A Deeper Love: Artful Hearts for Valentine’s Day

By Zoe Helene, Conscious Living TV Contributor

The heart is one of the world's most recognized symbols. My favorite heart-shaped Valentine's Day gifts are handcrafted by consciously aware artists (or you can make them yourself!).

Why let the generic, mass-market Hallmark holiday get you down? Valentine's Day is about more than commercialized concepts of romantic love. It's a day to celebrate the universal love that makes the world go 'round — and what better way than with heart-inspired gifts that benefit artisans and art historians and celebrate diversity? Many of the gifts I've chosen to mark this day of love are purchased directly from the people who created them. Others are vintage or antique, which supports art historians who match-make artisan treasures with stewards who appreciate them. I hope these gifts inspire you and others to love, just love.

Christina McAllister

CHRISTINA McALLISTER Heart of Wisdom Message Mandala, $24 – $7

This message mandala is an intricate visual meditation featuring imagery from many parts of the world and personal symbols from the artist’s life journey.

“The heart symbol is very expressive of the sacred feminine. Just look at those lush curves! It's the tenderness of a mother, the passion of a lover, the innocent affection of a little girl. It is both strong and gentle.” – Cristina McAllister

Wayne Edenshaw

WAYNE EDENSHAW Haïda “Eagle's Heart” Limited Edition Print, $90

The eagle is an important symbol of Wayne Edenshaw Haida’s Pacific Northwest Coast heritage, representing strength, peace, focus and leadership. Eagles’ wings are about the harmonious balance between a man and a woman, and how both parties work equally to achieve and maintain that balance.

“Our culture is born of respect, and intimacy with the land and sea and the air around us. Like the forests, the roots of our people are intertwined such that the greatest troubles cannot overcome us.” – Haida Nation

Lorena Angulo

LORENA ANGULO Tree of Life Sacred Heart

Mexican artist Lorena Angulo sculpted this sacred heart out of “Bronzclay” with her bare hands, a simple carving tool, and a needle. She also works with pure silver and copper.

“My love for folk art gives me the opportunity to add ‘soul’ to my work. I really like to create art that represents my culture and that gives people a story in every piece I make.” – Lorena Angulo

Cyndee Newick

CYNDEE NEWICK Handcrafted Celtic Heart Love Knot Gourd Birdhouse, $50

Hand carved from an organic gourd, this adorable and durable birdhouse has a trap door for easy clean-out, and you can select the size of entry hole based on what type of bird you want to attract. The double Celtic heart design is an “Eternity Knot” which is a knot with no beginning and no end. It is also a “Lover’s Knot”, which is a knot linking two separate paths.

“Just like a nest, a celtic heart knot is a symbol of the weaving together of two lives to create unity, transformation and renewal.” – Cyndee Newick

Tom Banwell

TOM BANWELL Sweet Hearts Mask in Red Leather Valentine, $39

Steampunk meets Alice in Wonderland in this handcrafted half mask made from lightweight vegetable-tanned leather. You can wear this wearable art comfortably for hours.

Creating art in a steampunk genre suits me exceedingly well because it combines several of my interests—history, costuming, mechanics and fantasy—and I can bring these together and get wildly creative in my leatherwork.”- Tom Banwell

Sweet Sugar Belle

SWEET SUGAR BELLE Henna Inspired Sweetheart Sugar Cookies

This artist expresses herself through cookies. She does not sell cookies, but if you want to make these Spice in the Kitchen

“I am pretty much obsessed with decorating cookies.” – Sweet Sugar Belle

Michael Golan

MICHAL GOLAN Many Hearts and Third Eye Wall Hamsas, around $115 each

Israeli born jewelry designer Michal Golan’s lavish, crystal-encrusted wall Hamsas are inspired by ornate Victorian jewelry and Middle Eastern art. The Hamsa is an ancient symbol denoting enlightenment and good luck.

“There are two parallel forces that drive and inspire my artistic work. First is a deep fascination with archaeology and ancient civilizations, especially in the use of symbols and hieroglyphics. The second source of my inspiration is the visual richness that I encounter in my everyday life. Even the most basic sights can inspire: a visit to the fabric store, a trip to Brazil, shows at the Met.”– Michal Golan

prana vintage

PRANA VINTAGE Linen Hand-embroidered “Irasos” Sweetheart Cushion Cover, $70

The women of the Kalotaszeg region in Transylvania, Romania, embroider these cushion covers on handwoven vintage linen using a traditional stitch called “irasos,” which means “writing.”

“In each village there was a ‘writing woman’ who was an expert at drawing these traditional patterns onto cloth to be embroidered. Embroidered pieces would be used to decorate the best room in the home or were destined for the dowry chest.” – Kath Griffiths

Saola Designs

SAOLA DESIGNS Midnight Heart Spinel Ring, $58

Elegant and understated, this 100 percent recycled 14-karat yellow gold and ethically sourced heart- shape spinel rose-cut gemstone ring was hand fabricated by artist Alysha Bushey. Polished to a high shine—soft, yet intense.

Deborah Kemball

DEBORAH KEMBALL Heart's Desire Quilt

This amazing quilt by master quilt-maker Deborah Kembal's has won major awards in Canada, the US and Europe since its completion in 2009. The quilt is made from 100% cotton fabrics with a 100% wool batting. The background fabric is cotton chintz from the Netherlands which has a pattern of its own going on in the chintz which gives an interesting depth to the quilt. Kemball is very inspired by the textiles of the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe and India. She also loves to use red as a background, “it functions very much as a neutral,” she says. This quilt is not for sale. However, Kemball's wonderful quilting book, Beautiful Botanicals, makes a great gift for anyone interested in fine quilt-making and plants and has some easy projects which would make for gifts for Valentine's Day.

“It took well over 1000 hours of hand work and is all hand applique and hand quilting. It also has hundreds of crystals and seed pearls sewn to the flowers and hearts in such a way that they don't shout at you but the more you look the more you see and it twinkles a bit when you walk past it at night.” – Deborah Kemball

Henrietta Glass

HENRIETTA GLASS Hand-blown Circle of Friends Heart Bud Vase, $23 ♥ Glassblower Jill Henrietta Davis carefully molds the end of every vase stem into a heart shape. Glass is one of the most earth-friendly materials, and glassblowing is such a fascinating craft. “Glass can do things that would be impossible with any other material.” – Jill Henrietta Davis 


Henna By Heather

HENNA BY HEATHER Artistic Adornment Signature Henna Kit, $25

With this kit, and her fascinating How to Henna videos on YouTube, master henna artist Heather Caunt-Nulton provides everything you need to create the body adornment widely known as “Henna” or “Mehndi”. “Henna’s association with love is a strong one, deeply rooted in tradition. Hearts are a popular motif. In modern henna design, the heart is often drawn on both hands, so that when they come together, the full heart is formed.” – Heather Caunt-Nulton

Postcards of the Heart

THE POSTCARD DEPOT Antique Heart Guitar Troubadour Valentine Day Postcard, $5; 

“If music be the food of love, play on.” This delightful antique Valentine's Day postcard and gift for the music lover or musician in your life. It was never posted so has no postage stamp and is in very good collectable condition with just enough corner wear to add the antique appeal. Framed well, this would make a great little decorative piece and you’ll never find another one like it. This store has an excellent selection of fine vintage and antique postcards (only) which makes it fun for any occasion, not just Valentine’s Day. 

Origins of the Heart

A Perfect Heart-Shaped Seed: Higher Plants at Risk

I was curious about the heart's origins as a symbol of love. Of the many theories I found, I'm buying the one about a medicinal plant from antiquity. Silphium, a plant that grew from a (perfect) heart-shaped seed from Cyrene, was so popular that it was over-harvested to extinction some 2,500 years ago…

The heart is one of the world's most recognized symbols. I was curious about the heart's origins as a symbol of love.

Of the many theories I found, I'm buying the one about a medicinal plant from antiquity. Silphium, a plant that grew from a (perfect) heart-shaped seed from Cyrene, was so popular that it was over-harvested to extinction some 2,500 years ago.

Silphium was used to treat multiple ailments, but its primary use was as a contraceptive. That the symbol for love originated from the seed of a contraceptive plant makes a lot of sense to me. Feelings of romantic love or being "in love" are often connected with a desire to couple, and thoughtful family planning is not just smart and sane — it is also loving. Profoundly so.

Silphium was in great demand, so it must have worked. The plant grew only near the town of Cyrene, and failed attempts to cultivate it elsewhere only served to further boost the town's prosperity. They essentially had a natural contraceptive monopoly. Sales were so hot that Silphium was depicted on the town's currency.

By the time of the Romans, the plant had disappeared.

I travel extensively with my husband, Chris Kilham, an ethnobotanist and Medicine Hunter. I've seen firsthand how plants such as Silphium can provide economic abundance to an entire region which would otherwise have little or no means. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in the Peruvian Andes and Kava (Piper methysticum) in Vaunuta, South Pacific, are two great examples of this. I've also seen precious plants being over-harvested to near extinction by the very communities that prosper from them. In South Africa, Hoodia (Hoodia gordonii) became endangered because of a diet craze in the United States, and I've heard that in the Amazonion, the vine Caapi (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the leaf Chakruna (Psychotria viridis), the two plants that make sacred Ayahuasca, are increasingly difficult to find in the wild.

“Killing the golden goose” is not just financially self-destructive. It's also unloving to the plant spirit. Too often, however, this is how we humans choose to behave.

But I believe we will learn. Our hearts will guide us.

United Plant Savers

UNITED PLANT SAVERS, Individual Membership, $35 

If you or someone you love is interested in learning more about higher plants at risk, I highly recommend becoming a part of the United Plant Savers community. They're wonderful people doing important work in the world. Membership makes an excellent gift for anyone who loves plant spirit.

“The heart shape seed has an important lesson in its history, and it reminds me of the sandalwood tree, used in the perfume industry for its woody base note scent. The sandalwood trees are endemic species that can be found on islands from Australia to Hawaii. They are sacred trees but sadly their wild populations are endangered for the heartwood oil that is extracted once the tree is cut down. United Plant Savers has been working hard to bring awareness to the sandalwood issue… I hope the sandalwood's heartwood will not be the same fate as the heart seed.” – Susan Leopold, PhD, Executive Director, United Plant Savers

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