Have you ever seen something that wasn’t there?
Held something that couldn’t be touched?
Loved someone who didn’t exist?
Be somewhere you’ve never been?
Have you ever touched the sky without leaving the ground?
Given a speech without making a sound?
Have you ever loved just for the sake of loving?
Cried when you’re happy? Laughed when you’re sad?
If you’ve ever done any of these things or a thousand other things that can’t be explained but can’t be ignored, then you have angels in your life.
Susan Helmich is one of those rare artists that maybe come along once a decade. What she created in her angels collection not only touched my soul, it was my soul. Susan found a way to put into precious metal what we all admire and adore of the people (angels) that come into our lives. It is my great honor to present to you, Susan Helmich.
There are people who enter our lives in unusual and in ordinary ways, making our journey more meaningful by their presence. They exhibit precious qualities in the way they live and this expression is called Attitude. Angels with Attitudes® are the people in our lives.
Perseverance – For those who face unexpected challenges with determination.
I never intended to create a jewelry collection about angels … at least not angels in a religious sense. This design marks the beginning of the collection; it also marks a deeper realization of the spiritual role people have in our lives. I learned through this creative journey that circumstances and events bring people into our lives when we need them and their influence goes beyond this life. I was commissioned to create a special project from Jim. The project was an angel pendant design for his antique store, Angels in the Attic. This would be our first and last business venture. Jim, 44, was stricken with terminal cancer. I was drawn to his “living in the now” attitude. As an avant-garde jewelry designer receiving awards for my extreme design style, it seemed out of sync with my artistic ego. Little did I know how significant that commission would be. Within six weeks of meeting Jim, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The power of that moment was overwhelming and life changing. It demanded that I re-examine my work, my priorities and my respect for time. When my mother passed away, Jim attended her funeral. Two weeks later, Jim passed. I was privileged to be with both of them at the time of their departure from this world. In retrospect, Perseverance evolved from these events. Perseverance is distinctly human; it is a determination to continue in spite of life’s obstacles. For my mother, Jacqueline.
Jubilant – Inspired by those who never miss a chance to celebrate life.
At the bench in my studio, I felt like an explorer on uncharted seas. With only my imagination to guide me, I was open to simply go with the form taking shape and allow it to lead the way. It was an extremely smooth form which seemed to personify a sense of purposeful playfulness. It appeared to be dancing. Jubilant is what came to mind. I had to smile as I became aware of the person who had influenced this design, Carolyn. My friend is altogether open and ready to celebrate life, to create the celebration. She almost dances into relationships with friends and loved ones. To celebrate means, in a sense, to perform a ceremony. Hers is the ceremony of life. Her creed is to see the best, to be happy, to be joyful. She is gifted with sensitivity and an awareness that originates from her own needs and desires. I am reminded that in the presence of a jubilant attitude, I have a lightness of spirit, and I am uplifted for a moment. I also know that this person did not have an easy path along the way. Maybe that is how you learn to go over the bumps … dance your way to the other side.
Courage – In tribute to those who have no choice but to find their inner strength.
Courage comes in giving up fear, it is found in doing what you must do. I realized I had formed two wings by expanding the wax as far as it could go. The image was undeniable and the message clear. Our wings, our strength, appear when we are stretched as far as we can go and we must carry on. Using my chisel, one of few tools used in this collection, I further defined the wings into a deeply carved design – much like what happens to us when we go through an experience which creates a courageous response. It is the determined move which shapes us. The “V” was obvious and so was the inspiration, my friend, Mike. He was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for seven years. Courage has a halo because it is connected to the spiritual, not the physical. It is about a strength that is honorable because it is vulnerable and real. There are many kinds of battles, some global and some personal, and they all require a journey of mind and spirit to face and to walk through. Behind victory, is inner strength and inner beauty which come from the heart … the place where hope lives.
Harmony – In celebration of achieving balance and harmony in one’s life.
Balance is a beautiful state of being. I have searched for balance my entire life, and I have viewed it in others. Interesting how the clearest reflections are seen in still, calm waters. Harmony was created out of raw material being transformed by a lavish texture into a form of tranquility. It is the only symmetrical design in the collection, creating a peaceful image through balanced elements. I folded the wax sides by choice, to create an easiness and softness of shape. Immediately, I knew this design had my friend Nikki’s influence, a softness of shape similar to her peaceful aura. There is something quite lovely about a peaceful spirit. My friend teaches me in silence, through example, to be one with your earthly existence and to be comfortable with who you are. She has brought me to a place of serenity within myself by showing me that the path of solitude, being alone within my personal space, is sacred. That is balance and balance is Harmony. Still, calm waters.
Patience – For those wishing time would pass swiftly.
The subliminal will make itself known at the bench. In my studio, Patience arrived. Like a butterfly leaving the cocoon, the design was an emerging figure. Looking at it, I saw it was from the “rib” of Courage. It had an attitude of standing still and facing what one must face. Several years ago there was a tragic airplane crash which left two widows. The young widow of the passenger on the plane came into my gallery to purchase Perseverance as a gift for the pilot’s widow, Jacqui. Jacqui was experiencing and working through the depth of what had happened, she was in the grip of time. Jacqui is my friend. I didn’t realize our common connection until she began sharing her life’s story with me. Time had not been her healer. She said that if I ever made another Angel, to please make one for her and name it Patience. I didn’t, until years later when it came through my hands from my memory of this event. Immediately, I knew this design was Patience. Patience has an image of moving forward while keeping anchored in the present. This is the lesson. Patience will get you to the place you want to go if you will stay in the moment and allow time to show you the way.
Guardian – Inspired by the unspoken, yet undeniable expression of love.
I am drawn to those who respond to the life from their heart, from a core place in their spirit. It is the sole road to being a guardian … a pureness of heart paves the way. Guardian took the shape of a cross, organic in form and with open arms. I saw in the open arms, a place for others to find rest and safety. I have always admired Saint Francis of Assisi because he was a nonconformist who followed the leading of his heart to love and respect all living things. Guardian is distinctly human with a head, arms, and body. When I saw this image, I added a sparkling texture to the shoulders, abstract birds, to represent the silent, yet very endearing way people and animals show their trust and care. This design is about unsolicited protection which comes naturally by those who act upon their “unguarded” feelings.
Stubborn – Inspired by those who stand for what they believe.
Without Stubborn, there would not be a collection. The name is a term of endearment. It represents what I most admire in people – a battery of people – not just one person. I saw it in my son, Josh, and in my others close to me. This design speaks a truth to the personality of those who stand for what they believe in and will not compromise. It is a state of being. Stubborn is the smallest design in size but one of the largest in its inherent qualities. Exuding a straightforward image, it is unyielding in its presence among the other designs. It does not sway or bend, it is head-on. To be stubborn is to be justifiably unyielding, to demonstrate that which is well-founded. I embrace this quality and see it as a positive. To have a stubborn attitude is a gift of self-empowerment.
Cherished – To realize that you are treasured …
People asked me to create a design about love. I dismissed it as a trendy theme, and as an artist the idea of creating a heart was not what I had in mind. The design emerged when I was exploring new textures and applications. A natural heart shape appeared which led to an image of love. When I think of the word love, I think about being cherished. This design made sense to me; it is about a love that comes from within the center of our being and then moves up and outward embracing what we treasure. Cherished is a visual image of what we hold dear, what we nurture and what we cultivate with care. Cherished is about more than one level of love, it encircles all levels – child, parent, lover, spouse, friend self.
Gregarious – For those who give the infectious gift of joy and laughter wherever they are.
There are people who enter your life and bring a higher level of joy into your presence. They have an openness of spirit to see goodness and light in the world. I believe this quality comes from a solidified confidence within their being. I have a friend that exudes a gregarious presence, her name is Beth. Like a ripple on the water, her energy goes out and creates more, spreading joy beyond. When I saw this design I knew it was Gregarious, for me, it exemplifies a true expression. When people enter your life showing a gregarious attitude, I believe they are inviting us to come out and play – to explore life with abandon. They are a mystical constant, always in the spirit and reminding us that we always have a choice. I choose joy.
Grace – Inspired by those with wisdom, elegance, and maturity.
It is said that grace is a visible expression of what lies within the soul. I am moved by what I feel when in the presence of my elder female comrades. I am inspired by a silent beauty which speaks volumes and invites me to explore my years with new eyes. They are my conveyors, my rite of passage into growing older. I see wisdom, elegance and an embracement of life. Grace is the embodiment of an absolute truth, it is open and assured. Susan and Jane are two extraordinary women whose influence I see behind this design. Grace illuminates a sense of self that is not arrogant or boastful … it is pure. It is an effortless beauty, a flowing with life that is in balance. People gravitate to grace; it is approachable, almost like a mantra calling. Life gets better, life gets better.
Daredevil – For intuition … the internal voice of influence.
The inner voice is the best voice. I am uncomfortable with risk, but I always seem to go there. We are trained to ignore intuition, our inner voice. When you learn to listen and to test the inner voice, everything falls into place. Acting on this intuition requires a willingness to turn away from other voices and opinions. It creates a different path, sometimes igniting other’s fears. The design took a singular approach, deviating from the collection at large. Flying by the wing-tip, this form was about a radical move – a contemplative choice to go its own way. This design is about choices, choices we make that create a change in our thinking and in our life. The texture is deep and chaotic, reflective of feelings and emotions that surface when we are faced with a choice … to follow or not to follow. Within the chaotic texture is a beautiful flowing pattern. The name, Daredevil, captures the tenacity and strength of the attitude. When you act on your inner voice, it is like daring the devil. At first it seems risky, but in the end it leads you to a higher, greater mission.
Certainty – When you listen to your heart … and you just know …
Once you acknowledge intuition, which you learn to respect, then you just know and can relax in that knowledge. It is in tune with your ideas. There is no internal chaos. This design is a celebration of a state of being, a peace within your heart. You are there when you act on what you know to be true. Donovan, my husband, is the inspiration for Certainty.
Loyalty – Embracing our personal commitments to ourselves and others.
I saw a familiar image similar to a yin-yang design, light and darkness. This form made me think about relationships and the price we pay when we give up our identity to keep those bonds. I was aware of the struggle my teenage daughter, Whitney, was experiencing in trying to find the balance between being loyal to herself and still gain the acceptance of her peers. Some people are gifted with an enormous capacity to be loyal to others, to care and be there. This is a beautiful gift. To show loyalty literally means to be true to an original, the source. As I saw her struggle with this gift I remembered how it felt to be caught between your feelings for others and yourself. I wanted to give her a lasting way to see what was happening. Loyalty is dedicated to Whitney. This design is about relationships and a reminder to be true to the original source … you. Loyalty has two heads going in the same direction, like friends or partners flying together. If you turn it over, on the back is a third angel that represents you. This is the one, literally, that is closest to your heart.
Invincible – For those who have survived …
For several years I have participated in fund-raiser events for the prevention of domestic violence. In various formats, I created pieces of art centralizing the theme of protecting your soul, your self, and your loved ones from harm. When the design emerged, it spoke a strong message of liberation … a deliberate move to rise up and go forward. Invincible is about the realization of self-empowerment. This knowledge gives you the choice to survive. Moving forward, she walks in beauty and strength. I have always felt this design was likened to the Lady Liberty on our coin; she advances with the flame of liberation in her hand. Invincible is a tribute to those who walk determinedly forward and in doing so, leave a path for others to follow.
Caregiver – Inspired by the nurses and volunteers of Hospice. I know there are earth angels … I’ve seen them.
Inspiration comes when you least expect it. I was working with a form that was true, pure, and strong; a design that opened my heart. My mother had passed away in Hospice several years before. The volunteers at Hospice comforted, educated and showed the way. I couldn’t find the words to tell them what it meant to me. Years later, this design spoke for me. This figure is powerful, straight and shaped like an arrow. There are no halos and only a hint of wings. I knew immediately that this was my tribute to all of those at Hospice who went down the path beside us. Caregiver is the tallest of all the designs in the collection. It carries a palette of textures flowing like a river of continual comfort and aid. In the humble and quiet presence is a reservoir of inner strength and steadfastness. The real caregivers are earth angels, under their jackets there are wings. They are efficient, powerful beings. These people embrace a phase of life that is difficult to handle, pointing the way and illuminating the passage. They provide a light in the darkness and in so doing they enable you to see into the journey. Caregiver is the final puzzle piece in the desires I have for this collection.
For information on acquiring your own Angel with Attitude®, contact Erica at 1-800-275-4047.
Marc Thurn – Photography
Product and Display Development
Donna Saunders – Project Concept and Design
Editor and Writer