All Things Tori Tong Handmade
Have you ever come across something you may not have been looking for and instantly fell in love? That’s how I feel about all things Tori Tong Handmade. And let me tell you, in case you have been hiding under a rock, her stuff is GOOD. It’s almost too good. I mean, when I see her display set up at my favorite Day Spa I find myself combing the stacks of bracelets, reading every description and taking in every ounce of amazing I find in her work. The beads, the colors, the textures, the meanings…
I knew there was something special behind her work and instantaneously I wanted to know her story. And now I want to share it with you.
Urban Gossip: Tell me about you… how did you get started?
Tori Tong: I have always experimented with creative outlets. Quickly out of high school I got into photography. And you know how that goes, with the development of high quality phone cameras, everyone can now capture great pictures. It just wasn’t as fulfilling long term as I’d hoped. I had always been into art, so I tried my hand at acrylic painting and in October of 2011 I had my first art show in Downtown Cincinnati. The response I received from supporters fueled me and I continued to show my paintings in various galleries throughout Kansas, Ohio and Colorado for about 6 years. I moved to Denver in 2012 because the art scene was thriving, and it was such a beautiful experience. I found a lot of joy in painting and I still love doing it, but I wanted to find something with a quicker turn around that was more rewarding.
UG: Tell me more about what inspires you to do this?
TT: Well, a little bit about me, pretty personal stuff…although I have never used it as a crutch, I experienced an emotional and physically abusive past with my father. I felt like I could never be myself because I was ridiculed and criticized by people who should have been supporting me. My mom was absent for a short while and I struggled with having a healthy relationship with my twin brother, which left me feeling vulnerable and alone. I began self-destructing as a way to cope, until someone told me my body is my temple and I should not cause harm to it. At one point I was suicidal, and I knew from then on I wanted to help people that have gone through what I had been through. It took a lot of vulnerability, and some pretty dark feelings, but now I almost feel like my parents look up to me as sort of an inspiration because of what I’m doing in my life and that has been the most triumphant thing that I think could happen. I feel like every day I am becoming more of my authentic self.
I had no real experience with religion or spirituality until I was eleven. I believe having a spiritual influence in my life really helped guide me along my path. I got into a lot of books that encouraged me to heal, see the world with a new perspective and that encouraged my quest to know myself. I believe in an infinite source that no one can define, but we all feel it. It is a very strong connecting cord in my life and I feel extremely blessed and grateful for everything that I have been able to accomplish just by changing my mindset and choosing optimism and faith and forgiveness. My favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The number 2911 is very significant to me for that reason.
I also considered being a therapist or a counselor, but I felt like it would be challenging for me to not absorb other peoples’ experiences and emotions. I started making jewelry with gemstones as something fun to start, but the more that I learned about their healing properties, it just clicked. Everyone feels differently about the power of gemstones, it’s kind of like horoscopes, they are designed to be super vague but you’ll read something that really resonates. I discovered if someone is drawn to a piece because it represents self-love for example, it may just be a placebo effect, but the beauty is that they are initiating that awareness within themselves to create positive changes. Whether it is the stone working its magic or the manifestation of the intention they set with the support of my jewelry - the end result is my desire to share my experience and my vision to help encourage others to live their best life.
UG: Do you offer custom work?
TT: Absolutely! Commissioned pieces are my favorite. They are so unique and special for the individual and it’s an even deeper way to connect. I am able to find supplies for just about anything that someone may want to design. Anyone looking for a custom order should e-mail me at: ToriTongHandmade@gmail.com
UG: Tell me more about your products.
TT: My bracelets are the #1 seller. In addition to the necklaces and earrings, I try to introduce a new designs every month like aromatherapy, charity pieces that fund various organizations, etc. I am on a mission to discover new ways to give back. I want to use what I have to help people not only gain for myself. I source all my supplies from places I know provide high quality, genuine stones rather than the cheap plastic feeling beads. I learned my lesson quick when I tried ordering online and ended up with lower quality materials to work with. I really take pride in the quality of the materials I use even if it means spending more money to make the jewelry and still provide it at an affordable price.
UG: Where do you find your supplies?
TT: The Gem Show is my favorite place to shop. I have found two vendors that I love working with and can buy directly from them now which is great because I can cut out all the extra time and work it took to locate quality stock. I used to drive all over town looking for stuff and since I found these vendors I love it has saved me a lot of time.
UG: How do you pair your stones together?
TT: I try to go off similar intentions if they co-align with each other or I try to match color schemes and incorporate charms depending on what I’m working on.
UG: How did you come up with your name?
TT: This is funny. I have been a lot of things before this… I was Tori T. Photography, and some other cheesy things like, Tori T. Photocrafty but then someone suggested I just use my name and brand myself which seemed so simple but ever since then it has given me the freedom to create all the things I want to under one name.
UG: What are your plans for your business?
TT: I am so grateful for everything I have accomplished thus far and while I love being able to share my product with so many people through retail partnerships, that means I am only making a percentage of my value. I want to find more ways to branch out on my own. I want to travel and do festivals and retreats where healing is the main goal and where people want to learn about intention and conscious living and so on. I want to do more events and I am working really hard to expand my online presence. I want to do more solo adventures and see where I land without any type of assistance other than my own.
UG: What is your favorite piece of jewelry you have ever made?
TT: There have been lots. My most cherished piece is an Amazonite mala I made recently. I tried for what seemed like months to master the traditional knotting between the beads, without any luck. One day I sat down and took the time to learn it and after completing the full mala (108 knots) it felt so powerful and rewarding. It also became therapeutic and I really enjoy making them now.
UG: What’s your favorite stone?
TT: Oh man. That’s a hard one. My most favorite is Labradorite which is all about transformation and it is so representative of my journey. It’s also a reminder that there is light in the darkness. I also carry around a piece of Citrine as a “gratitude” stone. Citrine represents abundance and I am all about attracting abundance in my life by expressing gratitude on a daily basis. And, my third favorite is Amazonite just because it’s so earthy and such a beautiful stone. It represents communication, which is truly the most important thing to me.
UG: Where can we find you?