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Younger designers break the crafting mold
Posted Oct. 17, 2007

Jessica Monares is at home in her off-campus apartment, surrounded by bottlecaps and ribbon. Fresh creations dry on the balcony. Monares carefully pins down the ribbon in a bow shape. On the back of the bow she glues a butterfly clip; on the opposite side, a miniature skull with big black eyes. The left eye is always bigger.

Kustom Voodoo Creator Monares is a 21-year-old junior art major at University California Los Angeles who has been designing hair bows and other girlie accessories that support her logo, “Be Bad, Look Cute.” She is among many young designers that are modernizing the pastime of crafty creations.

Naples Daily News reports that “Over the last few years, hipster bazaars have popped up in the fashion hubs of…Los Angeles…The day- weekend- long markets feature cutting edge jewelry, must-have bags and even handmade punk-rock housewares. The new breed of craft bazaars has turned an old idea on its head, adding irony and whimsy to the spirit of entrepreneurship, community and creativity.” Fortune magazine also published an article on “The amazing rise of the do-it-yourself economy.”

Kustom VooDoo: East Los Angeles

At 15, Monares began selling vintage clothing, shoes and her homemade hair accessories on eBay.  At parties, the skull-decorated bows got the attention of many women who wanted the same look.

“I always kind of made things for myself to wear. People were really noticing,” Monares said. “I started letting people tell me what they wanted.”

Between KV and financial aid, Monares is able to pay for tuition and rent. Unlike most college students, Monares is able to get paid for doing what she likes: creating. Her production cost is reasonably low and all her bows sell for $5.95.

Early KV consisted of skulls from plastic rings purchased at a Halloween store.

“I don’t want to be seen as a crafter. It’s kind of like a movement that’s more modern than a country craft fair. I love Halloween but I don’t want to be limited,” Monares said.

Customers often write to her on MySpace about how much they like her product and send her a photo of the original artwork they created inspired by Kustom Voodoo.

“It’s such a universal thing. It’s about femininity and rebellion,” Monares said.

The demand for KV is so overwhelming that it takes up all of her free time.

“I’m trying to find a balance between KV (and school). It’s like a needy child that I have to devote time to,” Monares said.

KV does vendor spots at concerts and cultural events like Day of the Dead and Cinco de Mayo. She also delivers to seven stores nationwide.

Kustom VooDoo can be found online at

Truc’s Totes: La Puente
“I got my sewing machine on a whim. My sister and I were at Target one day and we just passed by the aisle and I grabbed a sewing machine. I'm not really impulsive like that. I had a bunch of clothes that I wanted to fix so they'd fit right,” Truc  Phan said.

Phan is a biology major at California State University Long Beach. She began designing in winter 2006 when she needed something to get her through winter break. Pink hearts, neon colored felt pockets and little cloth giraffes are featured on Phan’s bags.

“I love really colorful designs and I love purses. You can't find many prints that you really love in the stores. I figured, ‘Why not just make my own bags the way I want them?’ I've tried making skirts before and my latest venture has been wallets,” Phan said.

Phan designs bags for friends and not profits.

“(Friends) choose their prints and I make their bags the way they want,” Phan said. “I love making them for people because everyone wants something that no one else has and everyone that I have made one for has loved their bags. It makes me happy to see their reactions.”

She’s considered selling her homemade bags, but agrees that she wouldn’t charge anyone until “I can actually sew straighter.”

“I have an unbelieveably long list of people that I promised bags to but after that, I want to bring them to art and crafts expos and see what happens,” Phan added.

Headwear by Lilia Cabello: San Diego

“At around five (years old), my family and I went to old town San Diego and we walked into this leather and Indian jewelry shop ...there were huge bags of beads, string, hair clips, leather all for dad bought one and when we got home he…helped me make some necklaces and bracelets and hair clips,” Cabello said.

Cabello makes creations in her free time: gifts for friends, a new headband for a night out and redesigning unattractive jewelry into appealing accessories.

She sold most of her creations in high school and junior high where “everyone knew like ‘oh Lili can fix that or oh Lili can make that, just ask her she'll do it she's nice.’”

Cabello recently published a “How-To” article in La Verne Magazine showing how to create a custom headband. She is always thinking of ways to make old accessories look new.

“It always looked like you either mass produce all your jewelry or you dress like a hippie old lady and sell it at outrageous prices,” Cabello said. “I’d like to be able to make cute, pretty jewelry that anyone can buy.”

Cabello hopes to open a shop of her own one day.

“I could sit and make stuff and people could watch me, or at least place orders with me,” Cabello said. “Of course all of this somehow has to fit in between graduating, grad school, family, traveling and the rest of my life.”

Faster Than You: Pittsburgh

“I was looking for a unique necklace to wear to a party and I hated everything (in stores). I wore it that night and sold it,” Pericht said. “I was working at a beauty supply store. I started making money off of these necklaces, (it) was more profitable than standing by the cash register. I just went with it.”

Pericht designs custom necklaces and earrings, many of them bright with glitter, that look like tattoos from far away. Designs include sparrows, ‘Dia de los Muertos’-like skulls and giant roses.

“This is pretty much the only thing I do right now. People think its stupid. The whole time I was at my job I was thinking I had to go home and make a necklace,” Pericht said. “Why talk about hair dryers for $6 an hour when I can make $19 an hour.

Pericht has an art degree form the University of Pittsburgh. Being out of school for three years, Pericht first tried to sell her paintings for money. However, her jewelry gig took off right away, partially because people can wear her art.

“I totally live in the artistic style. I have my chips and paint in the same place I sleep with my stuff,” Pericht said. “I wouldn’t live any other way. I use this stuff so constantly. I have binders and packing material I can still find everything.”            

Pericht has been making necklaces for one and a half years.

“When I first started I had 12 designs,” Pericht said. “I’ve improved so much.”

Pericht notes her parents are happy that’s she’s doing something with her art degree.

Faster Than You can be found online at

Deadly Kustoms: West Covina

I would see a lot of stuff at the store that I liked and I thought was overpriced so I thought, ‘why not make it myself?’” Jeanette Santillan, creator of Deadly Kustoms said.

Santillan began designing hair accessories at home a year ago.  Spools of ribbon, bags of plastic skulls and hearts, buttons, headbands and a glue gun are taking over her desk.

“I’m currently a fashion design student at Cal Poly Pomona, so this is officially the first thing I’m designing and making myself,” Santillan said.  “Hopefully this will just evolve into my future and another great creation will come out of it.”

Around Halloween Santillan stocks up on plastic skulls, tombstones and bats from Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts and Michaels.

“Most of my stuff has a theme: it’s punk, rockabilly and goth. There’s always a different touch to it that makes it wearable and your own,” Santillan said. “It’s not something you can pick up at Hot Topic.”

Santillan makes about $50 a week selling her accessories on eBay and more at Panik records, a record store where her bows and headbands are sold. She has also been a vendor at Hootenanny, Punk Rock Drive-In, and opening weekend at the L.A. County fair.

Life is hectic for these homemade artists. Monares notes that her three roommates aren't just living with her, they're living with Kustom Voodoo.

"Stuff on the balcony is drying, my bed hasn't been made, and my roommates say 'I understand, I understand.' I don't know how much longer they'll be able to understand," Monares said.

Deadly Kustoms can be found online at

Alexandra Lozano can be reached at