So please tell us how you got inspired to do wondersmithing?
When I was studying glassblowing in college, I realized that creating tactile surfaces for people to touch was a big part of my work, and the easiest way to get someone to pick up a textured glass bowl was to fill it with food. This led to pairing my creations with meals, and soon I became more interested in the dynamics of a group of people sharing food than in just the glass itself. After college I started hosting immersive events commercially, but felt limited by my options and frustrated that only an elite group of people could afford to attend them.
Can you describe your first event for us? Were you surprised by how it went?
What I consider my first Wondersmith event was “Lady Fern’s Soiree.” I’d just spent months on a big commercial event and was feeling burnt out and frustrated—expectations were high because of the ticket price (but if I charged anything less I would have lost money on it), I felt limited creatively, and I’d been treated rather poorly by some drunk and highly privileged guests, who also seemed more intent on taking photos to share on social media proving that they’d been to this artsy event rather than actually enjoying what I’d spent months preparing for them. In the foggy aftermath of this event, I decided to just throw a party exactly how I wanted to—and to make it even more magical, I wanted to attract guests with a natural curiosity and sense of wonder rather than those who could afford it.
I wrote invitations on ferns I’d painted purple and then tucked them into fern clusters in the woods near where I lived. Those that were curious enough to venture from the trail and adventurous enough to follow up on the invite were treated to an all-purple feast full of foraged treats, with a table full of handmade purple fern glass plates and cups. Above us were twinkling crystalized seedpods and fairy lights. It was absolutely magical. The group was diverse, from a few young children (and their parents) to adults in their twenties to a couple in their 60s; we were united just by our mutual love of wonder. The guests treated each other (and me) with respect and gratitude. It felt relaxed and joyful. This gathering felt so much more dynamic and afterwards I was left with a glow in my chest and an assertion that I had to figure out how to keep doing exactly this.
What were some of your more memorable events?
Last spring for my event “Geode,” I asked my guests to descent down a caged ladder into the belly of a giant lava cave. Looking over the edge at the top gave me a little shiver (and I am far from afraid of heights), so I know it was a big ask of my guests. But they were all up for the challenge, and we had a lovely time in a cave illuminated dramatically by sunbeams! For “Blue Pool,” a friend and I backpacked heavy packs full of glass and ceramic bowls over a rough trail two miles in to the Tamolitch Blue Pool, a naturally sapphire blue pool in central Oregon. It was a major workout (and we were both so sore the next day!) but it sure was fun surprising other people on the trail with a tea party so far from civilization. We served everyone from families of hikers to cliff divers!
Have you ever been surprised and astonished the way you aim to surprise and astonish your guests?
Oh, absolutely! That’s what keeps these events so fascinating to me! The dynamics of a group of people and the experience of each individual are often not at all what I expected, but always end up being really wonderful. I ask a lot of my guests in terms of adventure and vulnerability. (Just attending an event from an invitation you found in a public place shows some serious bravery.) At “Ember,” we focused on a discussion about embers as a metaphor for something in your life that was just kind of glowing in the background. They represented a decision to be made: bury it and let it die, or fan it back into flames? I felt incredibly honored to hear the diverse answers of my guests; some shared very personal information about harmful relationships, while others opened up about a passion they were nervous about pursuing. I’ve learned to never underestimate my guests, as they are often far more willing to take the plunge into the realms of personal conversations or vulnerability than I used to expect they would. And every time they allow me a glimpse into their lives, I feel a great sense of honor and gratitude.
How do you go about creating your magical recipes and potions?
I have always had a deep love for my region (the Pacific Northwest) and feel a personal connection to the plants that surround me. For years now I’ve been foraging and almost every recipe I create features at least one foraged ingredient. It’s my hope that my followers and guests will be inspired to look a little more deeply at their own environments too—once you start foraging, you realize that food and medicine is all around you. Foraging connects me to the land, to the subtle changes in seasons, and to the natural cycles all around me. It becomes a relationship with the earth. And when you love something, you tend to treat it with more respect. I like to think that by sharing my love of the earth and plants with others through the recipes I share or the feasts I create, they’ll develop a deeper respect for it too. That serves as the base purpose behind the recipes I create; my aim is to make surprising, delightful, and wonderful treats that highlight the flavor of my home!
Do you have a specific plants/herb etc that you love particularly?
I’d say my relationship with plants tends to evolve in a series of “crushes.” At any given time, I’m pretty infatuated with about three plants. I research them, taste test them, try them in a bunch of recipes, and really get to know them on a deep level, almost like learning their personality. Right now, the strange spiciness of magnolia petals and the cooling properties of violets have me totally hooked! That said, there are a few plants that have remained constantly enchanting for me: ethereal elderflower blossoms, comforting ponderosa pines, sensual wild roses, and dream-inducing wild mugwort.
What advice would you have for those of us trying to add wonder to our lives?
I would say that far too many people are waiting for wonder to happen to them without realizing that it’s all around them just waiting to be experienced, sometimes in something as small as the sparkle of dewdrops on mullein leaves or as large as the Aurora Borealis. Leaves that smell like ginger? Teas that change color? Pollen that tastes like the sweetest sweet corn? It’s all out there! Slow down, pause, and look at the world through a new lens. There is magic everywhere! And for those who feel called to create it, go for it! I can tell you honestly that I experience just as much wonder (if not perhaps more) than my guests at every single event I do. Seeing the joy in the faces of people I have called together for a memorable experience fills me with sparkling, butterfly fluttering wonder. While your calling might not be to create gatherings like I do, I believe everyone has the capacity to add a little more creative wonder to the world in their own special way. Kind notes left in public places, natural elements arranged in pretty designs and left in parks, beautiful paintings of dreams or visions… there are so many diverse ways to express magic in this world!
“Slow down, pause, and look at the world through a new lens.”
How can people support you (and see more of what you do!)?
One of the most beautiful parts of what I do is knowing that I’m part of a gift economy. My financial support for the gatherings I share with strangers comes from my patrons through patreon.com/thewondersmith. Their monthly contributions allow me to pay for ingredients and supplies for both my events and the costs of running my free blog. They support me because they believe in what I’m doing and want to help me spread more magic. (In return, I give them little surprises from time-to-time too, such as secret recipes or nature mandalas.) Their contributions are gifts, which allows me to give my experiences as gifts too. That ripple of kindness spreads out further and further with each person who is impacted by the wonder of my work. It’s a beautiful thing.
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