Do We All Have A Tortured Heart? - Stephanie Ritchie Jewelry

Good question. I know I do. It’s the lens through which I see the world and everything in it. Do I know people who seem as of yet unscathed by the torturous experience which is being alive? No, not really, everyone gets scathed. Even some of the youngest kids I know are in touch with sorrow as well as joy. I believe this is who we are as feeling beings walking around in meat sacks. We are capable and permitted to relish in ecstasy, confusion, love, grief, surprise, and sometimes peace. Some days you are the pigeon; some days you are the statue.

For me, as a maker of things, my experience in the world comes through in the objects I make. Here’s how I accidentally began my signature line of Tortured Heart pendants. See, what had happened was…I was teaching a metalsmithing class and one of my students asked me to make her a heart pendant. “Ah, I don’t think so,” I said and we moved on with class. Next class she asked me again, begging, “I just love your work and I really like hearts, please make a pendant for me?” I held back a bit of annoyance and tried to make a joke out of it saying, “Honey, if you want a puffy heart necklace go to the mall. They have an endless supply of sweet little saccharine hearts to choose from.” This woman would not stop. She poked, “Why don’t you like hearts?” By this time I was perturbed and couldn’t even identify why I was so bothered. I’m not a person who holds my tongue so I whipped around, “You know why I don’t like heart jewelry? Because if you’ve lived very long you don’t have a sweet little shiny heart, do ya? You don’t want me to make you a heart pendant. You think you do, but you don’t!

If I made a heart pendant it would be so fucked up that it wouldn’t even look like a heart anymore. It would be torn, tattered, broken, patched, frayed at the edges, and (here’s where the lightbulb came on as I was ranting) it would be full of holes…and silver rivets…and stitched with gold…and set with a blood red ruby…and I’ll be right back!” I grabbed my jewelry journal from the bench where I had been teaching and feverishly sketched the design for my very first Tortured Heart. I got into my studio and fabricated it later that week. I loved it so much that I kept it for myself. I have worn it almost every day for 15 years. I even made her one too. By now I have made hundreds of these little Tortured Hearts and I’m nowhere near done. I think of them as stories we can wear on a chain and we have oh so many stories to tell.