Autistic son inspires Fresno father's jewelry line
Chris Raley’s Northwest Fresno studio is covered with artwork.
Some features rock stars, others tv shows.
And some of it, serves as inspiration for his own pieces of art.
His material: wood.
It’s meant to be worn.
“I wanted to wear something to support my son,” says Raley.
His son, Matthew, has Autism on the severe end of the spectrum.
He’s non-verbal and also has Epilepsy.
The pendants, each feature a puzzle piece, a common symbol of Autism awareness.
“Everyone has an interpretation,” Raley says. “Every morning we wake up and our puzzle pieces are scattered everywhere. It’s a mess. Before we can end our day, before we finish what we’re doing, we need to put it all back together.”
He started making the jewelry five years ago, under the brand called “CR9Designs,” after not finding much Autism-related jewelry geared at both men and women.
“There was a void, and I thought ‘Why not give it a shot?’” He says.
The eight-year U.S. Air Force Veteran tackled the challenge by using his mechanics experience.
He uses a 3D cutter to shape and engrave his pieces.
He has sold thousands over the years.
He has a shop on the Etsy website.
He also sells at craft shows.
Recently, a Northwest Fresno shop called “Two Health Nutz” began carrying his pieces.
“His work and his heart are so pure and beautiful,” says store owner Karen Smith-Maroot. “We both have something in common. We both have people we love dearly with Autism.
She sold seven pieces in the first hour after he delivered his first batch.
“We called him immediately and said ‘I need 24 more!’”
The jewelry-making helps give him the ability to stay at home and care for Matthew.
Raley’s wife works as a teacher.
He’s available around the clock to care for the fifth-grader.
When he’s got orders to fill, he has Matthew play on a tablet or on a swing in the backyard.
“It’s hard to go more than 30 seconds without checking on him,” Raley says.
But the squeak of Matthew’s swingset gives him peace of mind—assuring him that Matthew is not having a seizure.
“I don’t oil that. That’s the sound of Matthew swinging. And if he’s swinging, things are okay,” he says.
“He’s really showing parents where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Smith-Maroot says.
Raley says the goal of his jewelry is to do more than create awareness.
“I want people to have conversation about Autism,” Raley says. “The goal is to have teachers, school districts and even first responders not only be aware of autism but understanding how to handle and educate and child like mine.”
To visit Raley's page, click here.
Raley will be selling his items in person Saturday, October 14th at Two Health Nutz, at 3585 W Beechwood #102, in Northwest Fresno.