreds of years ago, each image we capture in our jewelry has a special meaning to us and evokes its own feelings.  To us creating jewelry is a celebration of the beauty we see in the world.  Another apprenticeship with a master jeweler rounded out Chris' training in old world and classic fabrication. He learned to work in platinum and mastered several difficult stone -setting techniques, including channel setting and Chris' favorite, belcher mounting (a little known process of hammering metal over a stone then engraving it into prong like points). One of the most important things for us is the quality of our work.  We take pride in building our jewelry to last generations.
     Chris and I started our jewelry business Moonlight Jewels when we were 20, selling our work at art shows and galleries across the country.  We feel so blessed that we are able to make a living doing what we love to do and that we can do it together. It is greatly rewarding to create a work of art that touches someone's heart.
     In 1995 we returned to Mendocino for good. We loved traveling and seeing other beautiful places in the country, but we always knew that Mendocino is our home. We joined Northcoast Artists Gallery, a cooperative of local artists in Fort Bragg.  We've had several feature exhibits over the years that were well received. It is great to be part of a group of artists who have so much support and encouragement for each other.  Since returning to Mendocino we have attended many of the local art fairs including the Mendocino Art Center's Summer Art and Thanksgiving Fairs. We've taught a few jewelry workshops at the Art Center, participated in several group exhibits and I've been teaching jewelry to high school students during alternative education week in April for the past three years.  We love to share what we have learned. We've had several apprentices over the years and teaching has been one of the most rewarding things we've done.  It's our way to give a little back to the world that has given us so much.
     Our jewelry has evolved over the years and we have now settled our focus on Celtic design.  Our work now has the quality of fine craftsmanship combined with symbolic design. We have always been intrigued with Celtic art. There is something soothing and meditative about the designs. We draw many of our own knots and we reproduce some traditional knots as well.  The Celtic Knot, a single interwoven line with no beginning and no end symbolizes eternity and the interweaving of all life.  This early decorative and religious art was born of the Druidic religion and traditions of the Celtic people, especially those that inhabited Britain and Ireland from 7th century B.C

              Last year we opened a small jewelry studio and gallery in Mendocino called Celtic Creations.  This bright and elegant shop is upstairs at the corner of Main and Kasten streets, overlooking Big River Bay.  We have always dreamed of having a beautiful place to make our jewelry and inspire our creativity. We also wanted a place where the public could watch us work. We do a lot of custom orders and have focused on custom Celtic wedding rings and necklaces.  We wanted a place where someone could come and participate in the creation process.
     We're excited and honored to be a part of this artist community.  We are so grateful to be living and creating our jewelry on this magnificent coast. The beauty that surrounds us constantly inspires us as we strive to capture some of that energy and magic in our jewelry art.
Art Shows
Online Store Links
Celtic Creations
Jewelry Studio & Gallery

Upstairs Main St. & Kasten
P.O. Box 1901
Mendocino, CA 95460
Mendocino Art Center's A&E
July 1997
Chris and Shani Christenson :
Gems of the Jewelry Trade
Article By:
Cliff Glover
Chris & Shani
In their redwood studio
Photo by :
Zelda Ralston
~ The used oak workbench that Chris and Shani Christenson just bought stands three feet high and spans eight-and-a-half feet across a small redwood studio. "This is one of the most critical tools of the trade," Chris explains about the exciting, $350 purchase. "It has these special drawers that snug against your chest, so that all the silver and gold dust won't end up on the floor." It has more than 40 other drawers to store our drill bits, files, fittings, gems, and metals. Now we are finally organized."

~ The Christensons have been waiting years for a used bench. A new one costs $1200. Starting a jewelry business is expensive: a pair of pliers might cost $60, and even at $2 each, the cost of bits really add up when you buy a drawer full.

~ These days their need to purchase tools has decreased and the Christensons can now invest more in gold and semiprecious stones, an important aspect of raising the value of their work. Recently, they visited a fellow jeweler, where a gem merchant was peddling his wares. " We went over determined to spend only $100," laughs Chris. "we walked out with $400 worth of stones."

~ Most likely the temptation was worse for Shani. As a young child she used to dismantle the jewelry that her grand father bought at junk stores and garage sales. "I was fascinated with the shiny stones," Shani says, "I used to pry out the gems and beads and play with them." Later, in high school, she was intrigued with a pair of beaded earrings that cost $150, but the price was beyond her budget, so she decided to make a pair herself. "It took me a week to figure out how to do it," she says. "Then I started to sell earrings in the various stores around Mendocino."

~ Chris was initiated into jewelry through his fascination with fire. At age nine, he spent a great deal of time melting lead pipes that had been put out for collection on the streets of Shreveport, Louisiana, where he grew up. Chris would then pour the molten metal into horsetails and other objects to form casts. He believes his early obsession came from being a jeweler in another life. Indeed, his belief is so strong that, much to the chagrin of Shani, Chris overbuilds even the simplest setting so that he might discover the piece in another incarnation.

~ For both Chris and Shani, the spiritual aspect of jewelry is primary. While having a nice workbench and a selection of fine gems is great, having a way of working, a reason to work is even more important. Their most influential teachers were Wolfgang Hasselkas, a German master goldsmith, and Heyoka Merrifield. Hasselkas taught them the old world craft of channel setting, hand fabrication and use of engraving tools. Merrifield taught them cameo carving, and most important, how to make jewelry a personal spiritual journey through design and prayer.

~ After each piece is finished, the Christensons perform an awakening ceremony that brings energy to the jewelry, and a connection to the earth for its next owners. "Every piece of our jewelry touches one special feather", Chris says. "The awakening ceremony also allows us to let go, to say good bye to our creation".

Coast Magazine
July 1997
Moonlight Jewels
~ Jewelry artists Chris and Shani Christenson show recent works inspired by nature as well as classic and ancient art designs. "we have always had a fascination with ancient art and our jewelry reflects many old cultures including Native American, Egyptian, European, French and especially Celtic art. For many ancient cultures jewelry was more than just personal adornment, it was an important part of their spiritual life. In this way we strive to create jewelry with a connection to the energy of Mother Earth".
Crystal Venus
~ Chris and Shani's jewelry education started in high school and continued while traveling the country taking apprenticeships with several jewelry masters. With a background in fine old world style gold fabrication techniques, their jewelry has the qualities of fine craftsmanship combined with intricate symbolic and spiritually inspired design.

Coast Magazine - Summer 97

Tanzanite Celtic Knot Ring

Moonlight Jewels to Open at Northcoast Artists
- Margi Gomez

~ Goddesses from many cultures will be the featured image in a showing of cameos and other hand crafted jewelry by Chris and Shani Christenson at Northcoast Artists Gallery in Fort Bragg in July. "Moonlight Jewels," a showing of jewelry art by Chris and Shani Christenson draws from Celtic, Egyptian, Renaissance and Native American cultures. This young couple have been crafting jewelry together since high school, and have always looked to spiritual symbolism from around the world for their inspiration. They have taken several apprenticeships with master jewelers, including jewelry artist Heyoka Merrifield of the Lady of the Lake Foundation in Washington state. Both Merrifield's world view and special skill with cameos has greatly influenced the Christenson's style and technique.

~ Chris and Shani have taught their own apprentices as well, and haveparticipated in the Mendocino Art Center's Open Jewelry Studio throughout this past winter. They taught a class at the Art Center in the earlyspring, and will be teaching another class in October called "Metal onStone." This will be a jewelry fabrication class, teaching a number oftechniques including metal layering using a unique cut away solderingmethod, which "sandwiches" large stones between fine silver overlays. Thistechnique produces the multi-layered, double sided jewelry for which theChristenson's and Moonlight Jewels are known.

~ "A flower swaying in a cool spring breeze, a lone wolf howling at the full moon, an ancient symbol carved in stone hundreds of years ago by a Druidpriest. Each image we capture in our jewelry has a special meaning to usand evokes it's own special feeling. Many of our designs are inspired bynature as well as symbolic and spiritual images of ancient peoples . To us,creating jewelry is a celebration of the beauty we see in our world." Thisphilosophy and a number of glittering photographs of the Christenson'sjewelry art can be found with a visit to their new web site

~ Celebrate Chris and Shani's unique vision and work at the opening of their new show on First Friday, July 2, at Northcoast Artists Gallery, 362 North Main Street in Fort Bragg, from 6 to 9 pm. The show will run through July.

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