We’re not saying that naming your line after yourself is a bad thing. We’re just noting that if you have an un-ironic DJ name you once used while spinning cheesy music from the eighties, that’s a pretty honeyed alternative. Meet Graciela Fuentes—formerly known as La Tirana, Spanish for “female tyrant”—who, even during her beat-droppin’ days, always knew she would be an artist. After earning a BFA from Word University in Texas, landing an MFA from NYU, and dabbling in photography and video production, she found herself drawn to more industrial vibe—one that recalls the backdrop of her hometown, Monterrey, Mexico. “It’s a bit of nostalgia for seeing these machines—you can look at them and see how they work. Looking at my iPhone, I have no idea how I’m even talking on it,” Graciela explains.
After a few years working primarily on computers with digital media arts, Graciela yearned to create something physical. One carved alabaster ring later, the creative spark caught fire, laying the groundwork for Tirana Jewelry. Her favorite part of her process: Sourcing antique pieces from flea markets the world over. Those scores, kept in a sacred drawer in her Williamsburg studio, are then molded and cast in recycled silver, gold, and bronze to be sculpted and soldered into brand new pieces—for a line that’s romantic, steampunk, and tough all at once. “I like the idea of a female tyrant because I don’t think it has a bad historic connotation like the male tyrant,” Graciela says. “A female tyrant is a little bit more of a woman in power, a woman that knows what she wants, a woman that can get her way.” —jackie varriano