A Welcome Letter From Designer, Jessica Hendricks Yee
I’ve always had a fascination with the rituals, alphabets, stories and beliefs that hold a culture, and connect individuals to something larger than themselves.
Back in college this fascination lead to me to teach English in Thailand, immersed in a sea of orange-robe-wearing-monks and tea lights lit around golden fuchsia fabrics. I travelled to the ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples of Angkor Wat -- and touched its stones that hold thousands of years of prayers and dreams. Inspired to celebrate a piece of the incredible Cambodia I fell in love with, I launched The Brave Collection, sharing a piece of the Cambodian culture through a modern lens.
It was always easier to see the beauty in other cultures -- something about my own was too familiar, too obvious to feel magical in the way traditions of the East magnetized me.
I think my parents felt the same, raising us in a secular, interfaith household, where besides the Menorah-Christmas-Tree-one-two-punch each December, and some Temple hopping around the High Holy Days, we grew up for the most part disconnected from the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of bubys and zadys past. My parents raised us on Bruce Springsteen and French sheep cheese, exposing us to values they actually believed in.
And I think they were on to something -- realizing that beautiful, even spiritual moments didn’t only have to happen in a church or synagogue, but could be created by hosting a dinner party in our backyard with Manu Chao playing low and plenty of good cab.
And yet there is something undeniable about the blood that runs through your own body, connecting you back to a people and a history that shaped you even before you were born. Like a map of constellations in the sky, we can each trace back to where we come from, and if we are lucky, feel a connection to the strength and beauty that comes from our pasts.
We are human beings, not human doings, and yet while we’ve all gotten so unbelievably proficient at innovating the systems that help us do, might we sometimes forget why we work so hard and strive for so much? What about the simple being?
With religion becoming less relevant to so many whose identities are becoming more layered and multicultural, and with technology stepping in as the heartbeat of our communities, for many of us, nourishment of the spirit is low on the laundry list of priorities.
And yet I believe that the rituals and wisdom of the past hold some of the most potent elixirs for our modern challenges. But how do we connect back? I thought about this a lot as I was planning my wedding.
Integrating the rituals of my Jewish heritage with my husband’s Chinese heritage - in the context of a boho wedding in 2016, was the perfect collision of ancient, modern, multicultural, and daunting! To be able to tap into traditions that have been practiced for thousands of years before us felt like something incredibly precious, and yet I worried that a ceremony that felt true to our identity as a couple might dilute something sacred from the past.
Weaving together threads from both our pasts, and elements distinctly unique to us as individuals lead us to create a tapestry richer than anything I could have imagined. We had a modern Jewish wedding ceremony in Palm Springs, and a Chinese Banquet and Tea Ceremony in Boston. My husband smashed the glass under the Chuppah and drank from my grandparents’ Kiddush cup, and at our banquet I wore an antique hand-embroidered Qipao dress that had been handed down to me by Patrick’s mom. We created a giant map of both of our family trees, and stood in front of it with our cousins, aunts and uncles, and celebrated all of the wild coincidences across the globe that had to take place in order for us to meet.
The process of reimagining our complex and layered identity as a new family was an awakening, as we embodied both a deep connection to our past, and an openness to our present.
Beyond the rituals of our ceremony, I started to think about the objects that hold space in powerful moments such as this, or symbolize meaningful ideas. Heirlooms: Objects that mark a moment like a gold ring, or become a staple of your home, like a candelabra. And heirlooms in a more reimagined sense of the word -- objects that are meaningful because they connect you back to an idea, a mantra, or a wisdom within yourself that you want to be reminded of. As we planned our registry, I struggled to find pieces that captured this essence.
This reimagined blend of old and new - timeliness, and of this very moment, global and so close it’s inside of you, this is the intention that the Zahava collection was designed with. Zahava (meaning Golden, in Hebrew) comes from an exploration of identity and spiritual connection in a modern world. Our jewelry is hand crafted by artisans in 10k gold, evocative of antique heirlooms from another time and place, and our ritual objects are sculpted by hand with the intention of elevating your celebrations -- a coming of age moment, a dinner together, or just a moment in time.
Each piece contains powerful meaning that is known to the wearer but may be hidden to the world. The Golden Atlas Necklace -- designed on a napkin in the Moroccan desert -- is a globe-shaped pendant, where bespoke diamonds can be set in any meaningful place the wearer chooses. I placed my diamond in the Atlas mountains outside Marrakech, (to remember the most epic glamping experience of my life!) Each Traveler’s Token Necklace shows one of twelve symbols, like the Ibex that represents “Balance”. The Wearer’s Wisdom Rings are engraved with timeworn wisdom such as “If Not Now, When?” in ancient Aramaic, with the English meaning hidden on the inside.
The Candelabras are designed to illuminate the atmosphere and bring peace into the home. Inspired by one of my favorite ancient rituals, Shabbat, the candelabras are there to inspire you to put away your phone, even for just a few minutes, take a breath, and think about the the week you just had. In the go-go-go! rhythm of our busy lives, weeks can fly without a moment’s pause to first remember -- what even happened this week? Did I learn something, did I grow? Is there something I am grateful for? We light a candle to go from the relentless doing, to the elevated being.
My dream for Zahava is that it will support you on your journey towards soul-nourishment in a modern age by re-imagining how we mark milestones, honor sacred traditions, and create new rituals. These pieces are meant to remind you of who you are -- both where you came from and who you choose to be. I hope this line will help you discover, and connect to that feeling, not just once a year for the holidays, or once in a lifetime at a lifecycle moment, but everyday, with objects that create pathways back to that golden spirit inside. May we build lives that are modern and efficient yes, but also lives that provide a feast for our hungry, and beautiful spirits.
-Jessica Hendricks Yee