AUSTIN, Texas - Frida Friday ATX continues virtually during the pandemic as a space for women of color to sell their work.
The founder of Frida Friday ATX, TK Tunchez, says the pivot is nothing new for her. As a woman of color, she says familiar with rejection. Tunchez sits on her East Austin patio, subtle balladas, Spanish love songs, playing in the background, as she handmakes earrings for her online art and jewelry shop, Las Ofrendas.
Her brown hands hold the metal and beads with so much delicacy and love. “I love making earrings, it’s one of my favorite things to do,” Tunchez says, adding it’s not just a hobby for her.
“Really adorning yourself is a sacred action, when you choose what you’re going to put on your body, you’re making a statement,” Tunchez says. “I love the moments of when people get to be selective about what they’re putting on their bodies & what that means to them”
Tunchez has poured her life’s work into Las Ofrendas, every tiny detail, color and shape has intention. “Blue actually, it relates to your throat chakra and it’s really good for communication and is also known for your third eye or chakra you use for trusting your intuition, so trusting your gut,” Tunchez explains. “So I know for a lot of people, women especially, we have a really hard time communicating what we need, sometimes we’re taught not to, right?”
Tunchez says it’s her way to speak her truth.
“I've been doing las Ofrendas now for officially, I just counted, I think 8 years I’ve been an independent artist and i've gone through many many phases of it, like I actually originally started studying gems so I really worked on sacred geology so like understanding the power of our stone ancestors and working with folks who do stone therapy and learning from elders from many different traditions and the way they work with stones to generate healing within body,” Tunchez explains.
She says working with this art is an intuition that runs in her soul, ‘Lo lleva en el alma’, as you say in Spanish. “For example, I’m from Guatemala, I’m Mayan, and so my ancestors, Mayan people, would drill and put turquoise in their teeth, and they discovered this so many centuries later and I think back and I’m like well, if all of our ancestors so long ago knew, that all the elements we have around us, the flowers and the plants and the colors healed us, then how can we harness that and use that in our practice of making art….” Tunchez says as she continues working her earring art.
Tunchez says it’s that intention and history behind her livelihood.
“That’s what Las Ofrendas has come from, is the knowledge and the history of leaning into that on my own and kind of allowing myself to explore it and put it into these different designs in little earrings or flower crowns that go out into the world, but that really for me are kind of an emboldened action and a call for awakening for people that wear them,” Tunchez says.
Las Ofrendas has done well. She has more than 11 thousand followers on social media and constantly sells out minutes after shop restocks. It’s important for her not to romanticize the journey, she says it’s been anything but easy. She says when she landed in Austin 10 years ago, it was tough.
“I could not find a job and there would be jobs that would be perfectly aligned with what I had just done and people would say things to me like oh, ‘you’re over qualified’ or you know, whatever people say to people…..” Tunchez says, thinking back.
Despite the rejection, Tunchez kept her path and her path kept her grounded. “So I felt like I kind of got forced, the universe said, ‘You know what girl, this is your path, this is what you’re doing’,” Tunchez remembers.
Despite her new path and excitement, the Guatemalan artisan faced rejection breaking into the Austin artisan market. “I was really disheartened by what was happening in the city [of Austin], and I didn’t feel like as an artist I really fit in, I felt like I fit in with my musician friends, and going places there within my own community but trying to do pop-ups, I was often rejected form popups,” Tunchez says. “They were offended I was introducing a language they weren’t familiar with.”
Tunchez says she took that resiliency and used rejection to start creating again and Frida Friday was born in 2017. “I started Friday Friday out of the desire to want to build a community for other women of color and just selfishly to see myself reflected in Austin,” Tunchez admits.
The first Frida Friday was at Kebabalicious, a Turkish Kabob shop on the Eastside, and they started off with 14 tiny tables. “I felt like, ‘Are people going to accept the idea that women of color spaces are needed in Austin? Are people going to understand why we need them and are there even going to be enough makers, women of color makers in Austin to fill these spaces to be able to run a successful market?’” Tunchez remembers.
Now, three years later, Frida Friday has grown massively, there’s even a waitlist to participate, but Tunchez says she doesn’t want to lose sight on the mission.
“The idea behind [Frida Friday] was look, how are we going to address the gentrification that’s happening within our community?” Tunchez says. “And the number on way that we can do that is to help bridge the wage gap that women of color experience most.”
Tunchez’s market is now a movement, focused on creating a cultural space supporting all women of color.
“If the signs are there and you’re getting that support, and you [women of color] see that the path is opening, lean into that and trust that, obviously do it in a way that feels safe for you,” Tunchez says, giving advice to follow women of color. “But don’t negate your magic, trust your magic, trust that what you have to offer into the world is enough to sustain you.”