Origins: Maas

On the night of November 2nd, 2020, my partner Josiah and I were bundled up together under a pile of blankets in a cozy hundred year-old house in wooded, rural Pennsylvania. As I tried my best to distract myself from the anxiety of the impending election, we brainstormed what I would call my still unnamed jewelry-business-project.

I tried to imagine a one-word name that would communicate my ethereal and naturalistic design sense, the delight that jewelry can spark, and the bonds that make us want to possess and gift jewelry in the first place. Hand-made Beauties, the name I’d used to sell jewelry since before I was ten, no longer felt quite right. I’d already used my favorite name, Chrysanthemum, on a different project. Delphinium, Lichen, Persephone, and Moss were favorites. For the interim, I'd been referring to the project as Morning Light, and unless a much better option presented itself, was reluctantly preparing to use it officially.

Yet Moss felt practically perfect. I love the mental image that single word evokes for me: a forest of massive gnarled trees with sunbeams streaming in, pale, gossamer soft moss glittered with dew draping elegantly over branches, and sturdier, darker, velvety patches of moss enfolding trunks and rocks and mushrooms on the forest floor. For me, the word is so evocative that given enough focus, I can feel myself into that place. There is a rich, crisp scent of leaves and pine. There’s a faint gurgle of a tiny stream, and a hum of wildlife. The air is crisp and cool, but the sun has heated some rocks, and it’s comfortable to sit and enjoy some quietude.

As I ambled through my picturesque mental image, narrating each new discovery aloud to Josiah, I repeated “moss,” until it barely felt like a word. How could its sound and texture be perfect, but the word itself not fit? Lost in thought, I glanced around and the little woods surrounding us that night caught at my attention. They lit for me hazy memories of the mountains in Colorado; tugging me toward daydreams about the affectionate tiny town where I spent the first four year of my life. I didn’t simply want to represent my jewelry in a name, but myself as well. 

My attention continued to wander and I noticed the faded images of house’s original owners accompanied by short biographies and the house’s own story. It had been passed down through the generations until there were no more children to care for it, and it was eventually sold. The old photos that lined the walls showed generations of a single family all enjoying the same place as their parent’s had. Snuggled up with the person I’d spent my entire adult life alongside and thinking about my childhood, I suddenly realized why moss sounded right.

Maas was my family’s name before it was changed to Morse upon immigrating to the United States in the 19th century. It is pronounced, “moss,” and so, serendipitously, my family’s name — my name — Maas — embodies the resonance of my childhood memories and connects me with my loved ones. Maas encourages my daydreams and helps me manage my distractions. My family tethers me to the just as beautiful, albeit messier, reality where I get to live among people who love me and and care for me and teach me. In short, Maas is, for me, what makes life feel meaningful.