By Sandra Trevino for Chicago Voz
“It is a word of inclusion, where everyone is welcome and everything goes.” – Mestiza
In the spirit of celebrating local business owners and their infectious spirit of entrepreneurship, it brings me great pride and excitement to see the continued DIY efforts of local Pilsen residents. In this case, I’m referring to Mestiza Shop, located at 1801 S. Blue Island Avenue, in Suite 204.
Chicago Voz spoke with Loreana and Sugeiri, the fierce owners holding down this business, despite the changes popping up in their neighborhood.
CV: Tell me more about the duo behind Mestiza…
We are Loreana and Sugeiri, partners in everything we do in life. We are the owners of Mestiza and we consider ourselves to be from both México and Chicago, equally.
CV: Where did you grow up?
Lorena: I grew up in Little Village but since 2004 I’ve considered Pilsen my home.
Sugeiri: I spent my childhood and some teenage years living in México, before my parents decided to permanently move the family to Chicago. I think we kind of related to a movie by La India Maria called “Ni de aqui, ni de alla,” our family moved so much back and forth that we’re more like “¡De aqui, de alla, y de todas partes!”
CV: When did you being to create art?
Sugeiri: I am lucky to come from a creative family. Everyone has their own creative outlet. My grandma crochets, my uncles are cooks and musicians, and my mom is a seamstress. So, I’ve had many opportunities to be creative. I started making art since I was 5 and I remember my first drawings were of my parents. I remember drawing my dad with a thick mustache and a massive cigarette. As a preteen, I designed my own clothing and my mom would make it for me. My mom and I have become long-life collaborators. I love sewing, but in high school the photography bug bit me. This is why I decided to focus on Photography and Art Education during college. Now I do all of the above – I sew, paint, and photograph the things I see.
Lorena: Like Sugeiri, I have a family that provides much inspiration. My mom is always crocheting, sewing, or making party favors for family events. But I started creating art in high school. I fell in love with photography and film as a high school student. Now I work on small projects but mostly I work on the management of Mestiza.
CV: What motivated you to bring this shop to fruition?
Sugeiri: In 2004 we opened Mestiza as a store front on 18th Street. We wanted to create a space where we could showcase the things we liked and how we lived. We carried vintage furniture and clothing, mixed in with local works of art, and we topped it off with our favorite, artesanias from México.
This new reincarnation of Mestiza has come about more organically. At this point we consider it a work in progress. We are more focused on art, culture, and supporting organizations that help artisans in México and Latin America. This past year we started out by looking for a studio space so that I could focus on my own art projects.
Lorena: A year ago, we were lucky to be accepted as one of the vendors at the Cultura in Pilsen Bazaar. There, we saw a few people that remembered our storefront and it was really the success of that event that has been building the momentum for our shop. We have connected with really great artists from the Chicago area, as well as new vendors that work with the Fair Trade federation.
Sugeiri: Our little studio space slowly has grown into a showroom. Since then, we have launched an online shop at mestizashop.com and we continue to explore new vendors, artists and artisans to showcase, all the while also working on our own creations.
CV: Why did you choose the name Mestiza?
Sugeiri: The name Mestiza came about as way of reclaiming a word by changing it to the feminine form. For us it encompasses what it means to live in Chicago as children of Mexican immigrants. It celebrates people that come from mixed ancestries, at the same time, being part of, and creating this new culture. It is a word of inclusion, where everyone is welcome, and everything goes. What it means for our products is that we combine folklore, modern items, and art, in one space. For example we can carry pottery from México, and at the same time offer hand made earrings by a local artist.
CV: Why did you choose Pilsen as your location?
Sugeiri: This is a great question as it was not a totally conscious choice. We just feel at home in Pilsen, and our shop really belongs here. There is no other neighborhood that feels so close to our hearts.
How do you feel about the changes in the Pilsen neighborhood?
Sugeiri: Like many people, we are conflicted, though we try to focus on the positive. We love that so many people are coming together to keep the community united. There has been a noticeable burst of energy by different organizers. And so for the past few summers, we have seen many more events in the streets of Pilsen.
Lorena: We are also sad at the thought that we might have to move our showroom to another space someday. We have felt the effects of the changes strongly, as they are happening right in our own building. So, we really take it day to day.
CV: How do you keep yourself inspired and what keeps you motivated?
Sugeiri: We are continually being inspired by a sort of longing for the days past, from growing watching TV characters, novelas, songs, Mexican holidays, and personal events in our families. As well as modern art, social media, what the pantone color of the year is, to name a few things. We are inspired by daily life. Obviously our friends and family are a big motivation. My grandmother is a merchant in her towns market in México so by having our own shop I feel like I am continuing her dream as well following my own.
CV: How do we empower the artistic community of Pilsen?
Sugeiri: By supporting one another, engaging and collaborating with artists, community organization, and inviting the people of Pilsen to participate.
CV: What are plans for the shop for 2016?
Sugeiri: We are excited about the new line of products we are designing. These new products are an expression of the things we really value from our heritage. We are also planning a few art events to showcase photography, which is dear to our hearts.
We have come to the conclusion that our heart is our compass, and it usually keeps us moving in the right direction. All we can do is follow it and see where it takes us next.
Truly beautiful words from empowering artists creating unique items set in a welcoming environment. That is Mestiza.
Stop by Mestiza Shop, open Tuesday through Thursday from 5-7PM. Other days are open by appointment via email@example.com or by telephone at 872-395-1814.