Tania Menzies is a light. Empathetic. Attuned to and mindful of her surroundings. A well-rounded free thinker who believes in energy. She vibrates at her own frequency— has since I've known her. Her experience drifting, not only from country to country, but in and out of situations and states of being, has given her a worldly sophistication and an innate sense of spirit. Perhaps this is why she can identify with seemingly esoteric and [underutilized] concepts like transmutation and oneness. Menzies' nature-based aesthetic is a reflection of this cultivation. The ability to see beauty all around her— and the desire for others to share in that ability— has been a deep source of inspiration for her. Birthed from that wellspring (along with an array of drawings, paintings and other artisanal creations) is a line of jewelry, aptly named Alaïa Lux, the intent of which to promote love, peace and beauty, and remind us of our freedoms to just be. I caught up with the artist and jewelry designer recently; we discussed an array of topics, including her travel-rich upbringing, mind's eye-opening experiences and personal, harmony-rich philosophies.
ND: You're originally from the suburbs of Northern California. When I met you, though, you were living in New Zealand for a second time, after having graduated from high school in Manila [Philippines]. And now you're based in Los Angeles. Four very distinctive eras, if you will. What was it like making such large, transitional moves?
TM: Making huge changes seems to become more challenging as one ages, taking longer to assimilate and find one’s place in the new territory. At age 11, moving from Northern California to Auckland, New Zealand was very easy. On my first day of school, all the other children seemed to be strangely stoked that the new girl had an American accent. Our extracurricular activities included things like equestrian, archery, rifle shooting, netball, rowing, and rugby, and camp consisted of hiking mountains in the rain and sleeping tent-less beneath the stars. For the first few months I had trouble understanding what people were saying, but besides that the scenery was gorgeous and green, the beaches were beautiful but cold, and there were four seasons in one day.
As for the transition from Auckland, New Zealand to Manila, Philippines at age 16, this was not quite as easy. Firstly, I was going to attend a fancy private school for the first time in my life, where all the other kids had been attending since kindergarten and were all cliqued up. Thus, the new girl was not exactly welcomed with a smile. This may sound like a scene from television, but I totally spent my first week eating lunch in a bathroom stall. Thankfully, though, things started looking up when us new kids made the smart decision to befriend each other and create our own little clique. Secondly, not only was I making the switch from a first world country to a third world one, ironically I was shifting from living a very average life to a rather extravagant one thanks to my father getting hired by Chevron’s alternative energy sector to harness energy from the earth.
ND: That must have been a really substantial shake-up. I'm sure it came with some dramatic realizations, too. You were given a unique lens with which to see the world.
TM: The tremendous social and economic polarization of the Philippines really struck me and still does; there is the rich then there is the poor, and not much in between. The big picture would often sadden me, one of the world being a very unfair place. But then I’d visit the provinces where kids have near to nothing yet they run around with the biggest smiles on their faces, and I’d compare this to rich city kids who throw tantrums about parents not letting them buy a game app on their iPad, and suddenly I don’t feel so sorry for the “poor” but, rather, envious because they are so rich in happiness.
ND: I was literally just meditating on this the other day! How in some of the poorest countries, the smiles and laughs are plentiful. But here [in 1st world countries], everyone is so serious and so dispirited. Upset about everything and nothing. I find it rather absurd. I've found that exposure to certain things can be a detriment, especially for the person who faces the pressure of having to maintain a certain level of materialism.
TM: I’ve realized that there is abundance in simplicity, and the most enriching abundance has nothing to do with money or material possessions.
ND: It's true! I wish more people understood that. So what happened once you left Manila?
TM: After graduating from high school in the Philippines, I moved back to New Zealand to attend the University of Auckland. This only lasted a year because the gloomy weather depressed me, and I felt so distant from the rest of the world living on this tiny island at the bottom of the southern hemisphere. I spent the majority of that year exchanging stories with people from far off lands on MySpace—yup, 2005 MySpace was the sh*t. [laughs] Pretending I was elsewhere, and creating dreams of sun and the global expanse. Naturally, this led me back to California, but this time the big city of Los Angeles.
ND: How was it being back in Cali? Easy transition?
TM: To be honest, the first few years living here, all I did was wish I had chosen Manila instead of Los Angeles. But in recent years, I’ve very truly fallen in love with the place. California’s cultural and scenic diversity and year-round sunshine won my heart: from magical, mystic deserts to kind, giant redwoods; the weird towers of Watts to the strange vibes of Hollywood; the Dogtown hippie types of Venice to the realness of Skidrow; the ubiquitous raw vegan, Prius-driving yogi to the equally ubiquitous gangster; and on and on. [Los Angeles is] such a bizarre city and a huge one too, so much so that I’ve lived here for seven years and still have not experienced everything it has to offer.
ND: It's cool that you were able to open yourself up to the city. I feel like to do that, you have to be comfortable with you.
TM: Up until a couple years ago, whenever I moved or traveled, bags and boxes would remain unpacked because I was in denial of any one place as home. But now I know: California is home. I was born here and the landscape excites me, calls me, embraces me. The Philippines is my motherland and New Zealand is my fatherland. And, of course, the universe is my ultimate home.
ND: What kind of an impact did [the experience of existing in these different places] have on your life?
TM: If I could guess what impacts each country has had on me as a whole, I would say New Zealand planted the nature-loving seed in me, the Philippines taught me compassion and humility, and California has shown me that there’s no place like home. And a consequence of having lived in these three very disparate countries is me feeling very little racial, social, or economic prejudice. I guess I could say these travels and transitions have made it easier for me to embrace the concept of oneness.
ND: I like that— the concept of embracing oneness. And I think it's one of those mutually beneficial concepts, where one's travel experiences can help them embrace oneness, and embracing oneness can provide the foundation for enriching travel experiences.
TM: When traveling in oneness, you can never feel out of place because everyone is familiar and everyplace is home. You get along easily with new people because they are mere reflections of you. Superficial experiences may be new to you, but deep spiritual connections are ever present. The closer you get to oneness, the further you get from prejudice. We are not separate but one single, diverse, loving entity. We are each other, the earth, and the universe.
ND: You currently have a line of love-made, organic and energy-filled jewelry— I love my Pi(seas) bracelet by the way, and can't wait to buy more! But you're an artist, as well. I find you have a very clean and airy, yet grounded and worldly aesthetic. Spiritual, in a sense. How did your line, Alaïa Lux, come about?
TM: Jewelry-making is something that only recently entered my realm; one of my best friends from New Zealand came to visit in Spring of last year and kind of introduced me to it. I remember being really blazed one night, learning the ropes ever so slowly but surely. After that, my jewelry flow never really stopped, and I ended up with an Etsy store named harmonyKa. My 2012 revolved around many esoteric and earthly ideas that were very new to me. The more I unlearned, the more I learned, and the more open I became, the more I became a channel for the universe to flow through. Creative flows came in the form of poetry, spoken word, drawing, painting, and jewelry-making. Words, images, and designs would come to me in whole, very quickly, and I’d have to write them down or create them right away.
Last year I also stopped eating meat, revisited shrooms a few times with purer intentions, fostered a deeper connection with the earth, and became obsessed with the idea of one day completely simplifying my life to live off the earth in a small jungle/beach province with many animal friends and prismatic, handmade tribal jewelry not unlike the Maasai. All of these beautiful experiences from 2012 led me to closing my Etsy store, rebranding my creations, and creating my very own website inspired by peace, love, light, and Mama Nature. The name Alaïa Lux came about from two names I’d always adored and thought were aurally aesthetic together. I recently found out that Alaïa means joyful, happy, sublime, and Lux means light – intuition always seems to lead to perfection, doesn’t it?
ND: They don't say, "Trust your intuition" for nothing. [laughs] Speaking of intuition, I find that it's directly correlated to aesthetic. And travel can be both highly intuitive and aesthetically pleasing. Have your travels influenced your aesthetic at all?
Every miniscule experience I’ve had during my existence has fired off an inspiration in me some way, somehow, whether I am aware of it or not. So I can say all of my travels have influenced my aesthetic and always will.
ND: Has any one destination inspired you more than others?
TM: If I had to think of one trip in particular that has influenced my current mindset, it would be a five-day trip to a small fishing province in the Philippines called Pandan with some friends in January 2012. It was just us and nature. Many magical, mystical, miraculous happenings occurred during that trip, and I like to say that’s the one trip that really made me rediscover my connection to the earth and the beauty in all things and beings. It created a special peace in me and showed me a new all-embracing kind of love; it was truly humbling.
ND: Finding peace is amazing, and as you say: humbling. Something a lot of people are on the road to discovering. What I love and find interesting about your line of jewelry is that instead of labeling them 'pieces' with an ie you say 'peaces' with a ea. I think that's special.
TM: I call Alaïa Lux products ‘peaces’ because I think of them as just that: peace offerings, love offerings. My preference in materials is largely nature-based: beads made of wood, semi-precious stones, clay, bone, and just last week I started creating my own beads from seeds I picked straight off the tree!
ND: That's really cool. Nature is the originator of beauty, so why not borrow from it's splendor, you know?
TM: I would say nature in general is the one place that has inspired my aesthetic most. But even more inspiring than my physical journeys would be my psychedelic journeys and journeys within.
ND: Wow, yeah. Inner journeys often yield profound results. Talk to me about that.
TM: Well, as I learn more about myself and universal oneness, my creativity blossoms and I flow more easily in everything I do. The world of psychedelia shows me a spectrum of colors I never even knew existed, and self-discovery tells me about vibration and how certain things like stones or colors or how a thing is made can either raise or lower one’s vibration. I really like beads that act as prisms, as they kind of envelop everything I believe in: taking in light to reveal the universal spectrum.
ND: When you embark upon a journey, what is it you hope to get out of it? What's an Alaïa trip like?
TM: When I embark upon any journey, be it physical or spiritual, my hope for it these days is to deepen my compassion for all living things, further pave my way to becoming a better being, and channel new forms of creation through me. I used to travel to escape, but now I travel to absorb. But as much as I adore traveling, I'm learning that you can learn to love wherever you are. You can create new adventures in any place, even if you’ve lived there all your life.
ND: That's very true. I was just saying to someone the other day that even though I grew up in Philly, there is still a lot of unchartered territory, still places and spaces and things that surprise me.
TM: You are constantly changing so there is constantly a new experience awaiting you. I've a penchant for being a tourist in my hometown and acting like a local in foreign towns. Whenever I travel now, instead of my itinerary being filled with shopping, it’s much more likely filled with free activities such as nature tripping, connecting with people, or skating around new terrain.
ND: Having gone from NorCal to Auckland to Manila to Auckland to LA, what's next? What would be the next stop on your world tour?
TM: India for culture, color, curry, yoga. Jamaica and the southern states for the music and people. Peru for the Amazon and Machu Picchu.
ND: Machu Picchu is amazing.
TM: It's somewhere I’ve always dreamed of going.
ND: You definitely have to get to Machu Picchu at some point. To think that this group of people built this beautiful, structurally sound city in the rocks among the clouds, and its still standing with very little in the way of deterioration or ruin; it's just magical! Worth the trek.
TM: At one point I wanted to get a map of it tattooed on the sole of my foot as a reminder, but upon research I discovered that’s a stupid place to get a tattoo. [laughs]
ND: Yeah, you might've regretted that one. [laughs] What other places are on your radar?
TM: Brazil for the Amondawa, Kenya for the Maasai, South Cotabato for the T'Boli. All of the World Heritage Sites. Outerspace, infinity, and beyond.
ND: I suppose that brings us to the last question. What's your travel philosophy?
TM: UNITE SPACESHIP EARTH.