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Zen Rocks

Michael Giacopassi

Posted on March 09 2020

Zen Rocks

Inspiration, move me brightly
light the song with sense and color
Hold away despair
more than this I will not ask
Faced with mysteries dark and vast
statements just seem vain at last

 - R. Hunter, J Garcia


Either through a slow burn, ebb and flow or hitting like a ton of bricks – inspiration comes in many forms. 

The inspiration for the RusticWares Wooden Zen Rocks developed over time and slowly came in to focus as it nagged and pulled at me. Never fully leaving me alone as I lay in bed, standing in the shower or sanding a charcuterie board.

I was thinking a smooth wooden rock would be neat – so I turned to the internet. I found nothing. Crazy when you think of how many millions of pages, stuff, things, words; endless and endless amount of words, content and thoughts that are out there.

After the internet, I turned to my workshop. If it doesn’t exist then you build it. At first, I made just a couple. A few to hand out to friends and one to someone I knew who was going through a particularly difficult time in their life. Initially they were not meant to stack. I was making smooth wooden rocks that fit easily in your hand and had some type of groove for your thumb to rub.

The idea was a play off an Irish worry stone. A tactile wooden rock you could hold in your hand, keep in your pocket to provide a sense a security. A smooth wood rock to rub when things became overwhelming. A way to download your problems on to an inanimate object that wouldn’t judge. An object that would take your problems on as their own, digest them away from you and makes everyone feel better in the end.

After the few I created I ran the idea by Adrienne – proprietor of a small coffee and sandwich shop in Easton, CT. She liked the idea but felt a single wooden rock would be a hard sell. I agreed and kept the idea in the back of my mind as I pursued other things that tugged at my brain.

The idea of a cairn or rock stacking was not an altogether new idea to me. I had in fact hiked 29 of New Hampshire’s 4,000 footers which has rock cairns placed along many of the trails above tree line to mark the trail. I’ve seen rocks stacked around town at various parks, houses, etc – I even have a bracelet with a cairn stamped out of metal. Combining the idea of a smooth wooden rock and stacking it into a cairn shape design was the next step.

It was around the time of the rock forming in my head that I started meditating. I was working from home and had the time I typically spent in my car commuting to do what I pleased. After my workouts it typically takes a little while to cool down – enough so that you can jump in the shower and have it “take” as George Costanza would say. So what do to while waiting for the body temp to come down? Meditate.

Starting meditation can be daunting – but there are a million apps out there to help beginners. I used Calm and Omvana to help me get started. The one thing they all have in common, all meditation has in common and all clearing your mind exercises have in common is finding a point to focus on. Most of the time it is your breathing, or it can be where your butt meets the chair or floor. Or it can be something you hold – a smooth wood rock perhaps? A Wooden Zen Rock perhaps?

With all those ideas floating around I knew I had something and went to work on making a few sets to gauge reactions from friends and well-wishers. Initial reactions were better than good and I was pleased. I was storing them in these really cool, really old bank bags. Not the zipper and lock kind, but drawstring pouch made of waxed canvas.  I searched around for those for a bit but anything I found was cost prohibitive and didn’t really scratch that itch. Then I stumbled upon the canvas jute drawstring pouches I use today.

Creating the labels presented another challenge as I didn’t want to say the rocks would be all things to all people – but they were. To keep costs low I decided to create the label in-house (my house) and print it in my house. I’m happy with what I came up with but there is still room to improve – as with everything.

I soft launched or passively launched the Wooden Zen Rocks in a few stores in the area; Greisers, Ally Bally Bee and Dough & Co all agreed to carry them. This would be a good test – but I wasn’t present to show them off and provide a face behind the rocks.

The real test would come at my first holiday fair. I typically don’t do the holiday fair circuit anymore as I find them not worth it- a waste of a full Saturday and a grind and hustle. However, when Phoebe of Dirt Road Farms comes calling – you answer. 

In addition to my usual offerings of charcuterie boards and wooden utensils I added the Wooden Zen Rocks. I took a couple of sets out of their canvas bags and stacked them up on a charcuterie board and waited. And waited. My holiday market table neighbor was Beth, owner and baker behind Idyllwild Bread and she sold 20 loaves of her famous sourdough bread before anyone even looked at my stuff.

As the day wore on and people took notice of what I was doing, people stopped to play and stack my wooden rocks. I forget how many I sold that afternoon – but I was pleased with the results. Next up was The Hickories Holiday Market. I have done Hickories events in the past and they have always worked out well for me so I took another chance at the holiday market thing and set up shop in The Hickories barn.

I had a little bit better positioning at The Hickories event and had a great reception to my newest creation. People stayed and played and stacked and asked questions. I knew I had something and was happy to have created something people will talk about and use.

That’s always been my thing. I like to create and make things people will use. My cutting boards, charcuterie boards, wooden utensils coat hooks, or whatever else is the site. I want people to use them, and knowing that they will be used and used and used for a long time is a big part of RusticWares.  Knowing that the boards I produce or the utensils I carve will be used. Will be in someone’s kitchen and there for some of the biggest events and moments of a family’s history. Pieces made from solid hardwood that will be there and stand the test of time for years, decades and generations. Generational items.

Its not to say that Wooden Zen Rocks are a need more than a want – but I do feel they serve a purpose in your life. If you do end up buying a set for someone in your life – or for yourself, use them. Leave them out on the table and you would be surprised how many times they are picked up and played with, used and held. 

I believe in simplifying your life and decluttering your home and like Marie Kondo believe the items you keep should be the ones that bring you joy, remind you of a place, time or person. Enjoy and use what you have. Enjoy your life and take time to simply sit and stack some wooden rocks.

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