When I went to the Chingona Fest in April, I was able to talk to a local artist named Mitch D’Arte and immediately we clicked. I was inspired by her creativity, her passion for art, and her amazing repurposed leather cuffs. The one I bought was hand painted with the sacred heart on it. I wear it all the time.
With every craft there is an evolution until you find your own medium of what you love to do or a sort of outlet for a passion you have, and with art mediums can change especially when you make jewelry. There is so much talent here in Corpus Christi and in the Rio Grande Valley that I wanted to start showcasing it.
Mitch and I talked on the phone and one of the things that I love about her is that she is willing to share her craft. She teaches an afterschool cuff making class, wish I could take it because I would pay to learn. I am honored to have been able to interview her for today’s post.
Tell us a little about yourself
I have been teaching art for 21 years in my hometown of Hidalgo TX. We are on the border with Mexico so our culture is unique such that we are neither from here nor thre. We make up our own language, traditions, and even foods by combining both Mexican and American traditions plus adding a touch of texas or Tejano to the mix. We are rare but it is who we are and it is who I am.
What does your upbringing have to do with how you create?
It is my upbringing that determines my style. Now that I can afford a bit more, I don’t. I keep going back to what I know…doing and making the most with as little as possible. I teach my students that daily.
What started you on the path to becoming an artist?
My mother was very supportive and encouraging…she didn’t have any money to buy me supplies but she allowed me to paint and draw on our walls. Today most of my paintings are a tribute to her and our culture, both of which she is very proud of.
Religion also played a huge part in her life and now in mine as a form of art. Each generation before us leaves us with something to live by and my mother left me her love for religion. I just interpret it differently but I live by it.
What is your favorite medium?
My weapon of choice is acrylic, because as a starving artist, it is one of the few mediums that I can afford.
What type of crafting/art/jewelry do you create?
My creativity reflects my culture…it’s what I know…there is an abundance of materials and inspiration around us. I am amazed at what people discard. Some of my most prized possessions are found objects. I am a product of my environment and my environment is the product of my work.
What made you get started with repurposing old belts?
My business partner, Cindy C. Carpenter, and I were at an art festival in Houston and we came across some cool cuffs but they were too expensive. We came back home (McAllen, Tx) and started with our own belts. Soon, I found myself hunting for belts at local flea markets.
It became an addiction and the cuffs were just a by-product of that addiction. The thrill of finding the coolest leather belts was intoxicating and Uno by Mitch was born.
Unique one of a kind cuffs created out of old reclaimed leather belts and today we have different collections in our Uno Line. Our Vaquero Collection are reclaimed western leather belts. Urban Viejo is a collection of stamped-on reclaimed leather belts. Our new BuckleUp collection is the marriage of both the Vaquero and the UrbanViejo lines with buckle accents.
What inspires your pieces?
Being raised on a low-income with seven brothers and sisters in the 70’s gave little room for fashion and style. Creativity Kicks in at that point. Times have not changed, families are still being raised on minimum wage and fashion is still part of a societal acceptance and expectations.
My creations are based on that notion…that art and fashion should be affordable.
What makes you unique?
I do believe that NOT being a commercial artist makes me unique and true to my work. I don’t paint or create to make money. My primary profession is teaching. I paint and create to release trapped energies…to make my thoughts visual.
I love to model for the children I teach. It’s the visual impression they will never forget.My biggest compliment from students is “Miss you should be an artist, you can make lots of money.” and to me those compliments alone are worth millions.
I am where I am supposed to be in my hometown teaching and among the children who inspire me, my culture that inspires me. This is what makes me UNIQUE.
What is your favorite memory?
Having to pick or hunt for our own food, sometimes dinner depended on my older brother’s hunting abilities. White wing doves, frog’s feet, free range chicken and chicken eggs, baby goats and pigs were also part of the menu.. Valley grown carrots, tomatoes, corn, onions, and everything else we could forage along ol military road from Hidalgo to Brownsville, Tx.
UNObyMitch is another example of the vibrant, rich art we have here in South Texas. It where the art speaks to you about our present, our futures, while holding a deep reverence for our past. I look forward to UNObyMItch when it launches its online store. Until then you can always drool over her cuffs like I do. It is so important to support Handmade Artists. Our passion is in our work.