Published Saturday, August 4, 2001
Whether it's night lights with an image of praying hands, or statuettes, crystals, books, paintings or music, tokens of spirituality are becoming hot commodities in the marketplace.
People are surrounding themselves at home, at work and in the car with reminders of their faith -- and perhaps with the thought they're not alone.
Christine Burkhardt hangs crystal ``rainbow makers'' in the windows of her Tamarac home and her office -- a massage therapy room at Down to Earth Holistic Health Center in Davie. She burns tea candles in cut pieces of stones and crystals.
``It's amazing the colors that come out,'' she says. ``I believe that each crystal has a different property you can learn from and use in daily life.''
Rose quartz is said to relate to love, clear quartz is for bringing clarity to one's life, amethyst is energizing. Burkhardt has them all, as well as angel paintings on her walls and a ``dream catcher'' over her bed, a Native American token believed to snare nightmares.
But it's not just a New Age trend. ``A growing number of Christians are wanting to express their faith to friends and families who come to their homes,'' says wholesale distributor Mark Stevens. ``They're purchasing more of these types of products as a visual _expression of their faith . . . a reminder right in front of you of God's promise for your life.''
Stevens sells home-accent products imprinted with inspirational verses -- lamps, candle holders, potpourri dishes, photo frames, kitchen accessories and art prints. His company, Oklahoma City-based Christian World, tailors products to prevailing trends.
Stevens, who supplies Christian retail store in South Florida, considers the recent surge in interest the most significant trend he's seen since starting his business 22 years ago as a 16-year-old.
The times and business practices have definitely influenced sales of spiritual products, agrees Paul Rose, who co-owns The Word Christian Bookstore in Miami with his wife, Lori. ``I think what you've seen is an increase of Madison Avenue-type things for the Christian world. Before, we just weren't aggressive in terms of getting the product out to the public. Now you see a lot of Christian material -- and this could be true for the Jewish faith as well -- is being put into secular stores like Wal-Mart, BJ's [Wholesale Club] and Publix.''
Jennifer Staats, who manages New Age Books and Things in Fort Lauderdale, wonders if purchasing trends reflect a fad or a deeply rooted spiritual commitment.
``People are very influenced by movies and TV shows. They see something and start buying before they really know what something is about.''
New Age sells the full gamut of products for different disciplines from Bibles and biblical interpretative works to feng shui crystals, incense and aromatic oils. But although Staats detects broad effects from increased visibility of spiritual practices, she also suggests that people everywhere may be feeling a greater need for spiritual support.
``There's a lot of homes right now where there's just one mom, taking the kids to preschool or school, going to work, picking them up, feeding them and getting them to bed. There's no time for herself, only time to wake up and do it again tomorrow. People are out there trying to raise their kids but not having any time to spend with their children. You get a little desperate. People are finding ways to deal with it, they just want strength.''
Burkhardt, 26, finds her crystals soothing. ``Stones, shells and rocks are kind of grounding, and each has a different meaning behind it.'' Raised a Catholic, the massage therapist says she now believes in a universal power that is within everyone.
``People are looking for things that will guide them and be there with them when they go through hell in their personal lives,'' says Staats.
Edith Spitz of Fort Lauderdale creates a product that helps New Age Books' customers and others relax and reflect on life's journey. Spitz decorates tiny bottles with wire, beads and charms, to be filled with natural essential oils, then corked and hung on a car's rear view mirror or in a sunny window, where the warmth helps release aromatic scents that soothe the soul and evoke memories of the past. Sales are booming.
``I'm much busier than I ever anticipated being,'' says Spitz. ``Your strongest memories are associated with smells -- different oils have different effects -- you pass by a favorite perfume from when you were growing up or something your mother used to wear, it stirs you, causes you to think back and gives you an emotional rush. Even major companies are getting into aromatherapy -- it's a huge business. Everybody has a favorite smell.''
Yet there may be a decline in the most traditional of religious decorative items. Halain Suarez, owner of H&S Religious Wholesale in Miami, reports a downturn in sales of his mainstay product, statues of adoration. He says that although immigration sustains a steady flow of business, he believes that most of his customers, Catholics in South Florida's Spanish communities, already have the statues they want for their homes. ``They're very faithful to their images and to their faith -- it's not like the food industry, once you fill the home with things, there's only so much you can sell.''
Suarez says he thinks that people are more interested in buying religious items as decorative items for the home instead of images for adoration. ``If they see something and it looks nice, they want to buy it.''
Trish Riley is a South Florida freelance writer.