Markets are one of the world’s oldest forms of business, where people gather to buy and sell commodities.
That hasn’t changed over time, but these days sustainable and environmentally friendly goods are at the top of consumers’ shopping lists. Think chemical-free goods, recycled products that don’t end up in landfills and locally made articles that aren’t transported halfway around the world to reach consumers.
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The Meaningful Marketplace at the LA3C festival provides a spot to explore unique items and celebrate Los Angeles’ diverse culture. The festival is being organized by Penske Media Corp., parent of WWD.
Here, WWD spotlights some of the Meaningful Marketplace vendors.
Kyrstin Constantino, The Klay Shop
Polymer clay earrings and cement home décor pieces are just some of the items handcrafted by Kyrstin Constantino, who started The Klay Shop two years ago with the dream of using her creativity to make a living.
At the time she was working for the city of Lakewood, a Los Angeles suburb, where she was doing clerical work in the paratransit department and living at home with her family.
“I have always been more of an artsy person and doing do-it-yourself things,” Constantino said. “I saw making things with polymer clay on Pinterest and wanted to make my own jewelry. I did that for two or three months, part time, and then I started to take it full time since I was living at home with my mom.”
Constantino now lives in a one-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend, where she crafts all her jewelry. Her polymer clay earrings come in solid colors and whimsical designs she creates, such as upside-down tulips or cow prints. “I like to do funky stuff,” she explained.
She also does made-to-order pieces. “I recently did a custom order for a bride and her bridesmaids. It has been really fun to make things for that special day,” Constantino noted.
When polymer clay became scarce during the pandemic, she added cement home pieces to her array of merchandise. She makes cement catch-all trays, incense holders, planters and coasters. “Because polymer clay was hard to find, I wanted to get something easy to find at Home Depot or Lowe’s,” Constantino said.
Her most recent venture has been to create charms that can be added to 18k earring hoops that come in three sizes.
The Klay Shop’s merchandise is sold primarily online but also in a handful of stores including Blow Me Candle Co. in Santa Monica, California; Love Sick Plus in Chicago, Illinois, and Gone West in Portland, Oregon.
Graham Breitenstein, Drunk Astrology
You don’t have to be drunk to enjoy the astrological skills that Graham Breitenstein has been perfecting for years.
The dancer, choreographer and now astrologer started studying astrology during his down time while dancing on four world tours and in Las Vegas with Lady Gaga.
“I had to live with so many different personalities on tour,” the astrologer remembered. “I was looking for a poor man’s therapy. A good friend of mine said, ‘You’re such a Virgo,’ and I didn’t understand what that meant. She started sending me articles about Virgos. Then I got curious about everyone else around me.”
He started reading books, downloading lectures and learning about different astrology styles.
Five years ago, he was at his best friend’s wedding in Charleston, South Carolina, near where he grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. With the help of a little alcohol after a rehearsal dinner, he stayed up until 3:30 in the morning to read people’s charts.
A year later, on July 23, 2018, he founded his company, Drunk Astrology. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he had time to set up a website and hasn’t looked back since. “I felt the fun was missing in spiritual work and wanted to bring some lightness to it,” he explained.
At the Meaningful Marketplace, he will be doing 30-minute oracle card readings for $35 on Saturday afternoon, which can be booked at drunkastro.com.
He will also be selling some of his merchandise, which includes zodiac candles and cosmic body oils, as well as coffee mugs, wine tumblers and manifestation journals.
Catherine Alonso, La Calavera Rose
Catherine Alonso started making handmade soaps after her mother was diagnosed with skin cancer in 2008 and breast cancer in 2011.
She felt that using natural products on one’s skin, the largest organ in the human body, was much healthier than using mass-produced goods with chemicals.
Because Alonso had no idea how to make soap, she began watching hours of videos that explained the artisan soap process. “It became trial by error,” she recalled. “And I put my own spin on things.”
When she started 11 years ago, her products were just for her family and friends. “I wanted to focus on bringing my family more natural products,” said the mother of three.
Then she branched out and started selling in markets, stores and online. Everything is manufactured in her kitchen, using pots and pans and then molds to shape the soap.
Her products are sometimes developed by what she has in her kitchen or by what she thinks would be interesting. “I make a beer soap, which is difficult to work with because you have to get the carbonation out of the beer,” Alonso explained. “But the hops make it creamy.”
Recently she was making some hibiscus tea for her family and decided to make soap using the tea as her base instead of water.
She is also working on a soap using Tepito Coffee, owned by Mike de la Rocha and actor Richard Cabral. The coffee beans are grown on a farm in Veracruz, Mexico, and crafted in East Los Angeles. Tepito recently opened a coffee shop at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California, where Alonso’s coffee soap will be sold.
Since mastering artisan soapmaking, Alonso has branched out to making other body products including organic facial toners, coconut oil body butters and natural facial cleansers. She also sells soy wax candles, jewelry and gemstones.
Angela Mejia, La Sirena Bead Co.
Drawing on her Mexican American heritage, Angela Mejia creates designs for her earrings, necklaces and other jewelry she handcrafts.
It was in 2020 during the pandemic and right after graduating from California State University, San Marcos, that she experimented with developing her jewelry line. It was a good way to cope with pandemic lockdowns while transitioning from university to the work world.
“I had all the time, and I started to teach myself bead weaving and learning its history, which comes primarily from Indigenous people in Mexico and other Indigenous people around the world,” she said.
She also works with gemstones and crystals. “I started selling the pieces for fun. Then one thing led to another, and people encouraged me to start a brand,” she said.
Her art’s inspiration comes from her ancestors, who journeyed from northern Mexico to Texas and later California. “I look to the landscape of Mexico for my bead-weaving,” she said.
One of her long-beaded earrings shows green saguaro cacti against a brown background. At the top, against a white background, is a yellow sun. The earrings symbolize her family’s ancestral journey.