HANSKA - Shyla Ann Earl has been returning to her roots this past year.
She moved from Maui to live on a farm in rural Hanska that has been in her boyfriend Jeremy Melzer's family for over 100 years.
Earl, who is a native of New Ulm, is the daughter of Jolene and Gerald Earl of New Ulm.
Shyla Ann Earl creates a piece of jewelry (in the wire-wrapping style) in her home studio in rural Hanska.
One of Earl’s favorite pieces is this ring she made in an art class.
Earl is also a silversmith and creates jewelry with silver she fashions and fabricates herself.
This photo was taken in Earl’s jewelry-making studio. It is a sampling of some of the jewelry she makes and sells.
In one room of their home, she has set up her own jewelry-making studio. Mainly, she has been focusing on doing wire-wrapping and stone-type jewelry making.
Lately she has not really had the time to do the silversmithing and fabricating jewelry work she likes to do because she and her boyfriend have been busy growing an organic garden.
They moved onto the farm in April. Earl had lived in Maui about two years.
Melzer is a musician with "Lucky Jones and the Ramblin' Gamblers."
She has been making jewelry since she was a little kid.
"I've always had an interest," said Earl, "When I was smaller ... it was hemp (jewelry), hemp-wrapping and beading and things like that."
On Earl's second visit to Maui she experienced an epiphany. She was on an airplane flying home when she realized she wanted to make jewelry for a living.
"I had this huge inspiration," said Earl.
At that time she had moved to Seattle and had been looking into a fine arts school. Before that she had lived in Minneapolis working as a manager at a body piercing studio for six years.
"I moved to Maui and then was around a visual arts center (called Hui No Iou) and started taking classes," said Earl, "I've always had an obsession, you might say, with Maui."
Her teacher was impressed with her work and asked her to be an assistant instructor. Although she did not get paid for her work as an assistant teacher, she did get free studio time and access to tools, metals and stones. She started silversmithing.
She also learned another technique with wire-wrapping and stone from a lady she worked for as a nanny.
Earl had a third teacher who was a "do it yourself," very "grassroots" type woman.
"She would set up a table at a waterfall and tourists would come by and they'd see her working and buy stuff from her," said Earl.
Earl learned how to do a different type of wire-wrapping from that teacher.
Each instructor taught her unique aspects of jewelry-making that she was able to add to her own style.
"I like a little bit more unfinished, natural, rough-and-tumble sort of look," said Earl, "But if I'm doing custom pieces for people ... it's more about what they want."
Earl hopes to compete in juried art shows and festivals. She also wants to create more custom pieces for people.
"I'm very interested and looking forward to working with people on doing custom pieces," said Earl, "It's my goal and desire to be able to work in that way."
Making art is a "process," she said.
"It's art sort of making itself ... it's you working with your medium to co-create whatever piece of art," said Earl, "That's the magic of art ... it's not just about you ... it's a process."
Earl earned a Bachelor of Science in Philosophy and Women's Studies from Minnesota State University-Mankato. She has been considering going back to school to study botany or lapidary work.
Gardening on the farm ...
All the garden beds are hand-dug and double-dug. Plants are grown bio-intensively.
"They're not traditional gardening methods," said Earl, "They really focus on healthy root systems which make healthy plants which allow actually a higher yield and better quality of produce without chemicals or pesticides."
She learned to do this style of gardening on Maui.
"I'm trying to bring the practice to the area," said Earl, "I know there are other farmers in the area who also practice this - I haven't met them yet."
This year they planted a wide variety of produce including cucumbers, zucchini, dill, basil, cilantro, asparagus, strawberries, edible flowers, sunflowers, broccoli, cabbage, kale, hot peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, bush beans, corn, squash, pumpkins and heirloom lettuce.
"We just started selling at the New Ulm's farmers market - only on Saturdays," said Earl.
She has also been selling fresh handmade breads, jams and jellies at the market.
Melzer and Earl will probably start selling their goods at the farmers market on Thursdays in Mankato.
"We are selling off the farm although there's not a lot of traffic," said Earl, "A lot of people are like, 'What are you guys digging graves - what are you doing there?' 'We're like, no we're trying to build birthing beds for our plants ... no dead things.'"
Melzer's family farm is about 144 acres. The land is rented out to a local farm family.
Earl and Melzer are mainly using the land around the farm place known as Melholm Farms. Jeremy's father, Howard Melzer, and Jeremy's uncle, Jim Melzer, own and operate Melholm horse stables with horseboarding and an indoor arena on the farm. Every morning Shyla helps feed the horses.
Eventually Earl and Melzer plan to reforest the area around the house. They will be planting medicinal and edible herbs. An orchard and pumpkin patch will also be planted, Earl said.
"This winter I'm hoping to research some grants so that we can just do this full-time and maybe use it (the garden) as an educational tool," said Earl.
The couple would like to open up their own stand on their farm for selling what they make and grow. They plan to call their business "Two Peas in a Pod Produce."