mawjanga's Origin Story
When I sell at craft fairs I am often asked, "What does 'mawjanga' mean?" Because you are wondering the same thing, too, I will tell you. The name "mawjanga" was literally born in the back of a bus rolling down Interstate 55. Originally conceived by Britt as a nonsensical log-in for a computer game (Interstate 55 is a really, really boring route) the word stuck in my head next to words like "jobberwocky" and "fadoodle." I thought, though, that I might have a use for it someday!
You see, Britt and I are two of a kind, a mother-daughter duo who not only look alike but who also share a love of the creative process and a fascination with our gypsy heritage, especially the gypsy jewelry that is worn for religious, protective or superstitious reasons. It's the meaning behind the jewelry that is important; a meaning created by the materials the piece is derived from and the way it makes you feel when you wear it. Let me give you an example—When Britt was thirteen she ran cross country and was determined to do well in state competition. One Sunday in church she prayed she would finish at state with the top 25 runners. Suddenly she spied a quarter next to the kneeler; the date on the quarter was the same as the year she was born! Clearly, this was a sign! We knew what we had to do with the Quarter from God. I had worked in a jewelry shop for a bit and learned the basics—minor jewelry repair, engraving and untangling chains, which was my specialty. So I used my skills, along with some wire and fashioned the quarter into an amulet that Britt wore around her neck every day even at practice. When the big race came Britt was given bib number 525, which we knew was another positive omen! She finished the race in 22nd place and achieved her goal. You can’t beat a combination of prayers and hard work, seasoned with a little superstition and a good piece of jewelry!
After that, I began to put together more pieces just for myself. I started buying beads on my travels around the country, seeking supplies that were vintage or ancient, out of the ordinary and truly unique. I looked for beads that had a past and would contribute to their wearer's future. Vintage and ancient beads, I think, are inspiring: tiny bits of minutia that have successfully navigated the world through decades of time and that become significant when assembled into a cohesive, wearable creation. I love the process of making something by hand from bits and pieces of nothing held together with imagination and maybe a little superstition. Well, some E6000 helps, too! Like my gypsy ancestors, I love making pieces that have meaning for the wearer--whether it's using a lucky number, a favorite color or a protective symbol. My bead habit went rabid; I was smuggling packages of mail order supplies into the house and hiding them in boxes, closets and bags. My husband demanded to know what I was going to do with all that "stuff" and strongly suggested I stop buying beads immediately!
Britt was wearing pieces I had made and was often asked where she got them. The solution to my bead problem, she said, was to sell. She arranged a small show at the company where she worked, and then a friend invited me to share a booth at a local craft fair, which lead to booths at other craft fairs. Of course, all of this required buying more beads, but at least I was doing something with my “stuff”! With Britt's encouragement, an Etsy shop was the next step. We needed to name the shop and that word, "mawjanga" was still rattling around my head. It had the right sound--unique and simultaneously both vintage and modern, like our designs. And so the former computer login became the name of our company.
The beauty of a nonsensical made up word is that you can attach your own meaning to it. I believe that "mawjanga" simply means "a creative spirit." I hope that you find that this creative spirit is embodied in our designs and that you enjoy wearing them as much as I've enjoyed creating them!