Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Beautiful Soul Spotlight: Gennifer Ciavarra

Hello everyone!  Do you remember over a month ago when I promised you beautiful souls? (Post HERE) Well, at long last, I can present you with my first beautiful soul...  the lovely, talented, and incredibly sweet Gennifer Ciavarra!

I met Gennifer through Etsy... I remember seeing something of hers in a treasury, clicking on it and falling into the beautiful world that is her shop.  Full of delicious descriptions of handmade balms, scents, and jewelry all to soothe the soul.  I felt a connection with her instantly and decided to pop over to her FB page  for Sage and Mage (she also has another shop called Altar and Mantle, though both are on vacation at the moment).  On her FB page I was able to begin to get to know her, reading her posts, the way she worded things...  how sincerely she cared about each and every person who she interacted with there.  Over time, Genn and I became friends, we feel connected.  She lives all the way in Melbourne, Australia... the other side of the world, but she is one of my favorite people.  We tease that we are twins because we have the same name barring one letter.  We share a deep love for the sea, for gypsy tents, for secret places, for images that leave us feeling small next to their beauty.

When I decided I wanted to share real women, real beauty... soul beauty, I knew she was someone I wanted to feature.  I am so happy she said she would!  Here is an example of her incredible mixed media art called "The Secret Book":

Isn't it just breathtaking?  I could stare at her art all day.  So I asked Gennifer to tell me about her ideas of beauty, to think about it, and to share her thoughts with us.  Here is what she had to say:

"To me, beauty doesn’t necessarily have an object. It just is: you sense it, you feel it, but it is hard to define. It’s both personal and universal: physical and ethereal. Women are beautiful. Men are beautiful. My aesthetics have changed over time but beauty, it seems, hasn’t - unless it has become more of itself, somehow. 

I was a total grot and tomboy as a child. My idea of gorgeousness was gumboots and a t-shirt that had some sort of trade union slogan on it. The (then) socially acceptable ideals of feminine beauty had escaped me personally, apart from a short-lived phase of white curls like a halo when I was two, for which I was chosen to be a flowergirl at a distant cousin’s wedding. Apparently I had a heat rash on the back of my neck at some stage before the wedding, so my mum cut off my hair. I look like a boy in a dress in the wedding photos. I remember feeling like I was a disappointment somehow because I wasn’t pretty for posterity and it upset me. Perhaps this is why until I was in my thirties, I didn’t revisit the idea of human or feminine beauty much, apart from knowing that it had absolutely nothing to do with pretty.

Growing up, I had two categories of people: I perceived them as either ‘kind’ or ‘not kind’. And I think it is that sense of kindness that has shaped my sense of beauty since. The only thing that has changed about my sense of beauty now is that I don’t categorise as much. I lived for it and ached for it and I still do. In women and men. That kindness, to me, is like a ribbon of beauty that runs through people, a sort of silky truth that is absolute and everywhere, just looking for an opening to flow through. I get glimpses of it, weaving through someone, out of their hands or mouth or eyes. I see it in flaws, scars, in wounds. In the turn of a gaze or a wrist. In moments of unguardedness and vulnerability, in sheer delight and pure terror. There is a photo of my mum that I cherish – she is sitting at a sewing machine and has turned to the camera – perhaps someone called her name - not knowing it was there. Her face is unmasked and candid, ancient and young at the same time, and if I were to paint the Holy Mother, the Goddess, in her aspect as Truth, it would be based on that picture. 

But actually – and quite incidentally, I think – I first noticed this beauty in men. There was Clarry, who I remember as being mainly comprised of beard and clods of earth. He had faraway eyes that knew things and felt things that seemed to be located in the middle distance. There was Motorcycle Jeff (as opposed to The Other Jeff, who didn’t have a motorcycle) who was big and burly and swore a lot but he shone like a lamp and laughed like a waterfall. 

The first woman I consciously thought of as beautiful was my primary school librarian, Mrs Fison. She could have been anywhere between thirty and seventy – to my eight-year-old eyes, anyone over twenty mysteriously dropped into a blurry sea of adultness where age is indistinguishable. I do remember she was slightly portly and had grey  hair. On my last day at the school – my family was relocating from the West to the East Coast - someone stole my immaculate and large marble collection out of my desk during recess. Oddly, they left a few marbles in its place – broken, chipped and decidedly last season. I was devastated and bawled my eyes out – not so much for the marbles but for my last day to be marked with theft. Mrs Fison hugged me – I don’t think there was a law preventing it in those days - and I could feel this wave of warmth come over me. I looked up at her and she was so incredibly beautiful, like a smiling bodhisattva, and I cried more. She felt huge and towering and enfolding; as if her physical form had swelled to accommodate the size of her capacity to love. We wrote to each other for years after I moved. 

There’s an exquisite beauty in women who have just given birth. I think it enthralls me because I am not a mother, and the deep unknown of it makes me in awe of women who are. Two of my girlfriends have had babies recently and it’s like they have been blown open with love and  exhaustion and pain and bliss: I remember the same sense when I first saw my sister with her newborn daughter. She seemed to have touched the edge of a mystery and come back to tell the tale only to find that it was wordless. It’s a kind of shocking beauty, like having been blasted away and left bare. 

It is ultimately that bareness, that utterness of being completely true to themselves, to their own deepest nature, that I find beautiful in the beautiful women who have filled my life. Being themselves, boundlessly creative, unashamedly sensual, doing what it takes to survive and to thrive. Taking risks. Leaving art or music or generosity or comfort and – I can’t think of another word for it - glory in their wake. Laughing at convention. Perfectly imperfect: not hiding anything of themselves and navigating their own way in a world that I have so often found confusing and full of dead ends. They have held my hand while I have hidden and they have taught me to come out of hiding. Their commitment to personal truth – sometimes at great cost and danger – is inspiring, humbling and ultimately contagious. It touches you. What a beautiful thing to catch."

Thank you Genn, for sharing your thoughts of beauty.  You, sweet sister of my soul, are so incredibly beautiful inside and out!  I am so blessed to have you in my life!  

I encourage you all to check out her blog, it is full of her thoughts, her art, and more of her lovely spirit!

Later this week I will be participating in B'Sue's Messy Workshop blog hop!  Keep your eyes wide open ;).



  1. What a great post! I enjoy meeting new people and can tell by Gennifer's contribution to this piece that she's a very soulful, thoughtful person ... the perfect person to start your Beautiful Soul Spotlight series with! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Absolutely love beautiful souls <3 - thanks for sharing Jenn! And I especially love Gennifer's part about kind and not kind - what a beautiful way to see things...and wouldn't it be nice if more people strived for that "kind" side of life?
    Off to go visit Gennifer's shops :)

  3. What a beautiful tribute! Gennifer's words take my breath away. Love and blessings to you both!

  4. Jennifer, thank you so much for the opportunity to share my thoughts, and for all of your kindness. It dwells in you so deeply. Much love, beauty and blessings to you and yours always. Thank you too Lola, Janice and Holly, I appreciate your lovely words. xxxxxxxxxxxx


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