“Sometimes, at the beginning, people could be…not rude, but just not that polite when I would come to their store to show them my jewellery. It didn’t bother me though, it actually helped me. If they weren’t interested, it would make me work harder. Concentrate more. Think of better ways to present my work. Ways to show it to them differently. Ways to do it differently.”
Sandia, the jewellery and accessories label founded by Venezuelan designer, Betzy Nina is a label that is done differently. Be it through the tweaks that resulted from temporary setbacks, the years of graft in various crafts that came before the label, or perhaps, the use of fluorescent rubber as a leading component in its creation, Sandia is done differently.
Medina’s geometric fixtures, painted porcelains and button studs are the hallmarks of a collection still in its infancy and less than a year old.
The brand’s narrative, along with the inspiration for Medina’s designs, can be traced back to Venezuela, where the designer got her first taste for a creative life. Or, rather, her first distaste for a life not so.
“I did so many things in my life after I graduated from high school. I started studying civil engineering in university. I was good at it, I got all my grades, but I just got bored. Especially with the maths side of things, it wasn’t for me. I saw a music production course, quit university and left everything to go to work in the industry. From there I set up a boyband …”
My immediate interruption comes as a small spluttered laugh, as I am, like all Irish citizens, conditioned to imagine Boyzone and, in this case, the Venezuelan answer to Boyzone, when the phrase boyband is presented to me.
Addressing my awe with a laugh and then an assurance that I’ll be getting the short version of a long story, Nina continues:
“I set up this boyband in Venezuela when I was 17 and then went around the circuit promoting and managing them. This led me to work in TV, which led me to Radio. I loved the work, the people I was surrounded by and everything that went along with it. There was a creativity to it that I really enjoyed, though still it didn’t seem to be just what I wanted, so alongside it I worked on other things, I made other things.”
Throughout this project, Nina did a seven year stint working in broadcasting and completed her degree in marketing and advertising. Seven years on from her boyband escapades, Nina came to Ireland for a long weekend in Dublin to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The weekend has lasted eight years to date and the Venezuelan now calls the fair city home.
“I came with three friends, just for the weekend. But when we got here, we were just so amused by everything. The place was so beautiful and the people were so friendly.”
Between them, the three agreed to stay for a year to learn English. But after a year passed no attempts at an exit, Irish or otherwise, were made.
“I had no English at all when I arrived, but still I loved it. There is a something about Dublin, about Ireland, that makes you want to explore it, to get to know it better.”
Nina got to know the language and the locals better through bar and restaurant work. “It was great at the start. I got to meet people and practice my English, but after a while, I got tired. I was used to having creativity in my life, I missed this a lot.
This fatigue was somewhat fixed, following the meeting of a connection in Raidió na Life and a weekly slot on the station, presenting world music show Incapsula, but Nina was still searching for that something to fill the gap of creating.
“I was always buying materials, making, messing around, I was selling at markets, but really it was all just for fun. It wasn’t until the start of 2017, that I started to get serious about it.”
Nina took the frightful step of ditching the day job and went for it. She set up her website to start selling online and went from there.
“It was very scary, but very exciting, especially once I realised that people really liked it, they really liked my work. I know from their reactions at the markets. They always want to touch the pieces, play with them.”
This tactile approach has resonated with online customers and Sandia’s following growing steadily throughout the year.
“Irish people have beautiful style, it is very slick and they often stick to neutral colours. I feel like my jewellery compliments that in a way that is not intimidating for the wearer. Vibrant styles match the Irish personality.”
Vibrancy for all, Nina stresses the importance of keeping her pieces at a lower price point in order to make them accessible for everyone. “I am not interested in making something overpriced or exclusive, I would rather that everyone could enjoy them. Whenever I finish designing a piece, I am usually so happy with it that I want everyone to be able to wear it, to show it off.”
Quite a rarity for products that are all handmade, Nina sources her materials, designs and creates all her pieces solo, among other things.
On the more logistical side of things “I do everything myself, the ads, the social media, the website, I am a whole company in one.” A slight hint of exacerbation makes its way into her voice before she smiles and mentions the help from friends and connections in Dublin’s makers’ scene.
“I work super hard, but I have good people to around me too. The vibe in Dublin is good, people are always willing to help each other. It’s a good thing to be a part of and a great place to be.”
Betzy Medina, www.SandiaDublin.com