We had the good fortune of connecting with Ruth A. Muñiz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ruth A., have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
By the time I was 26, I had already buried a husband (at the age of 24 due to leukemia), and two children (one at 2 days old due to premature labor brought on from extreme spousal abuse during my pregnancy; and the other at 1 ½ years old due to murder). If there were ever times that I wholeheartedly desired to give up, these were some of them. And while I didn’t have a strong support system during these years of my life, I did still have two living children. I’m so extremely grateful to God that they gave my life purpose when I had absolutely none for myself.
I have a firm belief that the unique challenges faced throughout our lives sets the precedence for the level of inspiration and dedication that we might strive to achieve. But the choice we make to forge ahead, in spite of adversity, is the determining factor of success overall. And I am no exception to this.
I passionately and intentionally handcraft artisanal crystal jewelry. It’s my own personal art and muse to life. The tagline of my Universal Inspirations by Bazillionheir brand states so much in respect to my own inspiration and dedication to my craft:
BE INSPIRED. Be bold. Be creative. Be fearless in your pursuit to express yourself freely.
It’s become somewhat of a mantra for me when I veer off course, or step back into old paradigms that no longer serve me.
I never set out to start a business in the beginning. I did manage to effectively grieve the loss of my loved ones, when many years later, I found myself attempting to recover from emotional traumas pertaining to a couple of sexual assaults that occurred within close proximity of each other. This, unfortunately, retriggered even older childhood sexual abuses that I had mistakenly believed to have been laid to rest many years prior. With that, and the fact that I was also deep in the middle of a painful divorce due to my second husband’s physical abuse and infidelities, the metaphorical ground beneath me crumbled. I was desperate to find anything that might provide me a sense of balance, safety and peace of mind. When I created my first crystal necklace for myself, I never imagined a complete stranger could convince me to sell it to them directly off my neck, and for an unfounded price that they insisted on paying me. But that’s precisely how it happened. Taking that money and purchasing more materials, and then repeating the process multiple times over, my newfound passion-project managed to fund itself. But most importantly, it provided me a much-needed sense of healing and purpose.
It was probably about a year later that I began to recognize the actual potential of starting a business. It was a rough start for me, mostly because of a lack of confidence I had in my skill. And I silently questioned the process at every turn. But every failure delivered crucial lessons that allowed me to develop the courage to step out of self-imposed limitations. I uncovered my potential for greatness and discovered my voice. I fell in love with myself; found an appreciation of numerous, extraordinary traits I possessed; and developed an acceptance of personal vulnerabilities. I found inspiration everywhere. What I sought, was seeking me. With that, I became Bazillionheir.
As a mother, I know my children and grandchildren are always watching and observing how I maneuver throughout life. My daughter, Christine Ashley Cardona (a licensed Texas Real Estate Agent and mother to three children), and my son, Jason Jay Cardona, Jr. (a recent U.S. Navy veteran, now working towards a Civil Engineering degree, and with a child on the way) are both older and in their late twenties. They’ve stood witness to my progress. So, I’ve always strived to exhibit perseverance and unwavering strength—by example—in every instance possible. While I may have often faced setbacks or disappointment along the way, I have (at the very least) hoped to have shown them that these are not the marks of failure, but rather opportunities to learn and grow as individual people. I feel that witnessing the truth, my struggle and rise from the ashes, may serve to end unhealthy cycles that have plagued our family for generations. They are my legacy of unconditional love and hope. I want them to succeed in all that they pursue, and in doing so, understanding that it is so very necessary to stay strong and keep going at all cost. Crawl if you must, rest if at all necessary. But never, ever stop or give up.
I do often wonder what significant role I play in the community and in the world as a whole, especially in regard to my Universal Inspirations by Bazillionheir brand. I’ve had customers reach out to me time and again, sharing feedback about my craftsmanship, and stories of how my art made them feel, in one particular way or another. Or, how they felt the need to keep my pieces close to them for a sincere sense of balance, clarity, safety, or comfort. Their healing imposed a healing in me that inspired me further, so that I may reach outside of myself and connect with the world in ways I had never done before. This reciprocal exchange of positive energy has been undeniably evident in my journey, with my business and within myself. There was always a great deal of fear involved pertaining to risks I was or was not willing to take. Having faced so many obstacles, I would second-guess my thinking to the point of remaining stagnant in my actions. And then I would remember who I am.
I believe that trusting the process is what has played the greatest factor in leading me to believe in myself, to love and trust myself, to appreciate my capabilities, and to take calculated risks on my own efforts. Win or lose, my Universal Inspirations by Bazillionheir brand set out as a viable path to healing each of my past emotional traumas. And it has increasingly become my validation as to why I should never give up and to always keep moving ahead.
My general perspective on success is quantified by a sense of peace and calm reflected at my soul level at any given time, and in direct relation to how I view myself from within. I feel complete and whole when I am able to create and express my true, authentic self, especially after the difficult emotional energy spent struggling to remain headstrong when all I could think about was giving up. This is the existential definition of success to me.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
A great deal of focus and intention goes into every piece of jewelry I create. From the materials, to the tools, to the design and even the presentation—I pour my love and energy into each one. I cannot express enough about my love of the creation process from beginning to end. I work with copper (my favorite), sterling silver, brass, aluminum (sometimes, but rarely), crystals and minerals of all kind. I think it’s the sourcing and research into the scientific and metaphysical elements of the stones that get my creative juices flowing most. Everything is carefully and personally hand-selected by me. This passion of love is my art and it’s where I like to reflect on my soul’s essence. It’s not a goal of mine to ever mass produce pieces like other makers do. It really isn’t something that interests me at all. I enjoy when I am able to produce something unique for my customers. This is something which they’ve also expressed openly—their gratitude for owning a keepsake that they’re more personally connected to because of it being one of a kind. So that’s what I aim for whenever possible. I genuinely feel like a part of me is infused in every piece I make.
In the earlier stages of teaching myself this craft, I did so completely from instinct, without a single class to date. It was important for me to experience the materials on a personal level, manipulating their forms with the barest essentials, and on their terms. This is because of the genuine respect I have of nature, and the weathering of all its powerful elements and time. After honing and perfecting certain little techniques through a great deal of trial and error, I now find myself quite knowledgeable regarding creative technique; crystal and mineral characteristics and specifications, and their metaphysical applications for greater efficiency; increased workmanship; and overall quality.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Some of the things I would plan for me and my bestie visiting the city for a week? Oh, I gotcha, buddy! We’d start off with some shopping at Body Mind & Soul off of I-10 for crystals (cause all my really GOOD friends know what I’m passionate about and would tag along…even if only for my sake); then pop in for a fun aerial experience at Republic Aerial Yoga off of Houston Avenue; we’d go get our hands a bit dirty at Serenity Art Studios for a ceramic class; slip into Warren’s Inn (downtown) for stiff vodka martinis; assuming the season aligns well enough, we’d definitely have to go visit the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo; a day of fishing at the Texas City Dyke, Galveston, or Lake Livingston, and then return home to fry it all up; we’d HAVE to go to Woodrow’s for some spicy crawfish (because, again, all my true friends know what’s up); go eat at Nagoya Sushi or grab some oysters and a michelada at Captain Tom’s Seafood off of I-10 in Katy; they absolutely cannot leave Houston without a barbecue here at my home; go catch an Astros game at Minute Maid Park; we’d go visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science (cause I’ve also got to check out the crystals exhibit, again!); take a scenic walk along Allen Parkway with perfect views of the downtown skyline, where I used to go alone as a small child (not advised in this day and age, btw); check out Texas native plants and animals at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center; take a day trip for sun and swimming in Austin (Barton Springs Municipal Pool) and my favorite spot on the river in San Marcos; enjoy some of Houston’s nightlife bar hopping along Washington Avenue, in Midtown, several bars lining the streets of Downtown, the Eado area, Lola’s…we’ve gotta stop at Lola’s in the Montrose area, for sure; and then some local Blues music at The Big Easy and Emmit’s Place. Perhaps then take a nap several hours before their return flight leaves.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
It takes a village, apparently. Because I definitely would’ve given up and quit several times over if it weren’t for the following individuals that are quite deserving of a public shout out.
• First and foremost, I must acknowledge my children and grandchildren. They are all reflections of everything wonderful and good in this world that I have created. They are my legacy, after all. And I know I must have been the strangest enigma for them to witness during my ascension. So, their support and approval of my art and craft has been monumental for me.
• Ingrid Fay, for forcing me to put together my very first jewelry making class, and for all of the boxes of wine we had to consume together to effectively brainstorm my business plan when I was on the fence of investing in myself.
• Julie Dikoff, for challenging me to step outside of my comfort zones, helping me realize the quantitative value of my craft, and forcing me to recognize my value and worth overall.
• San Juana “Janie” Johnson, my sister, for always encouraging me to follow my dreams, being my greatest cheerleader, generating sales leads from heaven-only-knows-where, and being one of my best repeat customers.
• Tommie Jasso, for providing sincere love, encouragement, support, and a sense of balance whenever I came pretty damn close to faltering.
• Denise and Clyde at Body Mind and Soul (my local crystal and mineral dealer), for permitting me the opportunity to stock and showcase my handcrafted crystal jewelry in their store, and for their patient and gentle encouragement to follow my creative passions more fervently.
• Donna Layfield at Serenity Studios, for the opportunity to showcase my handcrafted crystal jewelry at the art studio on consignment (and eventual wholesale), for the bottomless bottles of red wine, regular artist profile allocations, and all of her love and support on my journey.
• Amanda Fields at Republic Aerial Yoga, for providing a safe space for me to center myself, for the opportunity to showcase my handcrafted crystal jewelry in the boutique, and her continual support.
• And finally, to ALL of my customers—local and international—that have shown a blind faith in my art and life, and their amazing, continual investments in me. They are the lifeline to what I do.
I have so much gratitude for the ability to pursue my passions of creation, and for the countless support I’ve received along this journey of expression. Every bit of it genuinely matters to me.
Other: Local Shopping –Serenity Studios – 1331 Yale Street, Houston, TX 77008 (832) 831-3156; Body Mind & Soul – 7951 Katy Freeway, Ste. N, Houston, TX 77024 (713) 993-0550; Republic Aerial Yoga – 1302 Houston Avenue, Ste. 600, Houston, TX 77007 (713) 851-2773; Fashion Recycler – 5807 Beverly Hill St. #5, Houston, TX 77057 (281) 995-7161 Email – Universal.Bazillionher@gmail.com