Hali Emminger is the New York native behind the stunning new Latin American-inspired jewelry line, Hechizo. See the curated collection of her work for Sister Golden here. V met Hali and got her first glimpse of her incredible work at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago last winter. You know that magical moment when you spot something that is just so GREAT in every way and you need to have it? Your heart rate picks up, your eyes narrow in focus, and you B-line-it straight to that great thing that you just HAVE to have. That was my mother through the throngs of handmade-hungry, puffy-winter-coat-wearing women (and men) in the fair. Luckily she cleared her head enough to learn a little bit about the jewelry and confirm that gnawing need to have it as part of our shop collection, and ultimately available to all of you. In all seriousness, we were blown away by the quality of the craftsmanship that Hali puts into creating each unique piece. All it takes is a look at the backside of any pendent to see and feel the care that is used in finishing each necklace or pair of earrings. Today we get to share a little more about the gal behind the workbench!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you? Where are you from? Where do you live now?
Hi Sister Golden! I’m an artist and designer of a ceramic-based accessories line called Hechizo. I work from a 100-year old Brooklyn brownstone studio that I’ve also called home for almost a decade. I’m originally from Buffalo, NY and went to school in Richmond, VA before moving to NYC. I worked in product development for six years before starting my line.
How did you start making jewelry and what lead you to hand painting ceramic, specifically?
I started making jewelry in my teens when I first started to work in clay. It began with beads and tiny painted ceramic components that I would solder and turn into little necklaces. I was very interested in Native American ceramic decorating techniques like using different slips and tools for burnishing as well as the intricate motifs and stories behind them. In college I took my first metal smithing class. From there I started to refine my ceramic production techniques and combine metal and ceramic in a more wearable way.
Is there meaning behind the name Hechizo?
Oh yes! Hechizo means a spell or magical charm in Spanish. The first time I saw the word written down I knew it was what I would call my line. I think the trend towards talismans (pendants worn for good luck or protection,) and even crystals worn for their different influences on a person, showcase a desire to incorporate more spirituality, intention and even magic into the everyday. I think people are hungry for meaning and intention in a world obsessed with materialism and convenience.
What helped you perfect your craft?
As with anything, I think that practice and exploration are the best for becoming really familiar with a material. I was always crafting, tinkering and melting things as a kid - that was just how I spent all my time. It really gave me a vocabulary for materials and confidence to push them. However, I wouldn’t say I’ve ‘perfected’ much! I have a long list of metal-smithing techniques I want to improve on. As far as being a small business owner I would say that selling live at events across the country and really listening to the feedback of customers, friends and family have helped me to refine my line.
What inspires the colors and shapes you use and create?
I am so inspired by Latin America and specifically Mexico – the color, textiles, history, the characters, the cuisine. When I think of Mexico I picture an electric pink building on a dusty brown street – I love the contrasts. Similarly, I think we adorn ourselves to stand out from the mundane, to make ourselves more special and alive. I also like to study costumes from traditions around the world (I used to want to be a costume designer!) The rhyme and reason to how people have adorned themselves through time and place are fascinating and unifying.
Is there something that needs to be happening (or not happening) around you in order for you to be totally “in the zone” while working? Ex: you have to be listening to music, etc.
Have to have music on in the studio. Lately it’s been mostly to 90’s R&B – I must be jonesing for summer! Blues and classic rock are my defaults for keeping a steady work pace.
When you’re not making, what can we find you doing?
I’m working on some opportunities for community partnerships with my line, namely, a non-for-profit arm that could support some components of the production process for myself and other local small businesses. I’m very much in the early stages but the process is exciting and a big reason I wanted to start my company in the first place. I’m also about to make a bunch of picture frames for some artwork my friend recently made for me since my Dad just got me a great little router I want to try out. Always be making!
Is there another art form you’ve always wanted to dabble in?
I’d love to learn more about large-scale metal casting. There was a foundry where I went to college and it’s such a fascinating, old-school process. Maybe someday!
Why do you think shopping small is so important? What sets your handcrafted pieces apart from what someone can buy at a department store?
I love this question! The first piece of nice jewelry I ever bought from myself was a mother of pearl corn maiden pendant carved by Zuni fetish carver Stuart Quandelacey in Sedona, AZ. The back is signed with his full name. This made a big impact on the way I viewed the idea of purchasing handmade work, just that simple signature. I love knowing the story of an artist or maker and that I have a little piece of that story. Its the narrative behind the handmade objects, clothing and accessories we find in smaller, more thoughtfully curated shops that creates the contrast against more disposable, fast-fashion purchases. I find that the people who are attracted to my work are interested in following and interacting with my business’ growth. It’s really such an empowering time to be a small business owner, with all the social media platforms and modes of sharing content. The world could stand a lot more thoughtfulness and less waste in most respects so I think the increasing popularity of the shop small movement is an encouraging sea change.
What’s your favorite place to grab a cup of coffee in New York?
I usually just french-press it at home but when I have computer work and need to get out of the house I head to Outpost in Clinton Hill. They have a great little backyard and serve wine as well so I just have friends meet me in the evening. It’s a good one stop spot!