Tamika Rivera is a jewelry designer, candle maker, and all around inspiring lady. Her Cuyo and Tapa collections have graced our fairs in the past, and we always look forward to the newest additions in her work!
Where did your business name come from? Is there an interesting history behind it?
The name “TAPA” came from the first letters of my name and my partner’s name. It’s funny because it means the “plate you put on a wine glass,” and our candles are in a stemless wine glass. Cuyo means “Light in Taino.” Shedding light on all things is the theme behind of all my artwork. Taino is a tribe of my ancestors from the Caribbean and I wanted to honor them by shining light on the forgotten language. I call my cuyo jewelry my traveling sculptures.
Have you always been passionate about design?
I have become more passionate in creating art that has married itself into design.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
Candles kind of fell into my hands when I needed good smelling candles for my store. The jewelry happened when I wanted to make sculptures on the road. I love to travel and so eventually I based the work on off of my road trip inspirations.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
I never compare my work with others, and I chose to support everyone’s process individually. I approach my work like art, therefore it can never be completely duplicated or copied. It stands on its own and I feel the work is for everyone if they are ready to be so bold and playful. My pieces are pretty big statements, and I invite everyone to play and live out loud. It’s fun to see reactions to my work. Whether they like it or not isn’t so important. It’s the questions and feelings that are stirred up that is truly priceless.
Have you had any major failures? If so, what were some important insights gained?
Pema Chödrön says to fail, fail again, and fail better… this is the way you grow. I don’t believe there is such a thing as failure, only growth. The amount of knowledge I have learned by my business mistakes makes me the person I am today. I am happy with myself at this point, and I know there is a mistake just around the corner as well as the opportunity to learn from it. So go out there and make lots of mistakes! One of those mistakes will make you happy!
Have you sacrificed anything to create your business? If so, what was it, and do you have any regrets?
I have absolutely no regrets even though I have sacrificed everything! When you work for yourself you have to be willing to sacrifice sleep, time, stability… anything to keep your business going. Sometimes letting these things go enables a new freedom which has allowed me to explore the creative process and live at a pace that is healthy for me.
What has been your proudest/favorite moment since creating your business?
People have sent me amazing healing stories when wearing my pieces. Lighting a candle or spraying a tincture, it’s like magic that I get to witness. I am truly thankful I have gotten to work with great stores and museums, collaborated with artists, designers, and healers, and shared my work with a women’s co-op in Africa.
How does the city you live in influence your work?
New York helps me put all the pieces together from my travels. I carry all the inspiration home and it all comes out when I am in my studio in Brooklyn.
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
I owned a store and healing center for many years in Brooklyn. Before that, I worked in every industry you can imagine. I received a masters in NYC fashion, and worked in many art, music, design, film, and print industries, ha! One day, you will have to ask me in person – it’s too long of a NY story.
What made you take this leap into being your own boss?
When I look back I have always been my own boss. Sometimes I wish someone would be my boss for a day.
What are some inspirations for your work?
I am inspired by so many things. Travel and nature, people, tribes around the world, light in everything we see.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Love what you do – do what you love! Makers, whatever I’ve learned along the way is yours just ask..I’m here!