I first encountered Materia Lumina at the Echo Park Craft Fair a few years ago and was immediately hooked. Her all-white ceramic pieces radiated like a shimmering oasis amidst the madness. All white could sound boring, but take a closer look and you’ll discover a richness of texture and raw edges in every piece that feel totally organic and divine to the touch. Her work includes minimal, sophisticated dinnerware and ceremonial ceramics formed by hand.
The hands behind these sacred works of art belong to Eefje Theeuws. Every interaction I have with her is marked by a noticeable sense of peace and calm so it came as no surprise when I discovered she is also a modern Medicine Woman who practices energy healing.
The vast stillness and natural elements of the Mojave Desert provide the perfect backdrop for the important work she does. Eefje was kind enough to invite me into her stunning home there -- an original homesteaders cabin built in 1958 that also serves as her studio and sanctuary. We chatted over delicious chai tea and dates about her varied background in architecture and design and the journey that led her on a spiritual path to becoming an artist and healer.
You have such an interesting background in architecture, interior/landscape design, energy medicine and ceramics. Most people understand what design and ceramics are, but can you describe your role as a modern medicine woman for those who may not be familiar with energy healing?
Thank you. Yes, my background is quite layered. I have never been one to walk the beaten path! The term Medicine Woman is really an ancient indigenous role that was God-given to those in the village who displayed and were capable of offering spiritual and physical healing to their community. Many cultures around the world had their versions of this and these persons were the original doctors in the ancient world. Other related terms are Wisdomkeeper, Earthkeeper and Spiritual Healer, all of which have various nuances related to the specifics of their practice. For me, since my practice involves various energy medicine healing modalities, as well as yoga and meditation, I don’t really identify with any one specifically at this point in my life. But all of the above somehow apply to the various medicinal offerings that flow through me.
I wanted to explore life and work from a deeper and more meaningful place -- a more natural place.
I'm curious exactly how you got into energy medicine and ceramics. Can you share the journey that got you here?
Ever since I was little and growing up in Northern Belgium, I’ve always really been drawn to making elegant spaces and giving people beautiful and meaningful experiences through those spaces. Much of that for me has always had to do with the way natural materials are put together in a thoughtful way, so it’s no surprise to me that I ended up with a professional degree in Architecture, since this is very much about that. But there has also always been the Artist side of me that wanted to explore things from a slightly different perspective.
In my early architectural design years, although I was very fortunate to have worked with some truly talented architects and designers on wonderful projects, I somehow felt that, for me, there were important things missing in the world of contemporary architectural design at that time. It all felt a bit formal to me…too much focus on form and theory and too little focus on inner energy and spiritual connection. I realized that I wanted to explore life and work from a deeper and more meaningful place -- a more natural place -- so I started to look for ways that I could learn and practice that. As they crossed my path, I started to fold meditation, yoga and holistic healing work into my life as a way to access that deeper inner space and in that years-long exploration for this other way, energy medicine and ceramics both came to me in very natural and organic ways.
Over time, all of the spiritual practices I committed to have offered me a much more holistic, heart-centered and meaningful way of living and working in the world and after more than 14 years now, I’m happy to say that my entire foundation of life has been infused with a new, yet also very ancient set of creative and healing energies. I look at things very differently now, and know that the ceramic work and all of the design projects that emerge from this new place of Being are a direct reflection of all of the spiritual work. People talk a lot about new paradigm these days…I’d say that for me, committing to living a spiritual life in my 20’s was very much the start of a personal paradigm shift that I needed in order to find this new, more holistic and natural way of living and working in the world. It’s been a pretty different path than most choose, but for me, it was the only way. I’m grateful for all the beauty and clarity and positive power it has filled my life and work with.
Can you tell us about some of your most recent creations and what inspired them?
One of my most recent creations is a collection of new bowls and plates inspired by the Moon and its feminine energies. The series is called “ADOBE MOON” and comes from the perspective of the Mojave Desert, where I live and work these days. The texture of the pieces is reminiscent of the Moon’s craters and ancient adobe walls found in the desert, hence the name. The actual Moon and her moonbeams are very palpable where I live and so her spiritual energies are very present in my work. I decided to make a series of pieces dedicated to all of this.
One thing I love about your designs is that they have such unique texture. Can you describe your creative process as it typically unfolds, and is there anything you can share about your techniques?
Yes, I’ve always loved texture for its ability to communicate from a sensory, sensual and energetic place versus a rational and mental place. As modern human beings, many of us have become accustomed to industrial and mass-produced things in our lives, so having an experience with the natural textures and materials of the world can be a very healing and beautiful counter-balance to this.
On the topic of ceramic technique, there are various ones I employ but honestly, the main offering I can share for others interested in exploring creative expression in this way is to remain open and tuned into your very own experience in life. Life is so full of beautiful messages and messengers along the way and exploring these, exploring your own soul path, is so much more rewarding than any technique someone can show you. I am for the most part self-taught in ceramics and that is partially because it is very easy to learn since the clay itself will show you so much if you just spend time with it. Personally, I don’t look at what other artists and designers are doing, because I am interested in what wants to come through my own spiritual channel, not something that belongs to someone else’s journey. So my advice would be: just be mindful and pay attention to what shows up in your very own life and soul journey. Inspiration is everywhere.
Your home is spectacular and has such unique history. Can you briefly share the story behind it?
Oh my goodness, thank you! I love it very much too and although it took me 2+ years to find it, it was well worth the search and wait. The house is an original homesteaders cabin that was built in 1958 and is located at the end of an old California dirt road, tucked up into the Morongo Valley foothills. There was a government incentive at the time via the Bureau of Land Management that gave people 5-acre desert land parcels for free if they committed to building a habitable cabin on it and sending in a photo of the completed building. As long as you did that, the 5 acres were yours. So this house is one of those projects, although the original structure has been added onto and is now very comfortable and quite spacious. This home, which is also my studio, is perched on the eastern edge of the San Gorgonio Wilderness and faces San Jacinto mountain, the second tallest mountain in Southern California so it is on powerful land. There is wild and native territory pretty much all around me and I’m grateful each and every day for such a peaceful, sacred, serene and natural place to live and work.
What was your main inspiration behind the interior design? And do you have a favorite spot or element of the house?
My main objective with the house and any space I design these days, is for it to be really comfortable but also as natural as possible. I strive for a certain natural elegance inside that is a reflection of whomever I am designing for, but also a reflection of the land outside. The indoor-outdoor connection is one of my main focal points with my design work and especially in more wild and natural places, the land is often so rich with inspiration in terms of color and feel and general spirit of place. My favorite place to be these days, since it’s warmer again, is the pitched-roof back porch, which faces west into a beautiful and spacious canyon full of native plants and animals. In the desert, there is often a gentle breeze that comes through, so I often sit there while I work and listen to the birds chirping and the breezes coming through the trees.
What makes the desert so special to you?
This Mojave desert is special to me because this is where I did a lot of personal healing work and because the land here holds some very powerful and sacred ancient energies from the Native American tribes that lived here. The sun is strong and the winds can sometimes whip through, but the spaciousness and natural peacefulness to be communed with here in these valleys and hills are really special, especially if you are a creative person or someone who works with the land in some way. Coming to the desert was definitely about answering a Spirit call for me…nothing else…and although not without its challenges, it’s been one of the best and most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.
It's been a rough year for the world, and I think we could all use some energy healing. What's one of the most important things we can do to keep our energy healthy and positive?
The best thing I have found to keep body and mind energies healthy and positive is to have a daily spiritual practice. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, chi gong, breath-work and the like are all ancient healing technologies designed to clean and empower ourselves energetically so that we can be more clear and more available in our beings, our relationships and with the world around us. In addition to healthy food, good sleep and balanced relationships, a regular practice can really affect the well-being of not only our bodies and minds but also our general flow in life. A spiritual life isn’t always easy, but when one commits to doing the work on a regular basis, the positive results will surely come.
My most prized possession is:
In terms of the physical: this home and land.
In terms of the meta-physical: connection to the Divine.
The last book I read:
Soul Food: Stories to Nourish the Spirit and the Heart by Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman.
My best travel souvenir:
A feather that was gifted to me on top of a very sacred holy mountain in Peru. I wouldn’t really call it a souvenir, but it is definitely linked to my travels there.
I'm dying to visit:
Egypt, Japan and Africa
In those moments when peace permeates everything.