Gold Leafed Rope Cuff
You may have mastered the fishtail braid and made a mean friendship bracelet back in the day, but there’s no way you’ve ever woven anything as impactful as this bracelet. Constructed from undyed rope that’s been painted with gold leaf, it's 2 ½ inches tall with an opening that’s about 7 ½ inches around. It’s a sort of natural statement piece—the type of granola-glam thing that will make people grab at your wrist. We love the nautical vibe it brings to a basic sundress and can’t wait to slip it on with chunky knits in a month or two. Each bracelet comes with a certificate of authenticity that is signed and numbered by the designer.
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Meet The Designer
For Tanya Aguiñiga, making jewelry wasn’t exactly the plan. The designer—who, growing up, crossed the border from Tijuana, Mexico, every day for 14 years to go to school—was originally focused on furniture. She studied at San Diego State and later RISD when she made the move to the U.S. for good. But as she got into soft materials—textiles, ropes, felts—she started to play around with making pieces you could wear, and, as it turns out, that came with a certain instant gratification that making things you could sit on does not. “It’s more immediate. With furniture stuff, it could take as long as a couple months to fine-tune something,” the L.A. resident explains. Plus, the feedback she got on her jewelry—especially the chunky bracelets woven from natural rope and hit with bursts of color—was a motivator. “People tend to get nostalgic. I don’t have a background in sailing, but people were automatically like, ‘Oh my god, this reminds me of Nantucket and things we used to make when I was a little kid at summer camp,” Tanya adds. “People have connections to the shape and the material that I don’t have, and it’s been pretty cool to connect with them on a level that I just didn’t anticipate.” aguinigadesign.com
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.Read More »
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.Read More »
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.”Read More »