How to Make a Mala: The Back Story

Ever since I was a little girl I loved creating. I loved drawing, painting, and engaging in anything crafty. Back then it was called arts and crafts, and today it’s my livelihood. 

Before I begin, I thought you should know a bit about me. I’m a double Pisces (sun & moon) so I am creative by nature. I often see things abstractly and can find beauty in almost anything. I am also right-brained dominant, which is associated with creativity, emotion, and intuition. 

In addition to naturally being a creative-type, I was lucky enough to grow up in the jewelry business where I was constantly surrounded by, as I like to call them, pretty-little-things (a.k.a jewelry). My dad started his career as a jeweler two years before I was born, so I was surrounded by jewels as far back as I can remember.

Fast forward to today and I can tell you that there still hasn’t been a jewelry and gem show that I haven’t liked. The shows are filled with crystals, stones, and gems in every color of the rainbow and all shapes and sizes. There are run of the mill jasper stones and there are exotic one-of-a-kind gemstones. I can spend hours perusing, learning, and simply admiring the gems.

When I go to jewelry shows I certainly take my time. I follow my intuition and I carefully hand-select gemstones and charms that I think would compliment the Five Star Hippie® collection. I only choose natural stones and shy away from anything synthetic because not only are we an eco-friendly company, but synthetic gemstones do not carry the energy and vibrations of authentic stones. That’s just a simple truth because each earthling, which are gifts from the earth— such as crystals and gemstones, have their own energy and vibration. For example, lapis lazuli is a stone that helps one tap into their intuition so if you are looking to ignite that area of your life, you would want an authentic lapis lazuli to help you do that. Not a synthetic style because the synthetic would not emit energy and would likely act as a placebo.

At the jewelry shows, I also choose charms that are spiritual and would compliment the bracelets and malas, as add-on’s, as each piece of jewelry we carry can be customized in size and with or without add-on’s, like charms, tassels, or accent crystals.  

Aside from my intuition guiding my stone selections, I usually pick seasonally colored stones that also vibrate with the four equinoxes—so there is a quasi method to my creative madness.

Once I arrive home from a gem show I lay out all the beads on a table and I start beading, which is a process of adding beads to a string with the result being a piece of jewelry. I make women sized bracelets, men sized bracelets, kids sized bracelets, and unisex malas which can we worn as bracelets, necklaces or used as a meditation tool.

When I make malas, which are a set (or string) of beads that are traditionally used for meditation, I am very mindful of the number of beads I put on the string because malas are often made with 108 beads and a guru bead, which is larger than the other beads and is used as the starting point if used for meditation with mantra (word or phrase used by someone who is praying or meditating).

Malas originated in Eastern religions, with roots in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Yogic traditions, but they aren’t necessarily a religious symbol unless of course, you want it to be. That's the beauty of mindfulness, it’s all your own, but I thought it was important to shine a light on the history of malas. They were also originally made of rudraksha seeds from the Bodhi tree, a sacred tree, but over the years they have been made with other materials such as wood, stones, and crystals. 

Usually, when I handcraft a mala, I start by burning sage or palo santo to clear and cleanse the energy in and around the space in which I am creating. I also make sure to smudge the beads so any past fingers that may have touched the gems will be cleared, too. I then light a candle, put on melodious music (without words because words distract me from counting), and I open the window so I get an ocean breeze, which is also very cleansing. 

Once I’m in a creative mindset and comfortable in my studio, the creativity just flows. I usually make several malas at a time, or until I tire out. Once finished, I sage or palo santo the finished products and put the malas in sealed bins to preserve their pure energy.

After the beading process, I then create a line-sheet, which is used by a manufacturer (us) in the fashion industry providing information on a product for wholesale sales. It also allows products to be listed with the sizes and color options, which is great for inventory tracking. Having a line-sheet is an essential part of our business because it helps with organization, consistency, and sales. 

Once the line-sheet is created I upload all the products to our website and I set up trunk shows or pop-up-shops, which are events in which vendors present merchandise directly to store personnel or customers at a retail location or another venue.

At the events I educate people on the stones and their energy and I often customize jewelry to meet the clients' needs. This is a big part of the work I do, which is listening and connecting to people, and then creating jewelry for them based on what they want or need. I recently wrote a blog called Healing Jewelry, which describes some of the meaningful connections I make while I work shall you want to check that out.  

I handcrafted malas for a couple of years but now I have help. I’ve gotten busier (a good thing!) and with all the responsibilities that come along with being a business owner, I now outsource the labor and send my designs to be manufactured, but not in a facility, rather by a husband and wife team who handcraft the malas by hand and benefit financially from the work.

The process of making malas is very sacred and by sharing my backstory, the history of malas, and the people we hire, I thought it would provide a glimpse into our world. And, whether they are handcrafted by yours truly, or by someone from my team, I hope that you know that each piece is made with love and intention. 

With Love & Light, 
Janine Forte
Founder of Five Star Hippie®

1 comment

  • Janine, interesting insight into a friend on the path…😘🐶


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