Have you ever felt lost? I mean totally, profoundly lost. Like the world has stopped looking the way that it used to; like all of the things you knew about yourself and your place in it have changed so dramatically that you don’t know who you actually are anymore?
That’s a somewhat sombre start to a post, I’ll give you that. So let me go back to the beginning.
We moved a lot, growing up. From South Africa, to Germany, to the United Kingdom. And within those countries to different houses, and schools. And although I don’t regret a minute of it, it was difficult, at the time.
By the time we were in Germany, not leaving was far less common than leaving. Our friends and teachers changed yearly. And the continuity that so many people take for granted was a distant memory and day-dream.
When we moved to the United Kingdom, things started to change. Because we knew we were here for keeps. And, year on year, it started to feel like home.
I’ve spoken before about my path to jewellery-making, but, let’s just say it wasn’t a conventional one. I finished school and went to university to study Psychology, and from there on to a post-graduate degree to be a teacher. And then; then everything changed.
Whilst training to become a teacher, I became very unwell, physically and then emotionally, and although I was home, I was no longer at home in my own body. And it was like the foundations that I’d been so carefully laying had started subsiding, and I didn’t know who I was anymore.
The funny thing is, I’m not sure if I ever felt like I truly belonged, anywhere. Of my memories of being a teenager and then young adult, what stands out to me most is the intense feeling of not belonging. Like everything I tried was an outfit in a shop where I couldn’t afford the prices. And even the ones I could afford were costumes, rather than clothes that were actually mine. I’ve spent a long old time playing dress-up and make-believe in my life, friends.
Anyway, I guess you could say becoming unwell was something of a catalyst. We adopted Soda, the light of my life and furry not-so-furry soulmate. And the months that I spent in bed became somewhat less lonely as a result. But the battle and search for a diagnosis continued, and often felt hopeless. And if it hadn’t been for my people, the Boothies as we call ourselves, I think I might have given up on the battle.
And then came the diagnosis. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. And then another: Mast Cell Activation Disorder. And then another: Primary Immunodeficiency. Cause(s)? Unknown.
And where a name; a reason; an explanation, had promised to make me feel better, I felt more alone and scared than ever. The conditions themselves are not well-known, treatments are experimental, and prognosis is largely unknown.
What they mean in a practical sense, however, is that I always feel unwell. And, that I spend a lot of my life in pain. As such, I was unable to work at all for two few years. Unable to do anything, if I’m honest.
Now, I don’t wish to dwell for too long on that sentence, but, it’s important it’s there. Because, the truth of it is, that it isn’t fair. But, hardly any of the baggage that we all carry around with us on a daily basis is, friends. And I guess, in a weird way, committing to a journey of accepting that, has been the single thing to liberate me, and help me find my way home. That, and the people who have loved me. Before this, through this, and those who will continue to love me after it. Those people are my lifelines. My game-changers. My heart.
Metanoia (n.) the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life.
Oh, how life changes. Your story, my story, is an ever-evolving one. No, this chapter doesn’t look the same as the one before it, but, it is just that, a chapter, of the most beautiful book you’ll ever read.
And ultimately, becoming unwell, and the feeling of losing everything that I thought I had come to know, was the journey that led me to When Caitie met Soda. And, what gave me a place to come home to.
It’s funny, how that journey seems to have been simultaneously the shortest and longest road-trip of my life thus far. And, although it’s been punctuated by moments of profound darkness, I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Not one.
Now, I realise that this is a strange way to do a studio tour. But, I guess that’s because to me, it will never be just a studio. When Caitie met Soda has become the place I call home. And this, is a whistle-stop tour of the journey that has led me to this moment. To the very bricks and mortar of the home of When Caitie met Soda.
Now, it is by no means finished; it is a work-in-progress, ever-changing and evolving. Expanding and, hopefully, continually improving. But it is the place where I finally feel at home (and that’s not just because it’s in my back garden, ha!)
And every part of it, from the kitchen table that I’ve worked at for so very long now (which has now graduated to being where we lovingly pack your orders), to the starter jewellery-makers bench, to the professional jewellers bench, to the sideboard that has moved three times with Paul and I, is a part of me, a part of When Caitie met Soda, a part of us, a part of our home. Each part a thread in the tapestry of our journey.
The latest and dreamiest edition to the studio is our office space. It’s the slightly calmer (and prettier- I know I’m not the only one who is totally obsessed with anything Mid Century…) area of the studio, where I can now sit and reply to emails, organise meetings, do paperwork, sketch designs… All of those things that so desperately need doing but used to be done from my bed, staircase, or sofa. And, those things that often got pushed to the back burner because I never really had anywhere to actually do them.
Although I wanted this space to be functional and comfortable, I also wanted it to be pretty. I don’t ask for much, do I?! And truthfully, I’d put off the task of setting up such a space for most of this year – because I just didn’t know where to begin. But, working with West Elm on it was an absolute dream. They understood exactly what I needed, and made the process of putting this space together absolutely painless. And, the pieces that they chose couldn’t feel more like me; more like us. They truly feel like the home When Caitie met Soda was always destined to have. I’m a soppy one, aren’t I?
But it really is crazy to me that When Caitie met Soda now has an office. An actual, physical office. And that realisation gives me the biggest of feelings right in the centre of my chest. I know that thank you will never be enough, but, thank you, West Elm. For supporting independent artists, for supporting When Caitie met Soda, and, for creating this beautiful, beautiful space to come home to.
And, if you’d told me three years ago that I would be standing here today, I simply wouldn’t have believed you.
But sometimes, when everything changes, we come alive. And sometimes the moments when we feel like we can’t do it are the ones that lead us home.
Querencia (n.) a place from where one’s strength is drawn; where one feels at home; the place where you are your most authentic self.
With all of our love, always,
Caitie, and, of course, Soda.