Originally published in the Bennington Banner on August 10, 2017

WEST PAWLET — Amid half-a-million feminists donning pink hats, local designer Christine Glade heard a call to action.

While attending January’s Women’s March on Washington, the typically apolitical artist was moved and energized by the protest, which brought thousands to the street worldwide following the inauguration of President Trump.

“This year, I felt that there was a lot that women had to protect and promote with the new administration,” said Glade. “I couldn’t help but think that every woman out there deserved a medal.”

The concept was one Glade had pondered in the past, but struggled to formulate fully. Equipped with a renewed sense of urgency following the Women’s March, the concept that had been fomenting internally began to take shape.

“It’s always been in the back of my mind that everything a woman does, she has to do while juggling 65 other things at the same time,” said Glade, citing the struggles of primary parenthood, sexual discrimination, and bodily autonomy. “I created XIZOZU so women could honor every part of their complicated journeys.”

The new line of jewelry (pronounced Sh -Z -Z ), honors the complex narrative within every woman; encapsulating both tragedy and triumph.

“It’s often the hardships and challenges we surmount that have the most lasting impacts, that change us the most,” said Glade. “It’s important to honor that journey, however complicated it is, and do so in a way that accepts, and in a sense releases, it.”

Glade describes the pieces as medals of honor, intended to empower women to publicly commemorate all of aspects of their experiences — from life events that are magical, like buying one’s own home or starting a business, to some that are unthinkably tragic, like experiencing sexual assault.

“I have in my past things that I’ve had to overcome or achieve, and those experiences have gone so far into making me the woman I am today,” said Glade. “Larger than my own obstacles or goals, it was those women who have faced so much hardship, and still managed to become irrepressible.”

Glade’s XIZOZU medals are designed to let women embrace their experiences publicly, while keeping their meaning private and close to their heart.

“XIZOZU are not monuments to horrible times or damaging events; they are testaments to the wearer’s emotional and physical strength,” said Glade. “They celebrate the triumph in overcoming, or living through, a life-altering tragedy.

Each of the almost 200 different pendants contains a coded inscription in a written language that Glade designed, encapsulated in hand-poured resin. Each design aims to give the wearer a totem for strength and a constant reminder of their own resilience.

“There are women who have gone through such difficult times and unspeakable situations that getting out of bed each day is a victory,” said Glade. “Now, they have a medal.”

Locally, Glade has found that her designs hold a powerful resonance for many women.

“Early on I gave one to a friend, and got a call from one of her friends not too long after. That was my first indication that there was something here,” said Glade. “It was really powerful that women in rural Vermont want to be able to express these different aspects of their lives. Once I started to get orders from places like Germany, I realized that it’s really universal.”

Though Glade has found focus in the female experience, two of the designers early sales were made to men.

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” said Glade. “Both hardship and hard-earned achievements are part of everyone’s life journey.”

For more information, visit http://www.xizozu.com/.

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