Finding peace

Posted on 10 Jan 2008 at 10:03pm
By David Webb Staff Writer

Dallas artist creates Peace Compass in hopes of inspiring others to lead non-violent lives



Polly Gessell shows off her Peace Compass.

Dallas glass etching artist Polly Gessell is an advocate for peace not to be confused with being just a war protester.

To that end she has designed the Peace Compass, a silver dollar-sized metal medallion that is inscribed with words that she hopes will inspire people to search for peaceful solutions to conflicts in their everyday lives. Written in parallel circles surrounding the central message of “Peace,” the words come together on the medallion in what Gessell hopes will be a “fun, interesting” path to self-discovery.

The outer circle of the medallion which comes as a necklace, a bracelet with colorful beads, a dog tag and a coin to slip in a pocket or change purse reads, “Learn, Empathize, Pray, Trust, Create, Question, Share, Listen.”

Gessell said she hopes the words will lead the reader to deeper thought.

“Maybe they will find a word that will start them into a solution,” Gessell said. “It may not be a solution, but maybe it will be something that triggers a different path to take in their brains.”

If the medallion becomes a craze that spreads the way peace symbols did in the 1960s, nothing would make her happier, Gessell said. It was a soldier friend’s death in the early days of the Iraq War that inspired her to do something to promote peace but not necessarily as a protest against the war.

“It is a tool to find a sense of peace in one’s own daily life and then to carry that forward into the big arena,” Gessell said. “At least that’s how I view it.”

The path Gessell is on today is somewhat ironic, given that she was a college student in the 1960s. As a student at Southern Methodist University, she never joined the anti-war hippy movement that attracted many young Dallasites. She grew up in a conservative household in Iowa.

“I wasn’t a hippy, but I sure as hell am one now,” Gessell said. “You can’t lean more to the left than I do.”

Gessell said she doesn’t view the Peace Compass project as a moneymaking venture so much as she does a contribution to society. She is donating half of the proceeds of the sales to Dallas Peace Makers, a women’s organization with an international scope.

“Making money was never the intent,” Gessell said. “It’s just so we can become richer in other ways.”

The Peace Compass is currently being sold only at Ole Moon at 3016 Greenville Ave. The store’s owner, Rudi Riffkind, is a longtime friend of Gessell’s, and she has not marked up the items as is customary in retail shops.

“I just believe in everything she is trying to achieve in sending out those thoughts,” Riffkind said. “It’s something I wish I had done. I’m supporting everything I believe in.”

Riffkind called Gessell a “good, wonderful person.”

“We go a long way back,” Riffkind said. “She’s good-hearted, kind, together and talented. I can’t say enough good things about her.”

Gessell, who makes her living from her work as a glass etcher on windows and smaller decorative items, said she decided from the beginning that the Peace Compass had to be something that everyone could afford to buy. The prices on the different items range from $12 to $30.

She in turn praised Riffkind for providing space in her unique art gallery and gift shop to sell the products.

“She’s not making a penny,” Gessell said. “It’s all out of the goodness of her heart.”

Gessell said she is committed to making a success of the Peace Compass project.

“I made myself a promise when I started this that I wouldn’t let it die,” Gessell said. “It really has been fulfilling, and it’s not at the end yet. I don’t know where the end is.”

For information see gessellstudios.net or call the Ole Moon at 214-827-9921.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 11, 2008

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