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Tattoo and Tradition: CVLT Nation Interviews JULIO CUELLAR JEWELRY


Julio Cuellar Jewelry Website | IG

Who is Julio Cuellar Jewelry?

We’re a company/family business created and run by Julio Cuellar and Marcella Rangel.

How did Julio Cuellar Jewelry come to be?

In 2014, Marcella and I started dating, and she got pregnant 6 months in. I was a bartender at night and working for a jeweler in the mornings, and she was a tattoo artist. She told me: “You have 9 months to be a full-time jeweler, cus as soon as this baby comes out I’m a full-time mom.” And so I did, and that’s how it all started, in our basement apartment living room. 

I’ve been into tattooing culture since I was a teenager, and I grew up in the desert in Mexico, so the idea of putting tattoo-related imagery and desert scenes in the pieces just came naturally, as that was what surrounded me. The first pieces were a take on the traditional Mexican “big” jewelry style, and I would engrave Mexican skulls and tattoo-style flowers, set with Mexican stones like turquoise, onyx, and opals. My first customers were tattoo artists from Vancouver, and the word just spread within the community. Soon enough I was a full-time jeweler and Marcella turned full-time mom. Seven years later, we have two daughters and an ever-evolving family business.

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A post shared by Julio Cuellar Jewelry (@juliocuellarjewelry)

You say your pieces are made of “a collection of stories, traditions, and cultures.” What role do your ancestors play in your creations?

Traditions and cultures are in a way unexplainable in words, but I believe they come alive in what we make with our hands.

My grandfather was a blacksmith in Mexico, so was my uncle, and even my dad at one point. It was a tradition they passed on as a way of survival. So I grew up in his shop, watching him turn plain pieces of metal into beautifully crafted floral designs for gates and windows (very traditional to Mexico), and occasionally he would do custom-made sculptures. I used to spend every afternoon at my grandparents’ home after school, and his shop was at the back of the house. He taught me how to weld and forge metal and that was my first job. My pieces reflect my grandpa in many ways, but especially his work ethic—the essence of a Mexican man.

Julio & Marcella at his grandfather’s shop | Photo: @bldngr

You say you want your pieces passed on “for generations to come.” What role do your descendants play in your creations?

Our kids are our inspiration to get to work every day and build a legacy for them that, hopefully, they will be into taking care of once we are not here. They also inspire us to be free to create, to not fall into boxes, and to make things as the ideas come to us. Kids are the best artists; they are so true to themselves they can’t even hide it, and most of all they teach us to not take everything so seriously, to keep it fun and spontaneous, and that reflects directly into our pieces. That’s what culture is, it’s passing on stories to your kids.

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A post shared by Julio Cuellar Jewelry (@juliocuellarjewelry)

What’s the music that creatively inspires you? What do you listen to in the studio?

The music in the studio is very eclectic. We go from reggae/dancehall to cumbia/Latin music to bossa nova, old school samba, Brazilian rap, to Mexican corridos, 90’s hip-hop, soul, 90’s R&B. There are some jazz days, gangsta rap, African music, and the next band Sean from CVLT Nation recommends us! hahaha

Pick three of your favorite pieces to put in a time capsule to be opened a century from now by your great-great-great-grandchildren. What does each one represent to you?

I think all our pieces will represent hard work. One will represent our struggles and our successes—our progression. The second will represent “improvise and survive.” The third one will represent our family legacy. They will all have stories that come with them and hopefully be put in our Día de los Muertos altar next to our photos. We also hope that they will have the same effect on our clients’ descendants, that it also represents them.

We’re living in crazy times, so what do you do to keep your mental health on point?

Exercise, eat healthy, laugh with our kids, and stay close to the people we love. 

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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