by Madison Paloski
Following being furloughed post-grad in May, Michelle Toledo from Dallas, Texas found herself locked up in her apartment playing animal crossing and hanging out with her bunny Deku longing to go back to pre-COVID days. After seeing artists on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok using their time as a homebody as a way to express themselves creatively, she was inspired to try out making earrings as a hobby to pass time. Quickly, she found out it was the easiest way for her to bring her mind at ease and express herself.
“I’ve always had a creative side but never knew how to pursue it,” she said. “I’m not too good at ‘traditional’ art types and didn’t know where to start. I’ve always loved earrings and I have a huge collection, but I found myself sinking in a ‘no, I can’t do it’ mindset adding on top of all of the weirdness of COVID and quarantine. I knew I just needed to buy the supplies and dive right in. I had a lot of support from my boyfriend and my friends who constantly pushed me to start this, even when I felt like I couldn’t do it.”
What started as just making a few earrings turned into making earrings almost every day. Now that Toledo is back to work, she finds herself still making earrings on the side part-time, but hopes to one day in the future be able to pursue it full-time again. Although she loves to travel, this hobby (mixed with true crime podcasts and lots of anime) helps her be as safe as she can while staying indoors and following COVID safety protocols.
Going to school for cognitive science, Toledo has a huge interest in the brain health field and mental health in general. Through her classes and knowledge from her Bachelor of Science degree, she knew that these certain activities were just what she needed to bring her peace of mind through these difficult times.
She said, “Although the two are completely unrelated, it still helps me with my mental health in that I knew it was what I needed to get me out of the funk that I was in. I’m so passionate about the subject that I want to be able to bring awareness to mental health and other social issues through my earrings in the future. Mental health and mindfulness are also just all about feeling good and that’s how I want people to feel when they wear my earrings.”
She describes her brand aesthetic as being natural and celestial, with lots of inspiration being taken from plants, the moon, stars, and her culture.
“I’m Mexican so growing up my mom always would tell me stories and was always superstitious and a bit witchy. It’s because of her and those stories that I found what I really liked aesthetic-wise growing up and I take a lot of inspiration from that.”
Looking at her work for Ixchel Designs, you can see an abundance of earthy tones, spooky eyes and hands, and lots of moons, suns, and stars in her clay and brass pieces.
“The name Ixchel came from the Mayan Moon Goddess who was often portrayed with a bunny. I wanted to have a name that not only represented myself but also my Mexican culture. It also happened to sound very similar to my name so it honestly just felt like it was meant to be.”
For the future of her brand, Toledo hopes to be able to continue to pursue and experiment in her craft. She tries to do shop updates every two weeks to make sure her product line is fresh and updated and frequently takes commissions on pieces. She also hinted at possible collaborations with other artist friends in the works. Although nothing is set in stone yet due to the unprecedented times, Toledo hopes that she can bring her web store to life with pop up shops once it is safe to do so. Even though she loves making earrings, she quotes that she can also see herself moving on to making stationery as well to grow her business.
“I have the confidence to do this now and expand because of the amazing support I’ve gotten. Seeing people believe in me and actually like what I was putting out was surprising to me since I’m still small and don’t have that much exposure. It’s mindblowing when people from other states order my products, but still such a good feeling.”