~ by Sarah Morneau ~
I have had the opportunity this season to talk to some incredibly inspiring and interesting people, and Clay Twombly is definitely one of those people. I first met Clay at the Sustainable Nantucket Farmers and Artisans Market where we are both vendors, and this week I was fortunate enough to take some time to sit down with him in his shop and get to know him a little better.
In 2012 Clay suffered two heartbreaking losses, his mother to cancer and his partner to suicide. Still grieving, he took a trip to London to visit a friend who happened to be attending classes in jewelry making. It was here that he learned about beading and tying macrame bracelets. He found that the process of tying and using both hands rhythmically was therapeutic and meditative, a way to stay grounded during a difficult time. He continued tying and knotting and taught himself how to make malas or prayer beads, a natural progression in his practice of yoga and meditation.
As he began to learn more about the stones he was using to tie his malas, he realized he was drawn to stones that he needed in order to help himself along with the grieving process – stones that are associated with healing, grief, grounding, and transformation. Clay describes this attraction to certain stones as food for the soul, when your body needs a certain nutrient it craves carrots or kale or whatever it is missing to sustain it; and it’s the same for the stones, you are attracted to their healing or balancing properties.
Something that was born out of grief transformed into a new life direction for Clay and he began to share his loss, love, and creativity with others. People started noticing his beautiful malas and made requests for their own. After working in retail for 18 years, selling his handmade products felt like the right step.
When you climb the stairs to his shop and studio at 2 Union Street you leave the hustle and bustle of town behind you and enter a quiet and calming sanctuary. Clay allows his customers time to browse and respond to the stones, and it is when you find something that you are drawn to that he will tell you the meaning behind it. He finds that many people are attracted to calming stones, reminding them to take a breath and relax during their busy days. Others are drawn to pieces that they think are pretty, and he emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with that. Something beautiful and pleasing to the eye can be just as healing or fulfilling.
To make his prayer beads and jewelry, Clay uses semiprecious gemstones as well as sandalwood beads sourced from the holy city of Vrindavan, India that are made by some of the 20,000 widows who find refuge there. Some of my favorites pieces are the collaborations he has done with island jewelers and artists Megan Anderson, Melissa Dudley, Jessica Hicks, and Nell Van Vorst. Each artist has created different pendants to adorn Clay’s beads, making each one unique.
In addition to the prayer beads and jewelry, Clay fills his shop with items that inspire him and are made with intention. You can find artwork from local artists Jessica Sosebee and Sharon Sterk, flower essences from island Lama Yeshe Palmo, and repurposed and upcycled clothing by Casey Sayre Bokus. He also discovers things for the store through travel and meeting new and interesting people who are creating things that hold a special meaning.
Clay Twombly’s shop is located upstairs at 2 Union Street, just around the corner from Main Street. He is open Monday through Friday from 11am to 5pm. You can also find him at the Sustainable Nantucket Farmers and Artisans Market on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. This weekend is the annual Nantucket Yoga Festival and Clay will be selling his malas there as well. Look for him on Saturday, July 11th from 8am-6pm and Sunday, July 12th from 10am-6pm in the tent at Bartlett’s Farm.