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Designer interview

Gabriela Artigas

Gabriela Artigas

Gabriela Artigas is a fine jewellery line designed and made in Los Angeles. Run by the Artigas sisters, Teresita and Gabriela, who find joy in the small details of everyday life and in their surroundings of many socially diverse and vibrant cultures. With their strong sense of compassion, humor and humanity, the Mexican siblings’ jewellery and business practice are based on core values of collaboration, integrity and love. Gabi, the designer, is the dreamy one, and Tere, the sales director, her energetic and passionate counterpart who enjoys the experience of helping someone find a piece they truly love.

What are your backgrounds and how did the brand start?
Tere: Gabriella and I are sisters, and we run the brand together. Gabi started the company a long time ago, mostly as a project when she was in college. She has always had a strong sense of aesthetics and design. At the time, I was living in Mexico working in grief counseling, and she was here in Los Angeles. In 2008, I moved here, and we partnered up. That is the very short version of the story. Today, we are all-hands-on-deck; whatever needs to be done, we do it regardless of roles. That being said, I am mostly in charge of sales, retail, wholesale, customer service, branding. And then Gabi is in charge of design and product, which she can tell you more about.
Gabi: We come from a creative family, and we are all very close. As long back as I can remember, I always wanted to be in design, but I was never sure what kind of design. I initially thought I wanted to be in fashion. Jewellery design was more of a surprise though, and we didn’t go into this knowing the path. It was an experiment. From finding our jewellers to doing ear cuffs, it was all very intuitive. For both of us, that’s what keeps us driven every single day. We have discovered things that we had never thought possible. There was never a business plan. It has always been this really beautiful exercise of discovery, which has also taken some of the pressure away. We are in love with what we do.

It sounds like a nice way of working, also on a daily basis. That there’s not this business plan, pressure, it seems very organic?
G: The pressure comes mostly from our ambitions for quality of the product and the stores. But that is a pressure we have put on ourselves. What we decided to create with jewellery is a self-taught love. And, I do say this all the time, we love our jewellers. They are very special pieces of the puzzle and we have been working with them for many years. They make our dreams come true. The company has been growing year by year, and every piece that we design has a connection to the piece before. There is always a story.
T: To sum up, we are two sisters, born and raised in Mexico City, now living in Los Angeles. We both love interior design, and basically any other art form; ballet, food, music… and we try to surround ourselves with things that fulfill the mind and the soul. We try to translate that notion into our jewellery. Everything has a reason and a story. One of our core values is how we relate to our customers; we want to create relationships with our customers through the pieces. We always handwrite letters with our orders, as a way of saying thank you for your love and support for our pieces, and to connect with people. Our jewellers, our photographer, our web developer, everyone is a key piece in the puzzle that we have been building for more than 10 years.

"It goes beyond my understanding, but when I look at a piece of jewellery, it brings me joy."

How would you describe your design aesthetics?
G: We are really into architecture and mid-century specifically, with a very clean, modern and simple aesthetic. This translates into our jewellery. For us, it is about timeless pieces, and an extension of our hearts. It is about shapes, and it is very visual for us. When you leave one of our rings on a table, it looks beautiful on the inside and on the outside. A piece needs to be polished from every single angle. It should be beautiful from every angle. It is basically little sculptures.

I really like the idea that it is beautiful both on the inside and on the outside. We have such a personal relationship with our jewellery, so when I wear something, it is also for myself. The fact that it looks beautiful on the inside too, I think is a testament to that idea of me wearing something not only for the way it looks to someone else. Now that you mentioned mid-century architecture, do you have other influences like that?
T: Mid-century is one of our main influences. We live in Los Angeles, and there’s a huge influence from mid-century, and Mexico City, where we are from, is also hugely influenced by mid-century and brutalism. Our pieces are not as heavy, but it could speak to brutalism with its arches. A very important part of the piece is the weight. When you pick it up, it has to feel solid. But every single element that goes into the piece is important, the chain, the clasp. In the same way that our company is composed of many pieces, so is a piece of jewellery. There’s a lot of symmetry in our pieces, which is also important to us. Our pieces are supposed to look non-chaotic, pristine and sharp. 
G: Talking about other influences, in general, it is beauty. It is all part of the same realm. We like things to be clean and precise. Flowers, food, wine, art, it is all part of what makes you who you are.

Looking at your jewellery, it feels like it can blend into anyone’s aesthetic in a way. It suits many different people, beauties and aesthetics?
T: We believe that we have a very clear aesthetic, but also that our pieces are simple enough for anyone to wear. They are very easy to play with. We have very young customers, and we have an old clientele too. It is amazing to see how a 15-year-old can wear the same piece as an 80-year-old. It is a beautiful piece by itself, but it all really depends on who is wearing it and how they wear it. All we want is for you to feel that tick. Whether you see a beautiful dance, listen to beautiful prose, or you try a delicious wine, there is always something that makes you tick, and that’s what we are trying to accomplish with what we do. It is a blend of everything. I adore Nordic interior design, but I also love Japanese, and I love Mexican. Everything.

Tell me about your jewellers, they are all located in Los Angeles, right?
T: Yes, we have been working with the same guys for 10 years. We know their families, they call Gabi when they have problems or to ask for advice, so it is a beautiful relationship. It started as work, but it became very personal, and we are so appreciative of them, because they make it work. The company wouldn’t work without them.

 

What is the meaning and role of jewellery to you but also in genera? What is your perception of how and why we wear jewellery?
G: When it is made out of gold for example, which is a precious metal that has existed and been in use for thousands of years, there’s something so pure, unique and raw about it. I believe it is a craft that has so much weight to humanity. Ancient peoples, it was a thing for them too. On a personal level, I haven’t really discovered what it is precisely about the feeling, but it is beautiful to wear jewellery. It goes beyond my understanding, but when I look at a piece of jewellery, it brings me joy. It is an emotion that is hard to explain. We truly fall in love with our pieces.

I recognize that feeling from wearing the same every day, and it does bring me joy. It is a joyful experience.
T: It has such a powerful impact. Like Gabi was saying, the Egyptians, Mexicans, jewellery was always such an important part of beauty. Regardless of who you are, the occasion and budget, it brings you joy to wear a beautiful piece. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you are wearing an element from Mother Earth close to your body. I get what Gabi is saying, but it is hard to explain why. On a more personal level, it feels like little sculptures. Visually, I adore metal sculptures, ceramics, anything I can put on surfaces. Same goes for jewellery, I appreciate the refraction and the reflection.

It makes perfect sense, even though it’s impossible to explain!
G: It goes beyond. It doesn’t have to be from anyone. It goes beyond the value of the piece. It’s that thing.

Even though jewellery is such a traditional gift, and even though when I look at my jewellery and it was a gift from someone, it has a beautiful story, the pieces that I’ve bought for myself brings me as much joy.
G: Entering any jewellery store, there’s something very special.

I think especially when it’s made out of precious metals and stones, it comes from the earth, it lasts for such a long time, it makes it special.
T: But even, and I remember this from growing up in Mexico, where the jewellery is very recognisable, we would go to Guatemala and to see all these beaded necklaces and earrings, and there’s such a beauty in that craft too. Regardless of what country the jewellery is from, it will tell you the story about its people and its culture. It’s like that with jewellery, everything has a beautiful story and a special meaning.  

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