Mano y Metal: Hardcore Bling

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Not all souls deserve the same bling. All metal, and all love, is the philosophy of  local designer Desiree Castro who crafts pieces only the hands and impulses of a Little Village entrepreneur can. More than accessories she creates pieces that echo the voices of her stylish and wordly clientele.


Name: Desiree T. Castro

Roots: Mexican American, Born and raised in Little Village, Chicago.

Day job: Sniper. Just playing. I am hostage to a cubicle 9-5pm everyday. Aiming to break free soon and do Mano y Metal full-time.

Recent Pandora stations: Lykke Li, Julieta Venegas, & Kid Cudi, I am obsessed with Kid Cudi, like,  I love him.


Why jewelry?

I am not a ‘pearl on a strand of silver,’ type of girl–I like loud, vibrant, thought-provoking, sometimes rude and obnoxious, distinguishing jewelry. I like the type of jewelry that can make you stand out in a crowd, and be the red against the mass of beige, so after being utterly inspired by a street vendor making wire jewelry this summer, I said: “I can do this, I can make my own jewelry.” Then I had no self-control over the urge to create and I have been generating work nonstop since.

Why metal?

I finally found something that can handle me. I hit the metal with all I got: emotions, love, sass, aggression, and it survives me and braves the vortex of my creativity emerging beautifully, able to carry my messages and share them with the world. I don’t do delicate well, so me and metal, that is all love right there.

What are the funniest pieces for you to create?

Ok, I like to use the word “mama” in a lot of my pieces, yes, I was that kid who said “your mama” jokes in elementary school and that easy humor hasn’t left me. So in my creations you will find earrings, double-finger rings and cuff bracelets stamped with: “Yo Mama”, “Mama Don’t Play That” & my most favorite to hand stamp is “Listen to Your Mama!”

When did you start this type of work?

I started making jewelry in August 2010 and launched Mano y Metal on Etsy in October 2010 and it has been a snow-ball effect from that point on as each piece I create propels me forward to explore new possibilities, materials and avenues with Mano y Metal.

Does all your work have a message?

Yes. I create each piece intentionally, meaning, I create my pieces to carry a voice, personality, ability to evoke a smile and celebrate key qualities in people. Amidst the vast differences that distinguish each person from the next, we are linked by a common thread, a sharing of perspective, and we connect. Hence, it has been overwhelmingly inspiring to experience people gravitating to my work and connect with my pieces, demonstrating to me that even if you live across the globe, are of a different gender, age, or culture, people get it-“it” being the intention I give each piece, and that is amazing.

How has Chicago influenced your work?

Chicago has influenced me tremendously, growing up in Little Village, with the culture, vibrant colors and people, combined with my mother being the main advocate for my exploration and appreciation of the arts, and definitely the street smarts gathered from city dwelling, all chiseled and defined my character to be one that you see expressed in Mano y Metal. I cannot deny how Chicago influences my work anymore that I can deny that I need coffee in the morning.

What other art forms influence your work?

Theater! Dance! Spoken Word and Paintings! They all evoke inspiration for me but my biggest love affair is with words, the power they carry and how they transform. I have a background in theater, dance, playwriting and once upon a time, I even painted portraits, so they all inspire me, but anything with words pulls at my soul, and I move with it.

Advice for other independent artist in Chicago?

If you are going to do anything with your art, do it with all your heart, and keep pushing forward despite all the obstacles, use your creativity to develop alternatives to reaching your goals, but always remember they are reachable.

Plans for the future?

I’d like to start collaborating with other artists, and also since I am a one-woman show, it can get exhausting to juggle all the logistics of running a small business myself.  I think it would be cool to start branching out and working with perhaps a photographer to help me shoot my products  and does anyone want to help me with learning how to pay business taxes?