The Getting To Know series features interviews with makers, artists, designers and small business owners at all different stages of their careers. I’m always interested in how other adventurers in the world of creative entrepreneurship run their businesses, get inspired and how they got started in the first place. I’m super excited that Jessica Sanchez of Santa Isla is joining us for a look at her business and passionate way of life.
Toronto-based jewelry designer Jessica Sanchez is the force of nature behind Santa Isla – glorious colourful beaded accessories made by the Embera Chami people of Colombia. Each piece is a celebration of modern design and ancient craftsmanship. Santa Isla celebrates beauty all the while helping the Embera Chami people to support themselves and to maintain an important facet of their culture. Let’s meet Jess!
Hi Jess! To start with, I’d love to know a little bit about you and your business.
Santa Isla is all about cultural preservation while looking fly.
In 2012, on a soul-searching voyage to Colombia, I discovered the mystical work of the Embera Chami people. The Embera Chami (“Chami meaning “mountain and “Embera” meaning “people”) are an indigenous ethnic group who trust the power of the spirits to regulate life, health, livelihood and nature. Their intricate beadwork is not only gorgeous, within each piece lives a spiritual identity. Once I found the Embera Chami, I knew that I had to tell their story and share their work.
I design the beaded jewelry for Santa Isla which is then woven by the magical hands of the Embera Chami people. Each piece showcases native practices of Colombian art by fusing ancient tribal craftsmanship with modern design.
What inspired you to start Santa Isla? Santa Isla means Holy Island in Spanish, and it refers to the place I had to create in order to revive my creative spirit. Sometimes life gets rough – in 2012 it got really really rough – but these times force us to be resourceful and find alternative paths to find harmony again. I guess a difficult time in my life inspired me to start Santa Isla. To be honest, the process is the furthest thing from easy but the result is magical.
Who is the Santa Isla girl?
The #SantaIslaGirl is a conscious babe. Beauty goes beyond the psychical realm. Beauty is having heart and sensibility towards things and those around you. Santa Isla girls embody beauty, feel proud, and wear some fly jewelry.
Do you have a favourite piece from your new collection?
Omg it’s so hard to pick just one because I feel like they are all my babies. Having said that, I’m currently obsessed with the Boa – Black Out necklace. I wear it with all my other pieces, it’s perfect for layering.
What does your typical work day look like?
I do yoga first (DWD!!) and then I drink a double Americano misto (Sam James Coffee!). Once these two things are done, I sit at my desk and tackle one thing at a time. Each day is so different because I set different weekly goals, but it involves tons of emails, website updates, meetings and design sessions.
What do you love about running your own business?
The thing that I LOVE the most is that I determine how far I go and what the process is going to feel/look like.
What do you find the hardest?
The hardest thing about running your own business, at least for me, is handling the “books”. The creative side is easy but the financial side is out of my comfort zone. It’s challenging but I’m learning and it feels nice to be business-minded.
Your lookbooks and brand images are so dynamic. Any tips on how to create a great lookbook for your brand?
Last week, an amazing artist and friend commented on how much he loved Santa Isla’s branding because it didn’t abide by any design rules. I don’t have any formal training in design so this makes sense haha!
Here’s what I do: I envision what I want the brand/photo/look book to look like and then I find friends to help me make it happen. I don’t feel the need to follow any trends, I just do what feels good and makes me say, “oh yeaaaah that’s it.” I’m also obsessed with playing around with apps and photoshop. It’s my therapy.
What inspires you?
Literally almost anything inspires me. I think the question for me is, what am I doing to ensure that I’m ready to receive inspiration?
Do you have any secrets to balancing business, social life and self-care?
I’m in the business of living well! I want to live a GREAT LIFE, I remind myself of this every single day. My secrets:
- Relax and don’t take yourself so seriously! I squeeze in laughing, playing and dancing whenever/wherever possible.
- Don’t pay attention to what you think other people are going to think about you and your life choices.
- Hang around people who are in the business of living well too.
How do you recharge when you’re feeling depleted?
Two things: I call my mom – she’s the most energetic/funniest person I know. Then, I go get a mani & pedi, followed by a Cesar or Sangria. Or both.
If you could give someone just starting out on their creative business journey one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t let fear stop you from getting started. Just start! Once you start be consistent. Momentum will keep you going but you have to start – everything else will come as you go.
Become a Santa Isla Girl
Connect with Jess
Blog – Santa Isla
Instagram – @santaisla
Facebook – santaislajewelry
Twitter – @santaislabyjess