May all neurologies be empowered to find their niche in the world.
By Baylie Nixon
This is my first public blog entry about being involved with autistic activism and culture, so I can only hope you all sincerely enjoy what I have to say. This entry is also about the jewelry I like to create, and how I enjoy selling it and using it to express myself and how that relates to autism.
Ever since I was a young teenager, I have found great joy in making all kinds of jewelry and learning new techniques. I started off with the humble knowledge of stringing beads onto wire, and then that progressed to more intricate pieces made of beads on wire chain. It began as a wonderful hobby to build confidence and creativity.
Coincidentally enough, it was around the same time I learned I like crafting jewelry that I also found out I am autistic. Although I was diagnosed when I was a toddler, I learned of my diagnosis when I was 13 years old. I distinctly remember hearing an advertisement on the radio for Autism Speaks when I was swimming outside. All the “warning signs” were described, but nothing else about autism was mentioned in the ad. I was confused; “What’s autism?” I thought. I asked my mother one day what autism is, and I got my answer and then some.
Ever since I became aware of my diagnosis, my life had changed for both better and for worse. I finally understood why I felt so different from everyone, but then I also started to feel alienated. During middle school, it was an isolating curse of which I wanted to be rid. But overtime, it became a personally valued symbol of diversity and identity. As my jewelry skills improved over the years, so did my desire to incorporate autism awareness and acceptance into said craft.
When the puzzle piece was not as controversial, I would gladly use real puzzle pieces in my jewelry and either wear them myself, or sell them to donate money to the Autism Society of America. Even though today there is discourse around the puzzle piece, I personally still enjoy it as it carries a different meaning to me than it does to others. This jewelry and their sales were used to help with my high school senior project, which involved the spread and advocacy for neurodiversity.
Upon starting college, I took my jewelry craft to a new level: I opened an Etsy shop in late 2012. I named the shop “Bao Treasures,” named after my Chinese name, given to me in Chinese class by my teacher, who christened me “ni bao (倪 宝).“ The funny thing is, “bao” in Chinese means several things, but in this case, it means treasure. Hence, I figured it’d be fun to name the shop something that’d be humorously redundant when translated. For the logo, it’s something of a rainbow bird. That bird is actually a mythical creature I imagined when I was in early high school, but for all intents and purposes, it’s just an odd looking bird.
Some of my first pieces for sale on Bao Treasures were these beautiful puzzle piece necklaces and little charms. The pendants especially were well received by the autism community, sometimes demand outpacing supply! Overtime, Bao Treasures became fairly well known for its autism awareness and acceptance merchandise. I had several different pieces not related to autism for sale, but it was almost always the puzzle or rainbow infinity jewelry that would sell.
In the middle of my college career, some friends and I ran a neurodiversity club on campus. We’d meet weekly to discuss related issues, bond, and examine how we can improve our activism. One way my jewelry skills came into play was through fundraising. There was an autism event happening in Portland, and we all wanted to go but needed the funds to do so. What we did is that we pitched the idea to a fundraising committee, and we were granted money to have a bake and craft sale. There were many delicious baked goods for sale, but I also had a wide array of jewelry to sell.
One kind of necklace I really enjoyed making was a Swarovski stim necklace; it has clay beads spaced out between Swarovski crystal beads in the autism awareness colors. They sold fairly well.
Toward the end of my college career, I had to take a hiatus from my jewelry shop; I wouldn’t be able to manage a business and full time school when I was so close to the finish line. But after graduating, I was able to set up a space at home in order to make jewelry again.
My skills in crafting have come a long way, from being able to make rolled paper beads, to using paint, clay, bezels, and resin to make small landscapes and other pictures to capture the beauty of detailed impressionism. Of course, these new skills would be used to create more jewelry which promotes neurodiversity and autism advocacy.
I entered a piece which utilized all those new skills into the DRLC and Art of Autism “Inclusion, Disability, Education and Acceptance” art contest. It’s the piece that is strung together rather than built with chain, and has a little schoolhouse as the pendant.
Although it did not win the contest, I was told it received good praise from the judges nonetheless. I am still very happy I got to enter this piece in order to contribute to autistic empowerment and culture, and I hope to have another opportunity to showcase my love of autistic activism and creativity. In the meantime, I’m excited to be a part of the Art of Autism community, and I’m hopeful to share my jewelry, paintings, and thoughts on this website.
My name is Baylie Nixon, I am 24 years old, and I am currently living with my family while I volunteer for an organization called Living Opportunities and study in post-bacc school. I am on the autism spectrum, diagnosed with Aspergers before the DSM V was published, and have been a strong advocate for autistic inclusion since I was a junior in high school. My activism really took off during senior year of high school when I did my senior project on neurodiversity, and then later in college I was in charge of a neurodiversity club for a year.
I recently graduated from Oregon State University with a BS in Pre-Clinical Lab Science, and I am currently enrolled in further education in order to be certified as a medical technologist. I have lived in Southern Oregon for half my life, while also having lived in Forest Grove to go to Pacific University for a couple years, spending another couple back home at Southern Oregon University, then finally finishing my bachelor’s in Corvallis. I am absolutely in love with the biomedical sciences, and am excited to put my knowledge and passion to good use.
I am also an Etsy jeweler, my shop is called “Bao Treasures,” and its logo is a rainbow bird. I have been making jewelry for roughly half my life. In the photo below, I am smiling in a selfie I recently took in Florence, Italy. Just over a month and half ago, I returned from a trip to Europe which was a graduation gift from my parents. I had a wonderful time, and visited many countries: The UK, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, and The Vatican. It was an incredible experience, especially since I am a polyglot who enjoyed speaking French, German, and even Chinese while interacting with such a broad diversity of people. Knowing that autism, particularly what was once called Asperger’s Syndrome, was discovered in Austria, I felt a very special connection to the land and its people when I visited.
The Alps are incredible, I spoke a lot of German with the locals, and I was overcome with a sense of awe that can be articulated as “Wow, so *this* is where we were discovered!” Because of the many things I learned and felt abroad, I have future goals with several of my autistic friends to lead an Autistic History Trip which involves travel to Moscow, Vienna, and London. I hope you all enjoy my story and my art, and may all neurologies be empowered to find their niche in the world.