“I’ve learned is that it’s my job to keep myself inspired – even in the moments where I’ve been feeling completely uninspired.” – Tarina Tarantino
I’ve been a long time fan of designer, Tarina Tarantino (no relation to Quentin, in case you ever wondered). Her work is the ultimate in my kind of sparkly style – ultra bright colors trimmed in crystals, offset with cheery sugar skulls. She has a way to make goth very girly and chic. I’ve admired her pieces on A-list celebrities as they walk the red carpet, and I let out a sigh of dreaminess when I’ve visited her boutique in Los Angeles. Not to mention her Tarina Tarantino blow dryer, Tarina Tarantino Barbie Doll, the beauty line! Geez, how does she do it all, I often wondered. Even though she seemed far up and away from me and my little craft studio here in Phoenix, AZ, I always felt like we could be sparkly sisterfriends.
But if there is one thing I learned from working thirteen years as a newspaper reporter – it never hurts to ask for an interview as long as you have a good angle. So when the book, The Sparkle Factory: The Design and Craft of Tarina’s Fashion and Jewelry Accessories, By Tarina Tarantino ($23, Running Press, 272 pages, paperback) arrived in my mailbox, the first thing I did was request an interview. Within a few days there I was, sitting in front of my computer on a Google Hangout with Tarina herself!
This proves how much of a down-to-Earth chica she is. Very easy going, she loves to craft like crazy She’s a mom, a wifey and – breaking news…she is 1/4 Latina too! She made me feel so happy and comfy chatting about her book that I worked up the courage to invite her to film a DIY video with me when I was at YouTubeSpaceLA. She agreed!
Here is the first part – the interview. I wanted to post the actual video from our Google Hangout, but there was a delay in the stream (darn!!), so here it is in print form. The video DIY will go up later this week!
KATHY: Tarina, congratulations on your book! I loved it – the stories, the projects, the inspiration. Honestly, I always thought of you as this unreachable rock star designer but this book really breaks downs those walls and makes us fangirls feel like we are crafting right along with you!
TARINA: Thank you, wow! This is something I wanted to do for a long time. I had a lot of ideas for what I wanted the book to be. What I realized is that, the ultimate way that you can tell the story of what I do is through projects. I wanted to really take people on a journey into my world. What better way to do that than to say, “Come in, sit down, let’s make some jewelry together!” We’re having fun, and I am telling you my stories about what got me to where I am today. Hopefully it will inspire anyone who picks up the book to start making.
KATHY: I love the story of how your line launched in Fred Segal, and the example you set about staying true to who you are as a designer.
TARINA: When we started this business, and I say ‘we’ because my husband Alfonso has been there right from the beginning. The time was the mid 90s, style was all about minimalism and no jewelry. Very Calvin Klein, Donna Karan. Being a child of the 70s and 80s, I like a lot of color. I like jewelry. I like accessories. For me fashion was a very sort of boring and dry time. I’ve always made jewelry ever since I was little and I continued to do that as a hobby through the years. Early on, people kept buying my jewelry off of me, and Alfonso said to me one day, “Tarina this is a business and its time to for us to start taking the pieces out into different stores and showing the line and getting out into the marketplace.” He approached this store that I thought would be perfect for our collections, but the buyer was actually kind of reluctant. One of the pieces we showed him that day was one of the projects in the book, the Paris Apartment Cocktail Ring.
There was this exchange between he and Alfonso, where he said, “These rings are too chunky, people are not going to understand it.” He turned it down.
KATHY: Ugh! Rejection. It’s hard to take after you put your heart and spirit into designing!
TARINA: I was very deflated. However I thought, “No. There has to be other girls out there like me. Girls that like to wear things that are colorful and sparkly and playful.” Alfonso said those are the things that fuel the fire to keep going.
If someone says no, you find a way around it.
So for Fred Segal, Alfonso actually went straight to the top, and called one of the toughest buyers to get an appointment. It worked. He went to see her and she placed a big order that day. It was just kind of one of those magical things, where you say, “Wow!” I learned that just because someone says no, you don’t let that stop you. The number one thing you need to do is believe in yourself. Keep putting it out there and you’re going to find other people who are going to connect with it. There’s always someone out there who’s going to love what you do.
NOTE FROM KATHY: Tarina explains in the book how the first day her jewelry went on sale at Fred Segal, actress Claire Danes bought a piece and wore it on the red carpet the next day!
KATHY: What is your favorite DIY tip to share?
TARINA: Early on when I wanted to make something that looked super over-the-top couture, I used polymer clay and crystals. If you can’t afford those, go to the flea market and get vintage jewelry and pluck them out and repurpose them into a ring. Even barrettes from the .99 cent store, you can take things apart, you can repurpose them. You can take an old plastic bangle out of your drawer and you can wrap it with ribbon.
KATHY: Being an artist but also a business woman – how do you balance designing because there is a paycheck attached vs. designing strictly for fun?
TARINA: Oh my gosh, that is a great question! It is hard and I am not going to sugar coat it. Being a designer and having a business to run everyday, that doesn’t always jive with the creative side where you just want to sit down and let your ideas flow out. But you have to set aside time to let yourself decompress, let your mind be free in order to be able to be creative.
KATHY: How about juggling family life?
TARINA: I’m a mom with two girls and busy, busy schedules. I’m married to my business partner. When my husband and I go home at night, we don’t talk business. It’s all about family – hanging out with our dogs and creative time with our girls. It’s very important to do that. These are things that are close to my heart. I share a lot of this in the book, as well as memories. Of course my favorite one was spending time with my grandma and unfortunately she passed away recently.
KATHY: Oh no, I’m so sorry…
TARINA: I am so lucky to have had her for so long. She was such a huge inspiration in my life . All of you out there with your grandparents, if still have them, don’t take it for granted. Sit down with them and ask them for stories. It’s all inspiration and those are very special things you could use in your work!
KATHY: Yes, because our grandparents are the OGs of sparkle people!
TARINA: That’s right! My grandma was! She taught me everything I know.
KATHY: How does Latino culture play into what you do?
TARINA: I’m one-quarter Latina. My dad is half-Panamanian and half-Italian!
KATHY: No way! High five!
TARINA: I live in a Latino world! My grandmother (my dad’s mom) is from Panama. I grew up with my grandmother speaking mostly only Spanish to me. And my husband is from Nicaragua. I’m married into a big Latin family and I love it. It is such a colorful, passionate beautiful culture. Whenever we travel to Latin countries, I get so inspired. You have to drag me out of the churches, the graveyards and carnivals! In fact we are planning a trip to Nicaragua in January.
KATHY: You have so many celebrity clients. Do you have any fangirl moments?
TARINA: They are all my favorites! There’s Dakota Fanning. She is so adorable and has such great style. I just absolutely adore is Mindy Kaling. She wears my jewelry on her shows, as well as in real life. I’ve got to work with people like Katy Perry, Madonna and a lot of big names but… to be honest and I know its going to sound really corny, for me the ultimate fangirl moment is when I am walking down the street and I see just a normal everyday girl that I never met before, wearing one of my pieces. That makes my heart sing because I think:
“Wow that girl went out and she spent her hard earned money on a piece of my jewelry! How lucky am I!”
That’s when I geek out more than anything!