With the U.S. opening up after nationwide coronavirus lockdowns, jewelry designer Sonia Boyajian is reflecting on the past few months that she’s spent at home. She began her self-isolation not long after opening the doors to her first bricks-and-mortar shop in L.A.—a serene space inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s studio that showcases Boyajian’s whimsical, Surrealist statement pieces. Boyajian, like many of us, felt unmoored and uncertain watching the virus spread throughout the world. And with her business on hold—at least the in-person, by-appointment side of it—she started crafting as a form of meditation, sculpting teapots and tiny, colorful prayer beads. Together with her assistant, with whom she worked virtually, she counted the passing time with every little bead.
Traditionally, prayer beads are used by such religions as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism, as a tangible form of prayer, held in the hands while reciting devotions. In their non-religious forms, prayer beads or worry beads can be used as a means to relieve nervousness or stress. “Making each bead one by one is a very meditative and repetitive process,” Boyajian explains. “My goal is to assemble and utilize my beads in the same ways that these religious faiths do.” The designer crafts about 30 beads per hour every few days. The process involves Boyajian’s assistant Dee making the clay and bringing it to the designer’s studio, where Dee then loads the molds into the kiln. Boyajian then does the glazing and the finishing. Boyajian has amassed a huge number of these meaningful trinkets, and she plans to assemble them into jewelry and begin selling them online and in her store, which opened for appointment only on Friday.
“I always try to create things that have a purpose for me and the customer,” Boyajian says. “The pandemic has been a series of ups and downs for me, but creatively speaking, it has been wonderful.” She adds, “I’ve been inspired by working in the garden, cooking, and creating all sorts of things that I never thought I would create.” Boyajian will continue to craft the prayer beads, even as the world begins to carefully inch its way back to some semblance of normalcy. “These beads are a great indication of time,” she says. “They’re like a personal calendar for marking the days while waiting for the future and what is currently unknown to us.”