“My jewelry is full of wacky little objects,” said Nik, a jewelry maker who uses only one name. These items range from tiny bones collected from owl pellets to lichen, from sea glass and agates to resin, from beetles to tiny seashells.
“I try to create a world within a world with my jewelry,” she said.
Nik, who grew up in Vancouver, Washington, said she was a frequent trek in the woods growing up and was always interested in learning how to preserve the items she found in the undergrowth, in the ones she likes it names, hidden worlds along the forest floor.
“We were outdoor kids,” she said of her early years. “My father worked for Fish and Wildlife and we spent most of our vacations fishing or camping. And we were pretty smart too.
“I’ve been working with jewelry for as long as I can remember,” she said, adding that she’s been making intricate beadwork for years. Primarily self-taught, she lived in San Francisco for a time and taught herself the time-consuming art of beadwork from 1994-1996.
“I was obsessed with it,” she said. “Over the years I’ve been able to put together a small workshop, and I taught myself to smith and took a course in smithing while living in Seattle. I wanted to know and understand the mechanics of forging tools and what metal does under certain conditions.”
Nik’s jewelry collection is called House of Baba Yaga, which she describes mainly as a concept rather than a specific image. Baba Yaga is a character of Slavic folklore and appears in fairy tales as a witch. She is portrayed as a mythical wild and wise woman, but Nik doesn’t view her negatively.
“I think of Baba Yaga – which translates to ‘ugly grandmother’ – as a ghost, an old crone, a wise woman, a sorceress,” she said. “She’s about listening to your instincts and making good spells for the community.”
Nik added: “Baba Yaga teaches many lessons, but the most important ones are to always look beneath the surface – things are not always what they seem – and always listen to your intuition, always trust your inner voice.”
Nik’s family background is Ukrainian, and she recalled that when she was very young, her mother read her fairy tales – the older versions, which were darker than is usual today. As one such story, she cited the original Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen.
Nik said she chose not to use her own name to represent her brand. “Nothing other than naming Baba Yaga made so much sense for my jewelry,” she said.
She lived in Seattle for about 20 years and briefly relocated to Guam, where she says the flotsam opportunities are incredible. She has lived in Lincoln City for about six years but is in the process of buying a home near Newport.
In years past, she made mementos and pendants, and early on made teas and herbal remedies. And should her move to a new house materialize, she would love to grow herbs again. But these days, she uses what she finds on the beach or in the forest to incorporate into her jewelry.
“Right now I’m having fun,” she said. “It’s like a compulsion for me to collect things on the beach — it’s obsessive.”
One of their common decorations these days is the pixie cup braid or Cladonia asahinae. Her story bracelets are similar to a charm bracelet, but contain found objects. And she occasionally makes beaded agate bracelets or cuffs, though both are time-consuming.
She calls her earrings goddess pendants and witch pendants, the latter adorned with dangling feathers, sea glass and beads. They can be found along with found object charms at Tah-Lume in Lincoln City and Femme Fatale Curiosities and Apothecary on the Newport Bayfront.
Nik also shows her jewelry at Oceanic Arts on the Bayfront and at Sticks and Stones in Florence.
On her website – houseofbabayaga.com – Nik says that every piece she creates is a meditation… “a chance to create a valuable object that will have a life – a character of its own.”
She added, “Personal jewelry is an art form for realizing individual expression and using ornament as a personal amulet – charms that can evoke strength, courage, comfort, beauty, health, wealth in life… anything the imagination desires.” .
“Some people give me items they find in the forest, but mostly I go to the beach and look for things to use,” she said.
“There are always new things to try,” Nik concluded. “It would be nice to make a living from my jewelry, but it’s more important to me to just make good things.”