Whenever meeting a new person, the first questions people ask are: “What do you do?” and “Where do you live?” In the case of Beatrice Valenzuela, she would be labeled as a shoe designer, who lives in Echo Park. Tip toe through Beatrice’s home and you’ll find out that being a designer and seller of handmade leather booties and sandals represents a fraction of her creative expression.
Lining one wall by the window, the eponymous brand of moccasins and sandals that she designed, are stacked in wicker baskets. Hanging on the other side of the room is a textile art piece she weaved, like half of a hammock made from electric chunky yarn and cotton threads. In the bathroom, her handiwork is on the tiled floor under your feet. Add ceramics to her list of talents.
She is also brewing the best chai tea you'll ever drink. Is it the tea itself? No, it’s not the tea, (though it is a very good tea) or the honey or the vanilla almond milk.
“A hint of rosewater,” Beatrice says.
A hint of rosewater! Try it, its really brilliant.
The kitchen is another one of Beatrice’s artistic expressions, her enthusiam of which is perhaps even more palpable than anything fashion. She teaches me how to make fresh popcorn on the stove for her daughter Astrid. She doesn’t blog much herself about her shoes, but contributes recipes and arts & crafts to her friend Heather Taylor’s blog, L.A. in Bloom.
Here is a recent post about Beatrice hosting a workshop at her house on dying with natural Cochinal, “a tiny insect that lives on cacti and, when ground, becomes a gorgeous powder that is used for dying. Depending on the insect's region of origin, the color varies from deep magenta to the brightest red.” Old world hand tools like mortar and pestle are required for that lesson. Not shown, the chickens in Beatrice's backyard where the lesson takes place. Of course she tends a brood of chickens! If the apocalypse happens I'm squatting on her property.
Our conversation digresses into swimwear, and she opens up her drawer to show me her collection of Eres bikinis—simple, perfectly cut and in the most expensive buttery fabric that's gorgeous just existing before being molded into an aquatic costume. Then we went down the rabbit hole looking at who she follows on Pinterest. "She has the best pins," she says of one Pinner that we re-pin over and over again, scrolling through the feed.
What makes Beatrice's domestic arts so compelling is firstly, she's good at it. Secondly, she embodies it in that old-fashioned, earth mother kind of way, like she was made for this role. With the exception of her shoes that she does sell (and not with ambition to a mass market scale) her domestic arts are not for recognition or profit. She does it with heart, for herself, her friends and family.
Some of Beatrice’s past creative expressions were fashion styling and hair styling. She came to start her shoe business a few years ago after meeting a man in Mexico (she grew up in Mexico City) that made handmade shoes. She initially wanted to import his shoe designs with improved modifications, and then ended up designing a whole line herself. She just birthed her daughter and was looking for a business she could conduct from home.
“It’s hard to put yourself together if you’re a new mom,” she says, and nice shoes can make any outfit more publicly presentable. Say, the kinds of comfortable, un-fashion, get-dirty clothes for moms of newborns who aren't famous.
Her sandals and moccasins are spare, restrained, understated. Not too many pattern pieces, a few stitch details, natural colored leather. She said she wants it to be like a pair of Levi’s, everyone will wear it differently with their own personal creative expression.
“I like things to be functional. Well-made with a human touch, if you can look at it and see how it was put together, you feel more of a connection to the shoe,” Beatrice says. She says her designs are probably more informed by her anthropology studies than fashion.
She wants someone to be pick up one of hers shoes and say, “I got these at a flea market and they are from the 50s, 60s," and you would believe that.”