New Oliver gallery highlights beauty and soothing quality of crystal
When you step into Exhale Art Gallery from Oliver’s Main Street, you’re overcome with a feeling of calm.
It may be the soft music, the soothing artwork and the serenity of owners Aaron and Laura Metz as they invite a visitor to sit down with them on beanbags in the back gallery room.
Aaron and Laura are convinced though that the calmness comes from the selenite crystal that Aaron uses in his artwork and Laura uses in an array of wellness products.
The couple opened the gallery on August 5, 2021, after selling their products online since 2014.
“It’s wonderful to see it online, but you have to feel it in person also,” said Laura. “It’s a whole other sensation when you’re in front of Aaron’s artwork, or with the selenite ice crystal as well, so we wanted to set up a brick and mortar so that people had a spot to come to and experience it in person.”
The two were born and raised in Kelowna, where Aaron ran Opus Art Supplies for 15 years until 2018. During that time, Aaron worked directly with art product manufacturers and learned about such products as eco-friendly, non-volatile resins, that he now uses extensively in his work.
After Aaron left Opus, the couple did a “family reset,” selling off possessions and downsizing before traveling to Mexico to live for six months. They lived at Lake Chapala, then Guadalajara before ending up in the beach and fishing town of La Peñita north of Puerto Vallarta.
They were drawn to Mexico in large part by the availability of selenite crystal, which has been preserved in the geological formations of northern Mexico and the southwest United States.
Aaron’s artworks are built in layers on wood panels, where they incorporate ground crystal, inks, and soy-based resin. The result is richly colourful, abstract works that convey depth and translucence. Some pieces are suggestive of powerful telescope views into distant galaxies.
Beyond the sheer beauty of the artworks, Aaron and Laura believe the crystal itself has powerful qualities that instill calmness and wellbeing. Aaron said his original artworks were smaller and helped people with sleeping issues.
“It puts out really extreme high amounts of negative ions, which helps give a serotonin boost and then helps to reduce anxiety,” explained Aaron. “It helps with sleeping patterns and digestion as well.”
Different materials vibrate at different frequencies, and gypsum crystal is one of the highest, he adds.
“That high vibration is what gives a lot of its purifying qualities,” he said. “They found it absorbing electromagnetics out of the air as well and converting that naturally into negative ions and re-releasing those.”
Hard-nosed scientists are often skeptical about the metaphysical properties of crystal, arguing that any benefits are due to a “placebo effect.”
But after hearing the testimonies of many people, Aaron and Laura found a lab in South Korea that tested the mineral for them.
“They showed us all the proof of what it’s doing,” Aaron said. “That’s where we decided to follow the signs and start doing as much as we can with this mineral because of its health benefits.”
He’s hopeful that in the future it can be purified enough to use for internal products such as toothpaste or calcium replacement for those who are lactose intolerant.
Indeed, there’s a long history of use of crystals from early peoples who wore it around their necks as a talisman, Laura points out.
“They felt the protection of higher frequency, angelic you could say,” she said. “Often those that were going into war or battle would carry selenite with them even back then.”
Cathedral windows in Spain used selenite glass panes, likely from nearby Morocco, another source of selenite crystal, she added.
The shop also carries a line of selenite-based wellness products including bath salts, face spray, and even a line of teas from Chaibaba Tea in Kelowna, blended on a slab of selenite ice by a woman appropriately named “Crystal.”
When the couple and their children returned to Canada from Mexico in 2019, they realized that Kelowna had outgrown them. They decided to settle in Oliver, finding it more like the Kelowna of their youths.
“It felt like where we grew up in Kelowna a bit in this area,” said Aaron. “We wanted our kids to experience and have the orchards and easy hiking.”
“I think it’s very unique,” said Laura. “There’s a pulse here that you can’t find anywhere else… We have been finding a lot of people that have the same feeling. There’s something here and I want to be part of it.”
The couple has reached out to the community through social media and word of mouth, and they’ve even found customers coming from Penticton and elsewhere to shop.
Even long-time Oliver residents are surprised when they walk into the gallery.
“It’s exciting, the feeling that people get when they walk in here,” Aaron said. “It’s kind of like at first, ‘What is this?’”
“It’s wonderful to see people’s faces light up,” added Laura.
Exhale Art Gallery
6365 Main Street
Story and photographs by Richard McGuire