In the midst of the global pandemic, animal science senior Sophia Rivera and communications senior Julianna Quihuiz turned their passions into a business and started their jewelry collective, Piezas Únicas.
“Our love for fashion, our love for art and our love of community are what inspired us to create it,” Rivera said.
Piezas Únicas means “unique pieces” in Spanish. Their business lives up to the name through the individualistic style of their jewelry.
According to Rivera and Quihuiz, they fell in love with jewelry making prior to the pandemic. Rivera has specialized in metalworking and Quihuiz has learned how to create resin works. They even took a jewelry smithing class at Cal Poly’s craft center which sparked them to take their passion a step further.
“We fell in love with it so much and we were really just invested in how we could make that continue,” Quihuiz said.
They created their business instagram @artbysophandjulz which is where Rivera and Quihuiz’s creativity really shines through. The uniqueness and individuality aspect of their business is captured in @artbysophandjulz through their variety of colorful backsplashes and edits used when posting their jewelry pieces.
While their social media page has played a big role in their business evolution, they also have been able to expand Piezas Únicas by launching their website in December.
Rivera and Quihuiz have promoted Piezas Únicas by putting on craft sales through their business. According to Rivera, they would have 20 to 30 local vendors come to their house and set up in their yard, garage and driveway.
“We would also have a clothing swap along with it, so I think our project now is just building the community of small local crafters and local artists in San Luis Obispo,” Rivera said.
They use their craft sales as an opportunity to give back to causes they’re passionate about. Quihuiz states that giving back is a huge business initiative of theirs and they donate 25% of the proceeds made during their craft sales.
They did this because of their position in society. Quihuiz said that since they are lower income, Latinx, bisexual college students they understand what it is like to be underrepresented.
“Understanding this positionality of being from marginalized groups and knowing how our political system does not privilege these voices and, honestly, does not give back to these communities that are suffering the most, that is something that we really orient ourselves around,” Quihuiz said.
Their first craft sale supported Tianna Aratas and Elias Bautista’s legal fee funds as well as Race Matters SLO. Their second craft sale supported the Abolitionist Action of the Central Coast SLO (AACCS) and the Central Coast Coalition for Uundocumented Student Success (CCC-USS). According to Quihuiz, their two craft sales have already raised over $5,000 for the four organizations.
“Part of running a business is that we want to negate these ideas of just constantly making a profit,” Quihuiz said. “It’s like, we gotta give back too, so these are the causes that we’re passionate about.”
Rivera and Quihuiz will be hosting a third craft sale on April 10th and April 11th at Coastal Peaks Coffee off of Higuera St from 11am to 3pm. Part of the proceeds will be donated to GALA Pride and Diversity Center SLO and CAP SLO, which is the Community Action Project San Luis Obispo that supports marginalized groups, such as the homeless.
Sustainability is another important aspect of their business initiative. Rivera and Quihuiz are also co-presidents of the Sustainable Fashion club at Cal Poly. Rivera believes the club goes hand and hand with Piezas Única because it shows them how they can be sustainable in their business.
Quihuiz said they strive to make their products sustainable and one of a kind.
“I think that our name itself embodies this in that we’re not mass-producing,” Quihuiz said. “We’re not just making the same thing over and over again just because it sells. It’s all about the art that we want to make and then putting it out there.”
Even though Rivera and Quihuiz were able to expand Piezas Únicas during the pandemic, their business’s growth still faced limitations caused by Covid-19.
“We can’t ignore the fact that I think our business would have a bigger impact on the SLO community in general, if our audience was going to classes every day and walking to and from point A to point B, passing by tons and tons of people,” Quihuiz said. “And in that passing, people could say ‘cool jewelry where’d you get that from’ and then from there, we get shouted out. So we are definitely missing out on that.”
As for Piezas Únicas’s future, Rivera and Quihuiz plan to be in different places after graduation. Rivera hopes to continue to advance their craft by attending jeweler’s school.
“This is going to be my career path now, because I love it so much. All I want to do is learn every last thing I can about jewelry making,” Rivera said.
Quihuiz plans to attend graduate school. However, even with the distance between them, they both want to continue the business and their artistic passions.
“I don’t think that at any point in my life I’ll stop doing that because I’ve been doing it my entire life. The jewelry form is newer, but art in general has always been a part of me,” Quihuiz said. “ I’m not entirely sure how that’s gonna play out, but I know that I’m never going to close that door. I’m always going to leave it open.”