Welcome to part three of our Handmade’s Tale feature which celebrates crafty and creative women. This week Natasha meets Mexicana-inspired jewellery maker Dani Spadevecchia.
It started with a vintage handbag. It was a beautiful black Italian raffia purse with a crocheted shell pattern, dark wood handle and decorative gold studs – and Dani Spadevecchia had to have it.
Despite agonising over the price, she decided it was an ‘ investment piece’ so snapped it up.
Soon she needed matching accessories for a special event. Nothing seemed right… until she bought some black rayon raffia and fashioned a pair of earrings with dark wood bead detail and the Cha Cha earring was born!
It wasn’t long before she had her own jewellery range Hey Muchachita! which she began selling at vintage fairs and markets and via her own Etsy store!
Today the Brighton-based collector is a self-employer jewellery designer/ maker. And when her hands aren’t tied up in raffia, she also works as a training co-ordinator for a child safeguarding agency.
Read on to discover how a girl from a mining town in the north of England developed a passion for Mexicana , the process involved in making each of her pieces and the new products she’s planning to roll out in future!
How did you first get interested in Mexican style?
It’s really difficult to pinpoint, but since I was a teen I’ve been fascinated with Mexican and Latino style, culture, music and dancing, which is quite unusual for a girl from a mining town in the north of England! After taking salsa dance lessons, I was really interested in the Mambo craze of the 1950s, and so my interest and passion for other music and style elements from the mid-century era grew.
My love of Mexican culture was more than justified after I travelled to the Pacific coast of Mexico on my honeymoon. I loved how aesthetically pleasing pretty much everything was – the traditional dress, food, artwork, architecture, and landscapes. Even the cemeteries were beautiful and bursting with colour. It really is such an inspiring place.
How did you come to be making your jewellery range?
I’m an avid collector of 1950’s raffia handbags, which started after I bought one bag in particular – a beautiful black Italian raffia bag with a crocheted shell pattern and dark wood handle with decorative gold studs. Some time later, I was looking for some accessories to match this bag for an event I had coming up, and was frustrated that nothing seemed quite right. So, I bought some black rayon raffia and made a pair of earrings for myself with dark wood bead detail. The Cha Cha earring was born!
When I purchased that black handbag, it was quite pricey and I remember beating myself up about spending so much money on it. I genuinely said to my now husband “it’s not just a bag, it’s an investment”, and it really did turn out to be just that.
Tell me about the process involved in making your pieces.
Should I really give away my secrets?! OK then…
For my earrings I use a combination of crochet and weave. The top parts of the earrings are always crocheted, and depending on the style the process for the lower parts vary. Most of my earrings consist of woven raffia around a hoop of some sort, and can be adorned with beading or stitched into. My new Maya earrings however are completely crocheted, meaning no glue is needed at all to construct the earring (apart from to attach the backs of course). I’m pretty proud of them!
I tend to work in a production line type style; for instance I’ll weave around large multiples of hoops, finish them with glue, and then whilst the glue is drying I’ll crochet the tops. By the time I’ve finished crocheting, the glue is dry and I can move on to finishing details like stitching, before constructing the earring. Et voila!
What materials do you use?
The predominant and reoccurring material used in every Hey Muchachita piece I make is rayon raffia. I adore it’s versatility; it’s as easy to work with as yarn, has a beautiful texture and lustre, and comes in a multitude of colours. My earrings are predominantly made from raffia, but I do use different materials when making brooches. For the western style brooches I embroider onto natural denim.
For some of my more Tiki style brooches, I use genuine vintage buttons. I love coming across vintage haberdashery at second hand shops, as simply finding a set of beautiful buttons or beads can inspire a completely new design.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I really enjoy selling my products at vintage fairs and events, as it is a great way to meet other like minded people, and I get to meet some of my lovely customers! I’m so grateful to the internet and social media for being a fantastic platform for small businesses to gain publicity, but it can be quite a daunting and isolating place. I’m really sociable and love interacting with people face to face, so it is nice to come out from behind the computer screen and meet my customers from time to time!
How has your technique evolved over time?
I wouldn’t say my technique has evolved as such, but I definitely have got neater and a lot quicker over time. I guess it’s like anything, the more you do something the better you become. It’s almost becoming muscle memory now, I’m sure I could make earrings in my sleep! Also, as my brand has become more well known and demand for my products has increased, I have had to adapt my production methods to keep up. Making large quantities of each element of the earring at once is definitely the way forward.
Any plans to branch out into other areas/ products besides jewellery?
I still have so much to explore within jewellery! At the moment I’m working on some ideas and designs for a range of bangles, which will hopefully be coming soon. I’ve had so many exciting ideas for necklaces and hair combs too, it’s just having the time to play whilst trying to keep my existing products in stock! I’d love to explore embroidery more, and have sketched up some ideas for purses and clutches. So watch this space!
What are your creative inspirations?
My ideas usually stem from me making products to match some of my favourite vintage pieces, like the handbag I mentioned earlier. Also, I own a beautiful vintage mauve wool jacket with gorgeous cream and brown western stitching, and initially designed my Lasso earrings to match this. I get so much inspiration from my customers however – I love it when I get a request for a custom order in a colour way I hadn’t initially thought would work, because more often than not they look great! When initially coming up with a new concept I tend to use colours that I like and that match my wardrobe, so having suggestions from my customers really helps me to think outside the box.
Were you always crafty/ creative as a youngster?
Absolutely! As a young girl I was obsessed with making and loved to watch the arty kids shows on TV. I saw potential in pretty much any bit of discarded string or card, and my poor parents couldn’t throw anything away without me trying to give it a new lease of life first. Also, I spent many a Sunday afternoon learning to knit with my Grandma. It was being able to knit that led to me being interested in and then learning how to crochet, so I guess Grandma Joyce has played a big part in Hey Muchachita’s set up!
Do you have a favourite piece you’ve created?
I really like the shape of my newest style, the Maya earrings. Personally, I love to wear mine as I feel they are bold and unique, and so eye-catching. I’ve had so many compliments whilst wearing them! But I also feel really fond and proud of my Fiesta earrings, which have proven to be my best sellers by far. I think the versatility of this style, with limitless colour ways and sizes, make them a really popular choice across my wide spectrum of customers.
Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?
What do you think of Dani’s handiwork? Let me know in the comments! x