COLD LAKE - Just like her customers, every mala is unique.
“A mala is a string of 108 beads that have been knotted in between and have a focal point, which is either a tassel or some sort of focal piece. It’s used to help keep you in line with your meditation, to keep bringing you back to what you’re doing,” described owner of the Navy Raven Janice Stanyer.
Whether it's through colour, stone choice, or the focal point of the mala, Stanyer ensures each of her pieces is as special as the person she is making it for, down to the very last bead.
“I have never repeated a mala. I like to keep them as one-of-a-kind pieces because I think all of my customers are individual people in their own right and I don’t think they want something that three other people walking down the street have,” she expressed.
Like so many crafters before her, Stanyer started by simply saying "I could make that."
“In 2014 I took an instructional course on teaching meditation and at that time I needed a mala to help with my meditation, so I purchased one."
The price and lack of heart in the piece made her decide to try her hand at making her own.
Stanyer began making them for friends and others in her yoga community, eventually teaching others how to do it.
Her business, the Navy Raven, started not long after. While she has closed her business for the summer her malas are still for sale at Ella's Closet.
Stanyer is careful in how she designs each piece, spending upwards of 1.5 hours on one mala.
“I find it very therapeutic and very meditative because I do knot between each bead and you really have to concentrate when you’re doing it to get them just right,” Stanyer detailed.
Her inspiration can come in many forms - her customers, certain colours, stones, or even "whatever happens on the beading board that day."
“Lots of people ask for certain stones in their malas because they believe certain stones have different properties."
The Navy Raven has kept Stanyer in touch with the community throughout the pandemic.
Prior to COVID, the small business owner relied on pop-up markets and craft sales to share her works. Now, Stanyer has created a website so she can continue to offer her malas.
Over the years, Stanyer has done what she can to give back to the community by donating her pieces for fundraising auctions held by the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre and Lakeland Humane Society, among others.
When asked what inspired her business name she chuckled, describing it as "a funny story."
“The raven is a totem animal that reminds me of my grandmother, and the navy part came because I had all of this navy grosgrain ribbon that I needed to use up,” laughed Stanyer. “It has been a standard in my packaging since day one, this navy-blue grosgrain ribbon."
Stanyer has expanded her craft beyond the standard malas. The Cold Lake resident has started to offer mala bracelets and woven sea bead earrings.
“It’s a little bit of Métis heritage... It was something that intrigued me and I find you can lose yourself in them because they are very labour-intensive,” she described.
The most intricate earrings she has made to-date took her six hours.
“They were beautiful,” said Stanyer, adding they were for "a very special customer."
Just like how she got started years ago, Stanyer suggests anyone interested should simply give it a go.
“I think anybody can try it. I think it’s a wonderful thing if you’re interested in making your own. You are the one if you’re looking for something in particular, the colour that inspires you or the stone that inspires you and to be able to pick them yourself,” she stated. “I think it’s a wonderful thing for people to do, it makes it more their own."