Yanira Lopez and Alexis Oliva met twenty years ago, while students at Havana University in Cuba. Shortly after their graduation, the two migrated to the United States. “We were always yearning to have a job that would allow us to create together,” Yanira says. The two had long nurtured an interest in the visual arts and interior design so, while holding jobs in corporate America, they began a small craft business to give themselves a creative outlet. Centered around macramé, an art form that is common in homes throughout Cuba, this venture eventually became Yerbamala, a modern home goods company focused on planters and wall hangings. “We consider our aesthetic to be half way between ‘more is more’ and ‘less is more,'” Yanira says, “as we feel comfortable creating macramé pieces following both trends.” Take a closer look at Yerbamala Designs and their modern take on macrame below!
How did Yerbamala come to be? .
Plants are a great way to bring an organic feel to any decor and utilizing the vertical space seemed like a great way to accommodate our overgrowing plant collection. At first, we began by designing plant hangers, then wall hangings followed. Discovering macramé soon proved to be addictive. We started designing and creating modern macramé pieces with a fresh approach while using traditional knotting techniques.
Using environmentally sustainable high quality materials was always a must for our brand and finding the right match was nothing short of a challenge. We partnered with Ganxxet, a local company that places a special care in consciously sourcing materials so as to reduce impact on our environment. Their attention to detail and engagement have been key in launching our west elm collection successfully. All our pieces are created using 100% recycled cotton cord. It was important to us to experience the recycling process first hand and last year we visited the small, 50 year old, family owned textile factory where these materials come from. It was mind-blowing to see how the excess fabric from the fashion industry from all around the world is deconstructed into a lint like material and then turn into the beautiful cords we so much love to work with.
Can you tell us a little bit about the name Yerbamala?
We combined two Spanish words, “yerba” + “mala,” which literally means “weeds,” as in the wild plant that grows everywhere. The resilience found in plants, especially weeds, has always inspired us, not only to seek strength and be resourceful, but to also find beauty and inspiration in unexpected places.
What drew you to macramé as a craft?
Growing up in Cuba, many homes had macramé as part of the decor. Stylistic nostalgia and our modern take on the pieces was a perfect combination for what we wanted to achieve. We love creating design-focused pieces for the home and with macramé, the possibilities are endless. It is an ongoing learning process, there are so many knots and techniques to be learned. Most importantly, it is a medium we both enjoy and allows us to create together as a team. Our approach to the creative process is probably 25% sketching and 75% intuition, meaning that we love to allow the material to “speak” to us and lead the way.
Where do you seek inspiration?
Our inspiration comes from all around. Nature—our house is kind of a jungle, plants everywhere! Mid-Century Modern color palettes and patterns, architecture from our beloved Havana (a city of mixtures and contrasts), and of course, the many flavors and textures Miami has to offer. Also, you will find the work of one of our favorite Illustrators Jenny Kiker from Living Pattern and her plant studies all around our home. Her flawless technique and use of color are a constant source of inspiration.
What is it like being a maker in America right now?
It is definitely an exciting time for small makers all across America. Currently, there is a newfound appreciation for all things handmade. We design and produce all of our items ourselves. We pay attention to all details when creating all our pieces as if we would be buying them for ourselves. We have met great people within the makers community whose support and positive feedback has been a constant source of encouragement. The west elm LOCAL program is so important, as it creates a platform that connects small makers to that specific consumer that appreciates all the care we place on our products.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned running a business?
Not to ever underestimate the power of social media!!! And the importance of time management, which becomes at times a balancing act as there’s only two of us running Yerbamala and so many different hats need to be worn.
Tell us a little about about a typical day in your work life.
A typical day consists of handling administrative tasks, working on bringing our customer’s orders to life, handling shipments and trips to the post office. And ideal day is one we have enough time to sit down and brainstorm together to create new design prototypes. Creating together is definitely the highlight of what we do!
Why do you love Miami?
Beautiful weather all year round, amazing creative community and art scene, great energy, diversity, Cuban coffee and pastelitos! What’s not to love?
Top 5 local hangouts?
What’s next for Yerbamala?
We are a new business, so we are still fine-tuning processes and working on our brand presence. We are in the early stages of designing a large-scale series with an almost minimalist approach, focusing on clean lines and structure that we would love to bring to commercial spaces. We would love to collaborate with Hotels, stores, restaurants, and creative spaces that share our aesthetic. So many amazing places in Miami we dream of partnering with!