When the earth shook under Mystery Masiello's feet, she wanted to go somewhere still. The steadfast rounded mountains of the aged Appalachians called. And within their very core, she found her future.
In a life that has spanned many incarnations, Masiello witnessed the 9/11 terror attacks first-hand four and a half months pregnant and working for a venture capital firm in New York City. Now an emerging Asheville-based jewelry designer she's watching her son grow up and makes gemstone necklaces wrought from the rocky mountain soil held in a tender clutch of silver.
Once a contemplative music major specializing in concert piano at music school in Florida, Mystery Masiello had every intention of following the rest of her family into the arts. It just took longer to get there. Realized now after a rather circuitous route, Masiello first found her young self bouncing between Miami, New York and London working in music management and the entertainment industry.
A following incarnation would lead her to the Big Apple more permanently as executive assistant to editors at Vanity Fair and Conde Nast Traveler.
"To be twentysomething and at the front lines of politics and entertainment...,"muses Masiello, trailing off over the memory some twenty years later. "But when you are working in an entertainment lifestyle, it's a difficult way to set down roots or anchor yourself," she confesses. "It's tough being in the service of others."
To further complicate matters, after she went to work for a venture capital firm in 1999 in search of yet a new adventure, not only was she pregnant when her city was attacked, but she was also separating from her son's father, and lost her job only hours after giving birth.
"Everything started unraveling then. It was such a pivotal time during that period," she says, noting that in retrospect with all the bad, came something good.
"It was one of those things that was probably the best thing that ever happened to me," she now explains. "I was a single mom with an infant son in my hands and needed to recreate myself very quickly."
On a trip to visit her parents and sister, who had since migrated up to North Carolina - enveloped in the comforting downtown of Asheville, it's wholesome music scene, cozy outdoor cafes, inspiring art galleries, and what she felt as a nurturing community - Masiello gained the realization this would be her new home.
Real estate in the mountains was burgeoning, it was a good time to be in the market, and typical to form, Masiello mastered this as well. But a true calling came when her son Max introduced her to gem minding on a school field trip.
"I was fascinated watching him discover for the first time colors and textures with a keen interest in knowing where they came from," she reflects. "I wanted to know too! That was the single moment that inspired a new direction for my artistry."
A visit to Emerald Village, a gem mine near Spruce Pine, presented an opportunity to dig through buckets of rocky dirt. Max pulled out an amethyst, brushed the dust off and presented it to his mother.
"He told me 'this is the most beautiful rock I've ever seen, you should make jewelry out of this'," says Masiello. Her partner Bill agreed that she needed to fully exercise this newest adventure that seemed to drive her.
Taking a silver smithing class with local artist Bill Churlik, the budding artist was already half-way there. Says Churlik, who teaches several hundred students a year out of his River Arts District studio near downtown Asheville, "Silver smithing takes years to develop, you don't get this overnight.
"Her work is coming along and developing nicely," he says. "She's doing bold and big pieces that I encourage."
Chunky, with their natural form the most predominant feature, Masiello's gems direct each piece she creates.
"Their journey is so interesting," she says. "These are some of the oldest mountain ranges every recorded in history...the gems here go back so far, the crystals and their healing powers attract light and offer energy. They communicate messages of healing and wholeness to the body."
"I love every unique piece I create. The delicate balance between the hard geometric lines in every stone I hand select with flowing organic shapes with the metals that surround them."
Entertainment industry contacts that Masiello has kept in touch with have garnered her a list of celebrity clients. Collector Corelle Kelley from South Florida touts the designer's artistry and marketing finesse.
"She has always been incredibly good with people, and she knows how to make the most out of her contacts," says Kelley.
But, says Kelley, the pieces speak for themselves. "For me she designed an "S" curved omega to wear on a celestite faceted stone that is boldly large. Brilliant! It really stands out as a unique and gorgeous stone."
Local fans are already wearing them, including encaustic artist Constance Williams. She also owns the Constance Williams Fine Art Studio and Gallery in the River Arts District and invited Masiello to join her art space.
"Mystery has a very earthy sensibility," says Williams. "That's very Asheville in some ways. There's a simplicity to her work and it is not contrived."
"The work has a contemporary nod and has a great clarity - that's what's appealing," she notes. "That's the conversation the jewelry has."
As far as her own piece that she ordered from Mystery. "Well it resonates," Williams reasons. "I like the stone, but I chose the piece for its artistry."
A move that was to be a healing experience for Masiello, has obviously become so much more. The career-driven woman with the hippie name has come full circle, making beautiful objects born of the earth.