Christine Mighion: Jewelry From the Soul

By+Kathy Jonas

Photos by David Hubler

 

Jewelry artist Christine Mighion’s story is powerful. Trained as a dental hygienist, she goes to live in Hawaii on a whim. Once back in South Bend, she takes a metalsmithing class at the South Bend Regional Museum of Art and begins experimenting with an ancient method of manipulating metal and gems. The result is something that’s part earth, part sea and part soulful simplicity. 

 

Her work has been featured in national magazines such as (Shape, Vogue, Elle, to name a few) and has been successful through her online site. She recently realized a dream of building her own rustic, very private workshop where she can create and contemplate. She’s an environmentalist to the core and, whenever possible, her jewelry is made with recycled gold and silver and gems that have eco-friendly origins.

 

Q: Tell me a little about yourself. Where did you go to school? What were you like as a child? 

 

A: I’m originally from South Bend and a graduate of John Adams High School. I went on to Indiana University and received a degree in dental hygiene. I was an only child and so much of my playtime was filled using my imagination and creativity. As a young child, I drew constantly. I was fascinated with exotic places and particularly with Hawaii. In my teen years, I spent a lot of time drawing the models I saw in magazines. I was drawn to fashion and beauty, which is probably why I fell into modeling after I moved to Hawaii. I was, and still am, fairly introverted and enjoy my time alone or spending time with a couple close friends and family members, but I loved doing runway shows. The makeup and the beautiful clothing and accessories transformed me into someone else. Someone with bold confidence. To this day, like a talisman, I find a special piece of clothing or particular piece of jewelry can make me feel a bit more powerful.

 

Q: How did you get started making jewelry? What makes it your medium? How do you express yourself?

 

A: I actually began making beaded creations as a young girl. Even then, I found a particular sense of freedom of expression and confidence that came with wearing a necklace I made. It wasn’t until I began staying home with my youngest child that this medium came back into my life. I had always wanted to take a metalsmithing class and was so excited to see that the South Bend Museum of Art had a basic course. I had taken other courses there, such as photography and clay, but after that first class I was hooked. I set up a simple studio in my home and began playing with metal. I eventually taught myself other techniques that I was able to learn quickly. 

 

I found jewelry particularly attractive as a medium because throughout history, jewelry has been a symbol for special life occasions, given as gifts, and emphasized the feminine. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry myself, but as I mentioned, I find a quiet strength wearing a particular piece. It could even be a simple wide ring band that may go unnoticed by most people, but I feel something wonderful wearing it. Perhaps that’s strength, beauty, protection, or depending on the focal element, it may be a reminder of the sea or a moody storm.

 

Q: I notice that nature is a big part of your work. What inspires you? 


A: I’m deeply influenced by my senses and curiosity of the natural world. I find great peace and a sense of wonder while in nature. My time living in Hawaii gifted me with a deep appreciation of nature’s beauty and diversity. I learned to slow down, listen and observe my surroundings. I’m naturally drawn to colors and textures that are found in nature as well. Moody hues of smoky lavender remind me of the rich tones of a color that hung over the green mountains each day. Swirls of blue, pearls, and shells take me back to the beach when coupled with the warmth of the recycled yellow gold. Each piece begins with the stone. I hand pick each stone in my one-of-a-kind and limited edition pieces and I look for stones with an interesting color play or character. I’m really attracted to the more raw and organic versions of sapphires, diamonds and aquamarines.

 

Q: I also see that Hawaii is your “happy place.” We all know the touristy beachy Hawaii, but what do you see there that others don’t? What inspiration do you draw from there?

 

A: We’ve all heard the word “aloha.” It’s not only the Hawaiian word for hello, until we meet again, and I love you, it embodies a way of living within the world and treating others we come in contact with. Hawaii is so very stunning and the biological and ecological diversity is unparalleled, but it is so much more than its outer beauty. There’s an energy there that pulls you in and keeps so many people coming. Family is so very important and there is slower rhythm that calms those who stay awhile. There’s an authenticity to people and an understanding that all life should be respected. 

 

Our family does visit each year and everyone looks forward to it. It’s my hope that we will eventually spend several months there once our children are out of school. 

 

Q: How does environmentalism play a part in your life and your work?

 

A: As a family, we recognize the choices we have on our environment and we subscribe to the idea that one person can have an impact. Living in Hawaii opened my eyes to the importance of conservation and protecting our marine world as well as our land. Hawaii is a very clean place despite its large population to area ratio. Children grow up active in the environment and learn that the cigarette butt thrown put out in the sand on the beach could end up in a bird or turtle’s stomach endangering their lives. They know that waste ends up in their streams and ultimately their drinking water supply. 

 

I chose to run my business as green as possible which can be a bit challenging as a one-woman show running a boutique brand. I use only recycled gold and silver minimizing the detrimental impact that newly mined metal has on the environment and surrounding communities. I also only purchase conflict-free diamonds and whenever possible, ethically-mined stones. Additionally, I try to use eco-minded practices wherever possible within my studio and packaging. 

 

I always felt so fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I love and as soon as I began making a profit within my business, I began giving back to social and environmental charitable organizations. Each year, I give five to 10 percent of my profits to a variety of charities within our community and nationally such as Girls on The Run Michiana, empowering young girls to embrace an active and healthy lifestyle and self image, and The Pacific Whale Foundation, educating the public on marine conservation and protection.