Harmony Kingdom

The Harmony Kingdom Reference Guide
Noel Wiggins and Lisa Yashon

Also in 1989, two college mates from the U.S. formed their fledgling business, Harmony Ball Company. Noel and Lisa met in 1982 as freshmen at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. They both studied filmmaking and film theory, though Noel's emphasis was on the visual and Lisa's was on writing. They collaborated on many projects, including "Harmony Magazine," a satirical "politically incorrect" underground magazine which led to Noel's dismissal from the university for one year and a write-up in the New York Times.

After graduation Lisa and Noel temporarily went their separate ways. Lisa wrote for a newspaper in New England, while Noel worked as a motorcycle messenger in New York City. By 1988 Noel and Lisa decided it was time to take a break from their routines and embark on a new adventure. That October, Noel headed to Columbus, Ohio in his rusty Toyota Chinook camper to pick up his old friend. The two continued southward into the heart of Mexico with $1500, a couple changes of clothing, and the desire for adventure. They arrived in Patzcuaro, Mexico on November 1 during the holiday "El Dia De Los Muertos" (The Day of the Dead) and fell in love with the playful satirical "calaveras" made by Mexican artisans from clay, wood, paper mache, and sugar to commemorate the dead.

Spurred on by the kindness of the people and the intriguing folk art, Noel and Lisa travelled from region to region in Mexico. After a month, they had filled the camper with unique treasures from tiny villages throughout central and southern Mexico, and returned stateside to sell some of their finds in flea markets in and around New Orleans, Memphis, and Atlanta. At this time, Noel and Lisa decided to form a company, The Here After, which was to be a 24-hour coffee shop, movie house and purveyor of odd little trinkets from around the world. They also decided to repeat the trip the following year.

A year later, Noel and Lisa travelled to Taxco, the sterling silver capital of Mexico. Here they found a small handful of marble-sized chiming balls. On their trip home through the flea market circuit the balls were extremely popular, much more than the painted, fragile clay figurines had been the year before. They decided to have the craftspeople that made the chiming spheres enhance them with overlay designs of nature themes and attach bails so that they could be worn as pendants. Baby rattles, key chains, bracelets and earrings soon followed, and The Here After was officially incorporated in June 1991, dba The Harmony Ball Company. Business was so brisk that the coffee shop and movie house were left by the wayside. Instead the company's mission was to find unusual and creative trinkets and crafts from around the world to be sold in the U.S.


Noel moved from Brooklyn to Columbus in March 1991, and The Harmony Ball Company (HBC) office was set up. By 1992 HBC was a multi-million-dollar business that employed 400 Mexican artisans. The next HBC sensation, which came in 1993, was the Love Letter. These sterling silver cubes with letters and symbols were such a phenomenon that they were copied within a few months. Next came Birthstone Kids, but the same fate befell them. Jewellery was nearly impossible to copyright, so new items were constantly needed. Running a fast-growing business, innovating new products, and producing and marketing them quickly before they could be copied proved extremely challenging. At its height HBC offered over 3,000 jewellery items with pieces made throughout the U.S., Mexico, Thailand, Italy, and Germany. When Noel and Lisa met Martin in 1994, they were not yet 30 years old but felt almost like seasoned pros.

Today, the stateside headquarters of Harmony Kingdom is located in a turn-of-the-century warehouse listed on the National Historic Register in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

  Noel Wiggins and Lisa Yashon



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