People have asked me countless times how I came to be a mala maker. So it’s finally time to share the whole story with you.
First of all, I have to admit that I always had quite a hard time cultivating a consistent meditation practice. I found yoga in my early twenties and always enjoyed the physical practice a lot, but the meditation part never really came easy for me. I often compare my mind to a little squirrel that’s scurrying around looking for nuts and jumping from one tree to the other. My thoughts work more or less the same way, and sitting still trying to quiet my mind by just doing nothing has always been a huge challenge for me.
I had been practicing yoga for several years until I came across the beautiful bead necklaces that are called malas (the Sanskrit word for ‘garland‘) and learned that they could have immensely positive effects when used for meditation. The concept of using a string of beads to count my breaths or repeat a mantra seemed very appealing to me, and I thought that this might be a technique that could work for me.
The first ever mala that really caught my eye as I was researching malas and the story behind them was a beautiful turquoise/white creation with a bright pink tassel that instantly captivated me with its beautiful vibes and drew my thoughts to a sunny day on the beach. I could literally feel the sand between my toes and the salt on my skin. In contrast to the many traditional wood or seed necklaces that I had seen before, this one seemed just perfect for me. So I searched for mala shops that very same evening and soon found not only one but two dozens that I liked. Whenever I thought I had found the ‘perfect’ one I saw another that looked even more beautiful. Squirrel mind at its best again… In the end I was so overwhelmed by the multitude of different options that I deleted all the items I had put into my online shop cart again and resolved to a different approach. I would make myself my own mala.
It was a perfect coincidence that a mineral fair was stopping in my city just one week later, and luckily enough I managed to get all the required materials there (it must have been the universe’s benevolence – up to this day this has been the only occasion where I got everything I needed in one place). I bought a couple of gemstone bead strands (again, I couldn’t decide which stones I liked best so I bought far to many), a spool of knotting cord and a set of needles that a lovely lady at the fair said would work for my purpose. Equipped with all these essentials I started my mala project on a sunny late-summer afternoon.
I chose a combination of turquoise amazonite and purple amethyst for my very first creation – a classic, you could say in hindsight. I like to think that is was sort of a presentiment because these two colors would later become the signature shades of my little baby business Coco & Lime, though I didn’t yet know this at that time… It took me almost three hours to string and knot the 108 tiny beads onto the thread; I had to open up at least half of the knots again because I had made too large gaps between the beads or twisted the thread so that the result was all wobbly… But I didn’t give up and, as the sun was already setting, I finished my very first mala. I remember the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment I felt when I joined the two ends of the necklace together and attached the small cotton tassel. Here it was: my own hand-made mala. And although the final result was far from being as perfectly crafted as the malas I had seen elsewhere, I loved every bit about it. And what was more, I felt more relaxed and focused than ever! It literally seemed like I had just come out of a long meditation. I hadn’t even meditated with my mala in the classical sense, and yet it had already done its job perfectly. For the first time I realised that meditating didn’t necessarily mean sitting still trying hard to think nothing. Instead, knotting the mala beads seemed to clear my mind automatically, and focused my attention solely to the continuous flow of stringing bead by bead, making loops, pulling the thread tight and adding inch by inch to the final necklace. I was instantly hooked.
After this first mala I immediately made a second one. This time I found that it was already much easier to make uniform knots, and I finished the second one in just under two hours. And in the days to follow, I made a third, a fourth, and many more. I gave them gifts to friends and family members and was delighted when they told me what effects they had for their own mindfulness practice. And I kept hearing “They’re so pretty – you should make more and sell them!”
The idea for a little online shop was born, and when I knotted the first five malas I was planning to list on Etsy, the crafts selling platform I had chosen, I envisioned the magical places all around the globe my creations would go to. This has always been my first and foremost wish for all my malas: to see them go to all parts of the world, to free-spirited, open-minded people who would love them just as much as I loved making them. I made my first sale about two weeks after opening my shop – a beautiful purple-orange piece called Autumn Sunset Mala found a home with a lovely yogini in London. It was followed by two more malas that went to Phoenix, Arizona. The first ever customer feedback I got (it read “I love my beautiful mala! You can tell how much time and love went into it. I wear it every day.”) made me cry tears of gratitude and happiness.
People keep asking me where my ideas for new designs come from. The answer is: I have no concept or outline at all. I simply choose what feels right. My feelings and associations are the dominant factors for every new creation, and I do my best to infuse as many positive emotions and intentions into my work. Instead of consulting gemstone property charts and astrological tables, I solely rely on my intuition and imagination to find the ‘right’ combination of colors and materials. I love getting to know my customers a bit before I make a mala for them. I feel inspired by hearing their stories and learning about the intentions they want to set into their malas. I do make recommendations for gemstones and colors when I’m asked to, but usually I encourage people to simply follow their intuition and choose the combination they’re most drawn to.
Now, two years later, I look back on hundreds of malas I have made since that very first one. They have found new homes with people on five continents, and it makes me smile so much to think of all the people who wear them, practice with them and love them. My knotting quality and throughput has improved massively. On a “good” day, when I have enough time, coffee and good music, I knot up to seven or eight pieces, and I’m proud to say that of all those malas no two ones have ever been the same. I love making pieces that are as unique as their wearers, and I love seeing how every mala finds its perfect owner.
I still have that very first mala I made on that warm late-summer day. I never offered it for sale anywhere, as I believe it was never meant to be sold. It is sort of the birth certificate for my little baby business, and the most powerful reminder of everything it has grown to become ever since I made that very first knot between two beads.