Meet your merchant: Owners of Shiva Moon in Nevada City bring an impressive global sampling of ethnic arts to the foothills | TheUnion.com

Meet your merchant: Owners of Shiva Moon in Nevada City bring an impressive global sampling of ethnic arts to the foothills

Simone Schwinn owns Shiva Moon in Nevada City with her husband, Jaga.

Simone and Jaga Schwinn are true world travelers, and the impressive and colorful inventory inside their Nevada City store, Shiva Moon, is proof.

True connoisseurs of ethnic and indigenous or "first people's" arts, most items have been hand-picked by the husband-wife team during one of three buying trips the couple takes every year.

"Many of the artists have become like family to us — over the years we've developed personal relationships," said Simone. "We spend hours drinking tea and catching up before we even get to the buying."

Simone and her family moved to a small town in New Mexico when she was 9, after living in both New Zealand and Australia. By age of 19, she had caught the traveling bug and began exploring the likes of Bali and Thailand, in addition to studying Mayan culture in Tulum, Mexico, through her studies at Evergreen State College. By the age of 21 she began taking six-month trips to India.

Twelve years ago, Simone met Jaga, a Sonoma native, at a Rainbow Gathering in Colorado. The two discovered they shared a passion for travel and ethnic arts — especially tribal jewelry, textiles, carvings and statuary works of art. Jaga had studied silversmithing in India, and soon the two began traveling together, buying up treasures and stashing them in their backpacks. When they returned to the U.S., they'd sell their wares at festivals around the country.

Eight years ago, the couple moved to Nevada County and began selling goods at Summer Nights, Victorian Christmas and the seasonal craft fairs at the Miners Foundry in Nevada City. Three years later, they opened a small store, Shiva Moon, on Neal Street in Grass Valley.

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"It was a very small space," said Simone. "We decided, 'If this works, we'll get a bigger shop.'"

It did, and they did — just eight months later.

Five years ago in May, Shiva Moon relocated to a spacious 1850s building — and old saddlery — at the bottom of Commercial and Main streets in Nevada City, where the two roads intersect with Coyote Street. The square footage finally enabled the Schwinn's to properly showcase all they had to offer.

Most items are "ethnically produced" by artisans who are paid fair wages, said Simone, many of whom are members of small organizations designed to empower women.

"Each piece is hand-picked," said Simone. "They represent the real culture of a specific place. We're rarely interested in new pieces unless they're made in the spirit of traditional craftsmanship."

A sampling includes hand-sewn and embroidered leather bags and indigo dyed fabric from the Tuareg people of North Africa, hand blocked prints from the border of Pakistan, vintage sari borders from India, Huichol beadwork from the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, batik from Bali and Día de Muertos figurines from Oaxaca. Jaga, who designs jewelry, has an impressive display of his own work, which includes rings with natural panned Yuba gold set into silver settings. Supplies for crafters are also available, such as beads, bells, buttons and hand-embroidered trim and edging.

"We have an extremely well-traveled population in our area," said Simone. "They bring their worldly aesthetic into the store, and occasionally we buy things from people who have travelled. We love the fact that there is always a story behind each item. We spend a lot of time researching the cultural significance of things."

Tucked in the back of the store is a large shelf that is not to be missed. An impressive ethnic doll collection includes more than 400 traditionally dressed, handmade figures from the far reaches of the planet, such as central Asia's Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Egypt, Tanzania, Morocco and Kenya.

"We encourage people to come in and appreciate the traditional craftsmanship," said Simone. "It's OK to touch, feel and smell items from all over the world. It helps us to remember our collective humanity."

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.

Shiva Moon

206 Main St., Nevada City

530-264-7377

Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon. through Thurs.

11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday

Noon to 5 p.m., Sundays

No website