Birthwood: Bringing You Into The Fold

by erin miller

january (birch and garnet), february (hackberry and amethyst), march (ash and aquamarine), and december (pine and turquoise) birthwood rings

Five years ago, Gus trademarked the concept of Birthwood. Birthwood Rings are wooden rings that are made with specific woods and gems that correspond with the month of one’s birth for each wood. This is within the same vein as something like a birthstone–an element that represents and signifies what’s special about someone based on the month that they were born in. It was an idea that was held very close to the chest, it was one that was dear enough to warrant going through the legal process of trademarking it. However, this notion of ownership and property is complicated, often constricting not only our creativity, but also limiting our  understanding of community. Birthwood is not an idea that was trademarked just to ensure that Gustav Reyes Wood Rings was the only small maker using it, it was also trademarked to protect this venture’s ethos and spirit. With the renewal of the Birthwood trademark on the horizon, it’s only natural to reflect on the past decade spent with this idea, and work to expand it. 

Expansion is not a solitary art. This realization has come with the understanding that, while Birthwood remains a trademarked entity, it doesn’t have to just be of use to only one craftsperson. The trademark remains in place in order to ensure that the spirit of Birthwood is honored, that if Birthwood is invoked or employed, it’s done so in a way that keeps in kind with the original spirit of the idea. To make it clear: we’re not here trying to give Birthwood to any big corporation that’s trying to make a quick buck off the work of others, and we’re absolutely not interested in working with anyone who would try to mass manufacture a product based off Birthwood. Instead, what we’re looking for are like-minded, small-scale makers who are excited by this idea, who, upon reading this post, find a spark of something in their head that they’d like to make a reality. We’re looking to foster a community of makers who seek to build, transform, and better expand Birthwood. 

april (walnut and diamond) birthwood ring

Birthwood, as with everything Gustav Reyes Wood Rings strives to do within the realm of jewelry crafting, is about celebrating stories. One of the most dearly held things in our lives are the stories that we have. We relate to each other by way of stories, and as well, we come to understand ourselves through our stories. Often, we find ourselves trying to represent these narratives of self and each other through real, physical materials. Birthwood manifests this goal. All materials that go into these rings are recycled and salvaged–they held a life or a purpose before they were transformed into a piece of jewelry. We believe that our materials hold energy from where they came from, adding further depth to the story of a wooden ring or other piece of jewelry. 

When we use the wood of a tree, we’re recognizing it as a life sustaining resource. What has built our homes and kept us warm for millennia is now also sustaining us in this creative capacity. Additionally, we have a deep cultural kinship with trees. They have served as a symbol for humans across the globe throughout history, religions, mythologies, and geographies. We hold this understanding so as to honor the storied history of humanity’s relationship with trees and their wood. Our art is informed by these histories, the Birthwood Rings line that has been produced by Gustav Reyes Wood Rings draws from these histories to highlight the symbolic meaning and strengths of each tree and those born in the months associated with them. With a great deal of thought, we selected Birthwoods that are ecologically responsible and reasonable for us to obtain and use ethically as makers in Illinois. 

february (hackberry and amethyst) birthwood ring

Birthwood is more than just an idea, it’s an invitation. With respect and adherence to the conditions of crafting presented in this post, we want to bring like-minded, small-scale makers into the fold so that we can build a community together. If you’ve made it this far in the blog post (thanks!), are a small-scale maker, and are interested in and agree with what you’ve read here, please don’t be a stranger! Reach out to us, and we can have a real conversation about a licensing agreement so that we can work on this together. There are enough resources in the world for all of us to survive without having to be constantly in competition with each other. Let’s be in collaboration with each other. Email gus@gustavreyes.com for more information.

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