Greetings all my fellow Curiosity Explorers and Magic-Makers! Allow me to introduce myself: I am the Wondersmith. I work with wonder in the same way a goldsmith works with gold to create beautiful, meaningful, and magical art about connection. Of course, I work with other media as well, such as hand-blown glass and sculpted ceramics, but they are in support of my main goal in life: to create and share wonder with strangers. The main way I do this is by creating surprise immersive experiences that I then gift to strangers in a variety of unusual means. Sometimes I hide invitations tucked into books for guests to find; sometimes I plant them in the woods for hikers to stumble upon. Other times I leave a seemingly ordinary object in a very public place, waiting for the person that is curious enough to investigate further.
The curious souls who accept my invitations are then treated to a delight for the senses in honor of the natural beauty of my region, the Pacific Northwest. They dine out of handmade glass and ceramic tableware, enjoying feasts of foraged foods and creative offerings as they gaze out over some of Mother Nature’s beautiful handiwork. My events are more than just meals, though. I design a specific ceremony for each one that is open to all religious beliefs in order to make the experience that much more meaningful. Some events are somber and gentle, some are wild and playful, but always my hope is to give my guests an experience they will remember for a lifetime.
I take great joy in designing these sensual and magical events. I always begin by asking myself what kind of magic I would want to stumble upon or what is tempting my own curiosity. The idea for “Shipwreck” was born as I was sitting alone on the rocks by the ocean on a stormy winter’s day, watching the waves crash below me with such force as to shake the ground. I thought about fierce seas and shipwrecks, how the ocean can be such a life giver but also such a life taker. A thought popped into my head as if from nowhere: The ocean remembers all. She gives and she takes.
I thought about those shipwrecks falling to the bottom of the sea, about the treasures they might have contained, about the mysteries they still hold. Deep, spine-chilling mysteries. Then another odd thought popped in my mind: What would a shipwreck taste like? With that, I began my research, learning what foods had been transported by ship over the centuries and which ones could hypothetically still be edible years later if the conditions undersea were right. I imagined mermaids in those murky depths, looking through those sunken larders and stumbling upon all sorts of exotic treasures and flavors they’d never before tasted, much in the same way as we have probably never tasted the same deep-sea delicacies that are common fare for them. I thought about a collaboration, a feast in honor of the mysteries of shipwrecks with a menu of preserved sunken treasures, fresh seafood, and delicate foraged ingredients from the land above. I met with my mermaid sisters to compare flavors and trade foods. (You can make a mermaid give you just about anything for a huckleberry, by the way.) Together, we came up with a menu to share with my earth brethren to give them a magical glimpse into the mysteries of the undersea world.
As I was brainstorming how to invite my guests, the answer presented itself almost immediately: I had to hide my invitations in bottles washed up on the beach, of course! What child has not wandered the lengths of a rocky shoreline searching for a message in a bottle from mysterious lands? And what adult does not still carry the secret wish of stumbling upon such a treasure? So I set to work hand-crafting illustrated and detailed letters in barnacle-encrusted bottles and left them above the high-tide line on the pebbly beaches of Camano Island in Northern Washington. My heart fluttered every time a new response came in. My guests were overjoyed to have found such a unique opportunity. “Should I dress up?” they would ask in anticipation. I told them of course they should—this was a mermaid picnic, after all.
The day of the event was a gorgeous spring day with sunlight sparkling on the waves and the smell of cherry blossoms in the air. We held our event in a cozy beachside shack overlooking these waters. Guests arrived one by one, dressed appropriately for the occasion in blue dresses, fish-print ties, and even some scales on cheeks and necks. Siren songs played in the background as I took my eager guests through a tasting menu full of poetic and detailed descriptions such as this:
From the cask I extracted a thick darkened liquid. Unsure of the contents, I sampled it. Rich, deep, with something familiar … the brightness of mountain huckleberries, the sun-soaked flavor of wild blackberries, the refreshing tartness of coastal thimbleberries all tampered and tamed in vanilla and rum. The sailors made this concoction to preserve fresh fruits on their travels, a wild berry boozy syrup, part libation and part dessert. Here it is served over whipped dolphin cream, a rare delicacy given to us by our undersea friends. A slice of petrified sea-foam accompanies it, as does a pile of North Pacific spotted amberjack eggs, which taste faintly of raspberries and rose.
(This delicacy was made of wild berry Rumtopf with vanilla whipped cream pudding, isomalt crisp, and spherified rose and raspberry tea.)
Each treat was served in a handmade porcelain dish encrusted with barnacles and shimmering with a nacre finish. These dishes were nestled into small boats, in honor of the larger versions that lie to this day on the bottom of the sea. The guests tasted and laughed and shared with me their stories of discovering their own beachside treasures and inspirations.
As the sun hung lower in the sky, turning the ocean to liquid chrome, we gathered on the beach and released our hopes and wishes into the waves. Then everyone was free to go their separate ways, taking with them the magic of the experience. I wandered into the ocean then, feeling the cold Pacific numb my legs as the sun warmed my face and chest. In that moment, I was so filled with gratitude I could have burst!
Though we all began as strangers, we came together through a shared experience so magical, few would believe you if you tried to explain it to them. Together we explored the various undersea mysteries, foraged delights, and ocean treasures that I had collected for our experience. We admired the beauty of barnacles and the dazzling melancholic beauty of knowing that we would never know all the secrets below those golden waves. The rest of the day felt like a dream to me, and even I found myself asking, Did that really just happen? I felt the wonder of that day seeping into my bones. I was overwhelmed by the response of the guests who had felt that wonder too: Numerous emotion-filled responses landed in my inbox, thanking me for giving them a sense of magic they hadn’t experienced since they were a child.
Through tears of gratitude, I read this response from one of my guests, Patti:
Being part of your gathering on Camano Island was a rare privilege. In the midst of a crushing political climate and a record-breaking rainy winter, you created a glimpse of beauty that pushes against darkness and insists on the power of grace. Though our presence was a product of chance, the otherworldly celebration was created by your deliberate, committed action, and by your dedication and lovely talent. Like lots of people, I tend to think of art as a visual medium—color and form frozen in time. To smell the faint brine of your creations, to cup your textured vessels in my hand, study their intricate details, hear your poetry, use your beautifully crafted spoons, and to take into myself your foods with all their wonderful flavors and textures—it was almost transcendent, a rare communion with strangers.
This, right here, is why I do what I do. I am a Wondersmith because the world needs more wonder, more love, more connection, and more magic. I do this not just because I enjoy it but because I feel called to do it with every fiber of my being.
I feel very blessed that I am supported by a community of fellow wonder lovers who believe in what I do. My patrons support me through Patreon (patreon.com/thewondersmith), a website that allows them to make a monthly pledge in whatever amount they choose in exchange for a variety of special rewards. My patrons know that the work I do is an act of generosity; therefore, it is only appropriate that they be funded by more of that same generosity. Together, we have created a system of love, spreading out from the events they fund and I create. I like to think that those ripples keep spreading to touch countless other strangers, like waves on the ocean. Perhaps they’ve even spread to you.
If you’d like to see more of my work, please visit my website, thewondersmith.com. There you’ll find pictures of past events as well as my blog, which is full of everyday magic, from foraged recipes to meaningful personal rituals to nature-inspired art projects. I would love to have you join me there for a cup of nettle tea, a slice of moss cake, and some deep discussions about where you find your magic.
Find photographer Makenzy Smith-Bradow at thenorthwestfocus.com.