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Behind The Scenes

Tanya Aguiniga’s Furniture Designs

Before Tanya Aguiñiga started crafting modernist wool-lace necklaces and big, fat rope bracelets, she dedicated all of her energies to the furniture realm, finding ways to improve upon the classic folding chair and make the most of regional yarns. Now she splits her time between the wearable and non-wearable. Here are five of the large-scale projects that make her most proud.“This is an installation called Furniture City that I did in 2009 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I found out that most of the furniture manufacturing in the U.S. was once done in the surrounding areas and felt immediately connected. I contacted all these Michigan furniture manufacturers and got them to donate some pieces, and then I had eight volunteers who either worked in the different factories or were designers for different furniture manufacturers who helped me felt them.” “The soft rocks! I made those pieces after a trip to Oaxaca. I traveled to all these different artisan areas and I stayed in this one village where I learned wool-dyeing techniques. That began my obsession with collecting all these yarns from different regions and yarns with different stories. Those rocks were a way to compile my collections.” “The women in Chiapas, Mexico, have to shear the sheep themselves, spin the yarn, and dye the yarn—so making yardage takes a super, super long time. I commissioned Mayan artisans to make the fabric on the tops of the stool, and the bottom are all made by me. In Chiapas, they make these little wool animals, and the shapes themselves are inspired by the leg parts of those animals.”“I had done these pieces for the boardroom of a children’s museum—the folding chair that no longer folds anymore because it’s felted. It becomes something soft and inviting, which is the opposite of what folding chairs usually are.” “That wall piece is 16 feet wide and ten feet high—it’s a big woven piece that I did with techniques I learned in Chiapas and it’s all made of homeless relief blankets from L.A. I got 350 of them at a thrift store.” Don’t miss out on the small-scale piece Tanya made for us: a big, fat, and amazing rope cuff painted with gold leaf.
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Tanya’s Four Sourcing Hot Spots

When you want to discover new materials or pick up new techniques, sometimes you’ve got to get out of town. And for Tanya Aguiñiga, who makes bold, pliable jewelry from her Los Angeles workshop, that means heading all over the globe: to her native Mexico, the Northeastern U.S., Alaska, and India. This is what appeals about each destination.  Bold rope for sale in ChiapasMexico“I grew up on the border, but I never traveled that much in Mexico—I never really had a sense of my Mexican identity. So in 2007, I started traveling to different places in Mexico, and Chiapas was one place I felt super, super attached to. It has the largest population of indigenous people in North America, and everybody works with their hands. There’s a really long textile history in that region, and so the colors and techniques are something that I was drawn to. Then in Oaxaca, there’s a lot of clay work. Every little town does a different type of technique.”Pelts at a shop in Alaska Alaska“Last time I was there, I bought a bunch of leather-working stuff. There are all these specialty gloves and needles and threads used to sew salmon skin that I’ve never seen in the lower 48.” Yarn by the pound in R.I.Rhode Island“I went to grad school in Rhode Island at RISD. Rhode Island has a huge textile history because that’s where the Industrial Revolution started in the U.S. as far as the big mills go. There’s a lot of leftover yarn from different factories all over Rhode Island. I go through boxes and buy yarn by the pound.” Block printing and dyes in India India“I visited one family that has done block printing for hundreds of years. They carve their own blocks and make these dyes that change colors when you boil them—it looks like everything’s been printed with a big printer, it’s so precise.” Score the piece Tanya constructed just for us: an awesome, oversize gold-leafed cuff.
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Tanya Aguiniga Has a Thing for Rope

When Tanya Aguiñiga started to explore jewelry-making, she didn’t dive into metals or stones. Instead, she was taken by soft materials that allow for lots of manipulation, both in terms of shape and color. “I’m really into scouting different types of rope and exploring how the dyes react to all of them,” the Cali designer explains. Here, she proves her infatuation with the material. You know, in case you don’t believe us. It doesn’t take jewels to make a statement piece: Check out the awesome gold-leafed cuff Tanya made for us. “This is called the Incredible Rope-Making Machine. It’s pretty awesome. It’s all hardwood. You put the yarn through the little notches on the wood paddle and pull it through the separator, and it twists everything into a rope.”“I found this in Rishikesh, which is at the base of the Himalayas. It’s the yoga capital of the world. But in the center of town, where people who live there go shopping, I ended up finding all this really amazing rope that was made out of recycled plastic—candy wrappers, chip wrappers, anything that is plastic and has color to it. I should have bought more of it, but I was traveling with a backpack for five weeks.” “I actually get this rope custom-made. I found a guy here in L.A. who has a rope company—they’ve been in business since 1962. It’s 100% cotton, which is easier to knit with. The kind I use on the cuffs has a synthetic core to help it maintain its shape.”
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