Hali Emminger's jewelry line Hechizo caught our eye just a few days before our launch. We knew we had to have her and fortunately for us, Hali cranked away tons of gorgeous pieces that were camera ready. The ceramic pieces are earthy and natural yet make a bold statement. We chatted with Hali about how Hechizo came to form, her up upstate New York background, and what else she likes to do besides making fabulous jewelry.
Where are you originally from? Where do you live now?
I grew up in Buffalo, NY—the land of chicken wings, frustrated sports fans and snow. I went to high school and college in Richmond, VA, so I usually say I’m from both. I’m a Northeasterner at heart with a soft spot for southern drawls. I’ve called Brooklyn my home for the last 7 years.
How did you come up with the name “Hechizo” for your jewelry brand? What does this word represent?
I first heard the word hechizo when I was in the Yucatan; it was translated to me as “a spell or a magical charm”. I think it’s a bit of a niche word that some speakers associate a synonym of “handmade” or even “makeshift”, since it’s a derivative of the Spanish verb hacer or “to make”.
Since accessories are a form of costume essentially used to make the self more extraordinary and intriguing, I think they are a form of magic in a very real way. The art I create outside of Hechizo looks at wearable pieces as shrouds for identity and my jewelry making is an extension of that idea. Also, my initials are H.E., so it was a pretty nice fit!
As for the nod to Spanish language and culture, it was definitely intentional; I am very inspired by Spain, specifically flamenco, and all things Mayan. There’s a tragic dichotomy there obviously, but they’re both amazing cultures that I appreciate immensely. Exploring Spain, Mexico and Guatemala in person over the years has also made a real impression on my work.
Your pieces are so meticulously crafted—how do you go about producing such detailed work? What is your creative process like? What tools do you use?
Why, thank you! I do utilize sketches because new ideas come to me all the time; I always carry around a little Moleskine to jot down all the inspirations that come, but I also try to allot time with the clay in the forming stage to see what shapes emerge. I love kinetic sculpture, so the relationship between the movements of jewelry in relation to the overall form is the most appealing part of the process for me.
For Hechizo, my go-to toolkit consists of hand-forming ceramic tools, colored glazes, my jewelry kiln, basic metalsmith tools and a big collection of jewelry pliers.
What raw materials do you use? What are your favorite materials to work with and why?
For me, it’s all about working in ceramic. Being malleable, clay has a vulnerable quality that showcases other materials in an interesting and neutral way. There’s an inherent earthiness and essence of the human hand in clay objects, especially terra cotta. I like that my designs are tightly married to those references. The surface decoration is also an important feature, so I tend to fuss over my painting application. I’ve perfected odd brush-holding techniques throughout the years and I always go coffee-free on painting days to keep a steady hand.
Where do you produce these pieces? Is there anything specific in your workspace that keeps you motivated and creative?
I have a few work areas around the house. I package pieces for shipment in one space and recently set up a studio in a separate room. It’s a very new space for me so I’m still getting things all set up and efficient, but I’m excited for it! The studio has a door to the backyard so I get to hear birds chirping and squirrels chasing each other around our giant pear tree all day. It’s basically awesome and pleasant!
I share the space with my good friend and roommate, Rachel Rader, who is an exhibiting fine artist working a lot with glass and metals. Her pieces are wondrous and complex so we’re constantly in each other’s business talking about work. It’s really nice to have a trustworthy aesthetic eye close by to bounce ideas off of.
What inspires you most when making your jewelry? Are you inspired by aesthetics or concept—or both? Do other jewelry makers or artists inspire the pieces you create?
The first inspiration I had as a child (and still have to this day) is the crafts, textiles and traditions of Native American tribes in the US and Canada. I think those aesthetic references are obviously present in my choice of materials. A lot of the names of my designs come from old native southwest towns, and many of the motifs have been designed as kinds of crests for those forgotten places and their stories.
I love making sculpture so I keep materials like fabric, sequins, paper and other textiles nearby for reference.
As far as other creators, samplings of those who inspire me are Sheila Hicks—the queen bee of textile—and my Grandma Rita for passing on a tradition of serious handicraft.
Besides making jewelry, what other creative/artistic things do you do? Name three other interests you have.
I worked in product development for six years, designing creative projects, kits and classes in both fine and hobby arts. I have a sister company where I develop products for creative companies and events. I enjoy working within different industries and find it nice to tackle more social projects after spending long days in the studio.
I really like power tools and home repair. It’s a bit of a bummer still being a renter and not being able to justify re-tiling my bathroom! Outfitting the studio with custom wall-to-wall shelving and bench space was fun for me (insert Tim the Toolman Taylor man-sound).
Also Pinterest. Oh, Pinterest...
Please stop by Hali's work on Straw and Gold