For Eric Brief and Ksenia Avdulova, crystals aren’t just a trend.
We fell in love with the beautiful crystal grids that artistic and wellness duo Crystal Criminals create and were thrilled to find out that there was more to their artwork than what meets the eye. Check out our interview with these New York artists to find out how their commitment to ritual and beauty constantly engages them in the fullness of life.
How did Crystal Criminals come about?
Ksenia: Crystal Criminals is a product of our love of crystals and ritual. I have been into yoga, meditation and energy healing for years and crystals happen to be one of the tools I love using. The seeds for Crystal Criminals were planted after I swiped right and ended up on a date with a guy who loved crystals (hey, Eric!). Shortly after, we moved in together, and launched Crystal Criminals as an art project on Instagram (@crystalcriminals) on Valentine’s Day. Since then, it has turned into in-person workshops, a Society6 store, a product line, and an online course on using crystals to live a more intuitive and meaningful life.
Eric: I had always dreamed of going to the Tucson Gem and Mineral show in Arizona, and last winter I finally decided to book my ticket and just go. I was called to use crystals in my artwork. As an artist I have always loved mixed media and creating elevated works of art with mystical, energetic, and metaphysical enhancements. Whether through the use of sacred geometry or making shamanic tools, I have a deep desire to make work that impacts and inspires people at a level beyond the aesthetic.
When I returned from Tucson I started making crystal grids from the dozens of pounds of crystals I purchased. Even though I didn’t feel like the grids were ready to be seen, Ksenia started taking pictures of them. She talked me into starting an Instagram account so that people from all over the world could enjoy my creations. While I was considering it, she just started posting, and the account started getting incredible traction. That’s when I began to see, for the first time, how much of a demand the world has for crystal artwork!
Your crystal grids are obviously beautiful, but they no-doubt have a deeper meaning. Can you give some info to us crystal-newbies about what they are and how you make them?
Eric: The power of the grids comes from using individual crystals synergistically as well as the geometry of the placement of the crystals. I do this quite quickly because I’ve spent the time preparing and clearing my sacred workspace and materials. I’ve easily spent 100+ hours organizing the crystals that I collect solely for the purpose of making into grids and art. This prep work allows me to intuitively grab from thousands of different crystals in various shapes and sizes. To give you an example, I’ve got over 50 different sortings of clear quartz alone. I know each of the crystals intimately because I have already spent so much time choosing and organizing them.
These grids are energetic vortexes and portals. They all have a message and purpose that comes through in the caption of the photographs and are designed to benefit and empower all the people that look at them and work with them. Each grid is made by channeling. I rarely, if ever, know what I am going to make when I sit down. I have spent a couple of years diving deeply into sacred geometry and the flower of life so it’s only natural that my work contains triangles, circles, and the various ratios involving overlapping circles that resemble natural forms like cellular division, beehives, snowflakes, and other organic phenomena.
The foundation of any crystal grid is sacred geometry. Sacred geometry is the shapes, patterns, and visual expressions of the fundamental mathematical principles that serve as the building blocks for the universe and all life. There’s a reason why Pythagoras and ancient mathematicians had secret societies and considered certain numbers (like pi and the square root of two) to be holy and divine. You don’t need to have passed 10th grade algebra-trig to see that the same shapes show up everywhere around us, and don’t need to understand it to experience its benefits.
What lead you to consider selling prints of your grids?
Eric: As an artist, I considered selling my own art prints, but the nature of Crystal Criminals’ success made it a no-brainer. The reception of Crystal Criminals was absolutely shocking and fundamentally life-affirming for me personally. People started asking me to make them custom crystal grids, and it wasn’t long before we realized that the price points made higher-end crystal art inaccessible for a lot of people. We knew that we needed to just figure out a way that people could have the benefits of owning crystal art in their budget. Our shop on Society6 makes it possible!
Crystals and other “magical” objects/outlooks are trending right now, but what do you wish people knew about them beyond their current cultural relevance?
Eric: I’ve been very excited about the mass embracing of crystals by popular culture. Partly because they are so valuable as tools for mankind and partly because I have been laughed at a lot over the last 12 years when it comes to crystals. Co-workers, friends, and family have poked fun at my using crystals, but the truth is that crystals have tons of amazing applications in real life that I have leveraged to do everything from winning contests to achieving higher states of consciousness.
We have an online course called “Crystals IRL” that is all about the practical ways you can use crystals to upgrade your life in any area. It’s all about moving beyond the information you can read about on the internet and going deep into your own intuition and truth.
Ksenia, you also have a wellness blog called Breakfast Criminals: what does wellness mean to you? How does creating artful imagery add to that definition?
Ksenia: Just like Crystal Criminals, Breakfast Criminals started as a creative project on Instagram. It reflected my love for healthy eating and mindful living. I had hit rock bottom as I lost my dream job, my US visa and newly rented and decorated apartment. Oh, and I also got my heart broken at the same time.
So I was bringing myself back to life, piece by piece, morning by morning. To me, mornings became a portal that allowed me to make an empowering choice every single day, a choice to take it step by step and start my morning with a nourishing breakfast in a beautiful heart-shaped bowl. I had no idea that sharing my journey on social media would lead to a business, leading yoga and superfoods retreats around the world, award nominations, coverage from Vogue to Well+Good, partnerships with brands like Vitamix and Miu Miu and a cereal box cover (yup, I’m on Kashi GOLEAN cereal box at every store nationwide).
Today, wellness to me is living an intuitive life. Really listening to our bodies and honoring what they need. No wellness trends can make you feel better than listening to your internal guidance. What it takes is slowing down and taking a deep breath to actually be present with ourselves, so that we can hear that subtle voice inside.
That’s where crystals come in. Just like superfood matcha lattes and acai bowls, crystals and crystal grids are a physical object that can serve as a reminder to be more present on an energetic level. And if posting artful images on Instagram and selling our art on Society6 is what it takes for more people to be present, kind, and tuned-in humans… that’s what I’ll keep doing.
I saw that you recently started leading online workshops! What lead to this new venture?
E+K: People have been asking us so many crystal-related questions ever since we started posting on Instagram. So we dug deep into what our tribe wanted to know and answered the top questions and then some in our online Crystals IRL course. The growth of Crystal Criminals has moved us in the direction of making the practical power of crystals available to everyone through non-boring information and step-by-step rituals.
To each of you, what is the most undervalued virtue in our world?
Eric: I feel my purpose in this lifetime is to personally explore and be a conduit for people to have a direct and powerful experience with life beyond the five senses. It’s important for people to integrate and create powerful “spiritual” experiences outside ordinary reality because if life is only what you can touch, taste, see, hear, and smell then why bother? That’s depressing.
Ksenia: As an entrepreneur, a full-time blogger, a speaker, social media consultant, a teacher, and a podcast host…the only thing that keeps me in check is my commitment to being kind. Underneath all the ambition, all I could wish for is to bring a little kindness into the life of every person whose life I touch through personal interaction and my work across all platforms that I run (yup, there’s more than we mentioned in this interview ;).
Eric: She is the sweetest and most beautiful person in the world.
How do you incorporate rituals into your personal and professional lives?
Eric: It has been through diving deeply into Crystal Criminals that I have seen a shift in my life. I have a desire to create more ritual into everyday things from my morning latte (yup, crystals are part of my latte ritual) to starting my day at my desk or art desk. It is that moment of pause and contemplation that comes through little rituals and connecting with myself that elevate moments like starting my week, ending my day, or having a beautiful moment of connecting with Ksenia over a cacao ceremony. We essentially just are in love with ceremonies and we make them up all the time…like we did when we started growing oyster mushrooms and checking in on them every morning as soon as we wake up.
Ksenia: Yes to everything Eric said! Bringing ritual—simply said, an intention and full presence—to any activity, changes everything. Whether it’s making your breakfast or writing your to-do list, there’s magic in giving it your full presence.
If there’s one most important morning ritual I do every day, it’s setting an intention. Ask yourself: “How do I want to feel today?” Then say it out loud or write it down as an “I AM” statement. For example, mine today is “I am confident, I am beautiful, I am present, I am patient.” Then drink your morning drink (I’ve got recipes for you over on Breakfast Criminals) with that intention in your field of awareness.
Also, I carry crystals with me wherever I go. I remember during my first public speaking gig a few years ago, I did an experiment and did it once without a crystal in my pocket (I used citrine for confidence), and once with it. The difference in how I felt was tremendous. I always have a rose quartz nearby for moments when my heart feels tight, and pyrite to remind me “you got this, girl”.
For people who are just starting to get interested in crystals, what are the first steps they should take?
Eric: Dude! So cool. I feel like I can’t advise you to go about this any other way than through my own experience so I would say to just jump into the deep end as far as learning. There are so many resources and so much information out there, but my experience has taught me that the work I do with crystals one-on-one has provided me with the most value and growth. In the most simple terms I would recommend choosing a handful of crystals you LOVE, closing your eyes with them each individually, and sitting in silence or meditation while tuning into them.
With everything you read about crystals and the surrounding stories and practices, just hold on to the stuff that you resonate with and let go of the rest for now. Keep an open mind and be guided by your intuition. Meet some other crystal lovers and learn from them and share your experiences and passion. And if you want a more intimate introduction on bringing crystals into your life, definitely check out our course Crystals IRL!