DANIELA VILLEGAS AND SAMI HAYEK: “I KNEW QUICKLY WE COULD MAKE A GREAT LIFE PROJECT TOGETHER”
LATINNESS: How did you meet? Was it love at first sight?
DANIELA: On the plane from Los Angeles to Mexico City. No, it wasn’t love at first sight. I fell in love when I started to notice his details and attentiveness when we were dating. We talked for hours about various topics, about the dreams and goals we had. I think that freedom to be and to express ourselves is what made us decide to be together.
SAMI: I loved that she was a jewelry designer with an unstoppable curiosity for nature. I knew very quickly that there was a lot of affinity and we could make a great life project together.
LATINNESS: Did you already have your respective projects at the time?
DANIELA: I started my brand Daniela Villegas when I moved to California.
SAMI: Although Daniela started her brand upon arriving in Los Angeles, she did so with such clarity and focus that she quickly managed to structure and establish roots in her studio. I had been living in the city for 17 years with a very defined project: designing furniture, spaces and airplanes. Her arrival gave me a lot of balance. Before, I’d stay in the office until dawn, and sometimes, when I was already in the car heading home, I’d think about what I’d do when I got there, and would go back to my desk to continue working on a project.
LATINNESS: Has creativity been a point of connection for you throughout your relationship?
DANIELA: Definitely. Creativity is part of who we are and we use it at all times in our lives. In the way we express ourselves, but also in decision-making. We talk together a lot about what we like and what inspires us.
LATINNESS: Daniela, you have an obsession with nature. Where does this come from? We’re curious about what you were like as a child…
DANIELA: I had a very nice childhood. I remember playing a lot with my brothers and nature was always close to us. The garden, going to a ranch or to the mountains… My dad really liked to do road trips (the enjoyment of the landscapes and the clouds is something I have engraved in my mind). I like animals, and although I did not grow up surrounded by them, they’ve always been present in my literature. Nature is and has been the guiding force in my life. It inspires me, heals me and gives me peace. That’s why she’s the muse for my jewelry.
LATINNESS: Sami, did you know you wanted to work in the arts from a young age?
SAMI: Quite the opposite. Until I was 20 years old, my interest in art and design was almost null. I come from a Lebanese family that loves to get involved in everything; they talk you into buying your own stuff from them. I thought I’d do that too.
That idea changed in a moment. I literally had an observation that transformed everything. I was studying Business Administration in Florence. While there, I realized there was a perfect congruence in Italian culture. The phonetics of the language are as sharp as the angles of its designs and its physical features. Their gestures are a very clear representation of how they express their emotions.
It was then I understood that all cultures and subcultures have the same congruence. If you think of Harley Davidson, chances are that similar images come to mind. It’s as if there’s an invisible essence expressing itself through people, food, places, customs, art, etc. This observation made me interested in understanding how to use materials, objects and spaces to produce a specific experience; how to stimulate emotional states and behaviors.
LATINNESS: Do you have similar creative processes?
DANIELA: My creative process is very instinctive. I let myself be guided by my dreams, curiosities, messages and the signs around me.
I investigate the meanings of elements I’m going to use in my jewelry. I read a lot about the themes I’m developing, its environment and symbology.
I create sketches and models of what I want to do in order to present to my team. I try on the prototypes, I feel them, feel their vibrations, and continue like this until the pieces materialize.
SAMI: It depends on the project. If I’m making a painting, the only variable is the subject I want to represent. In this case, I prefer to not think so much and turn off my five senses as much as possible to let other ideas come to me. If I’m working on a building, the inspiration has to go according to the characteristics of the project.
When there are variables such as place, operation, demographic selection, regulations, budget, permits, etc., inspiration becomes the organic and creative part. However, it should be moldable so that it can adapt to the project and hold it together.
Sometimes inspiration comes in a simple form, like looking at a material in a certain way. Other times, it appears as a hit of information that takes the whole project to ground.
LATINNESS: You recently collaborated together on the creation of a table for your home. Can you talk to us about this process?
DANIELA: We needed a table for the center of our room and we’d been wanting to do something together for a while.
Between the pandemic and a lot of talking, we thought this was a good project to collaborate on where we could unite my beetles and color curation with his materials and organic design.
We wanted a table that would show my collection of insects and, at the same time, could invite you to interact with them in a natural, less intimidating way than when they are hung on a wall. Definitely a piece that would generate a conversation at home.
Now we’ve made more tables for some customers who’ve asked us. It’s nice to see how each piece is put together and houses different collections. It gives it a special, unique touch and holds lifetime memories.
SAMI: We both have very defined ideas (to not say stubborn). I think that’s why we didn’t dare to do something together before.
In the end, the table turned out very beautiful, and it has a perfect balance between the two of us. We’re convinced that things absorb the energy of those who dream and make them. That’s why we personally do a lot of the work and choose people in our teams who are congruent with our ideologies. It was a very fun project, and we’ll continue to do more things together without a doubt.
LATINNESS: Although Daniela, you design fine jewelry, and Sami, furniture and interiors, there’s a common thread in your creations: authenticity and uniqueness. As artists, how do you manage to develop these personal identities?
DANIELA: Your art is the expression of who you are, of your dreams and experiences. What I do is let creativity flow to materialize and share it. We like to live and feel our pieces.
SAMI: What’s interesting to me is that the pieces, or the spaces, tell a story or narrate a specific idea. With this in mind, the focus turns to the dialogue between the materials and their proportions, regardless of any reference to styles or trends. Ideally, each project should have its own character.
LATINNESS: Daniela, recently you became a mother of two. Tell us about that experience and how it has influenced your perspective as a designer?
DANIELA: It’s the greatest gift that life has given me. Being a mother is an incredible facet, but also complex, it forces you to constantly look in the mirror, at your experiences and emotions. It’s an opportunity to grow, learn, heal and enjoy.
LATINNESS: Sami, how has being a father influenced your work?
SAMI: Undoubtedly, being a parent is the most important project and has a natural influence on everything else. I feel more responsibility to further explore each plan.
LATINNESS: What legacy would you like to leave your children?
DANIELA: I believe that the most sacred and greatest legacy I have is my children. I want them to grow up and remember that their mother is someone who loves what she does, that my work is a personal exploration based on discipline and effort, joy, love and curiosity about my job.
I have focused a lot of my existence on a balance between what I do and my personal life. The two fuel and complement each other. The two give energy to each other. I try to be a good granddaughter, daughter, wife, mother, friend, and person. Every day is a gift and you have to give your best at all times.
SAMI: The children already bring their own essence; however, it’s also true that they become what they see in their examples, much more than what they are told. Leaving them the inertia and security to tend to their passions, concerns and curiosities responsibly, will be a great legacy.
LATINNESS: You’re based in Los Angeles– what brought you there? How does the city influence you on both a personal and professional level?
DANIELA: I moved for Sami. Los Angeles is a city with beautiful light and a very creative energy, with an incredible quality of life. Here, nature is a fundamental part of the beauty of the city.
SAMI: I came to Los Angeles for University, and although I continued my studies in other places, I agree with Daniela that it’s a great city with people from all over who have diverse approaches and a lot to learn from.
LATINNESS: You’ve said that your house is a gallery of sorts. What does home mean to you?
DANIELA: Our house is full of things we like and that add beautiful energy to our home.
Home, for me, is a place that makes me feel at peace, gives me security and brings harmony to my life.
SAMI: Like the ingredients in a recipe, all the things in a house add to and modify the final result. When a piece of furniture, object, material or color is compatible with the person or the couple, there’s an automatic feeling of belonging. Home is a reflection of who you are.
LATINNESS: As expats, how do you keep your Mexican roots alive?
DANIELA: We speak to our children in Spanish at home all the time. We share stories of our childhood and how we grew up. Our nanny is teaching the children Zapotec.
We like to host at home a lot and try to celebrate Mexican traditions (September 15th, Day of the Dead, Three Kings Day, Candelaria, etc.) so that our children and friends can learn from them and become part of our lives.
SAMI: Although I’ve spent more time outside of Mexico than in it, I’m still 100% Mexican. Going to another country gives you the opportunity to add one more culture, but adding or substituting is a personal decision.
LATINNESS: What do you love most about your Latin culture?
DANIELA & SAMI: That it’s warm, fun and creative.
Images courtesy of Daniela Villegas and Sami Hayek.