Story by Rebecca Poynton-Murray

Photos provided by One Heart Design

If you have ever taken a stroll through Kensington Market in Toronto, you will note the eclectic mix of vibrant vintage, farmers markets and boutique bars. Sitting humbly on the main road is One Heart, a small, mustard coloured shop owned by Guatemalan designer Walter Munoz, who has a unique story behind his artistic creation of friendship bracelets, macramé jewellery and hand-carved coconut shell necklaces.

You grew up in Guatemala – can you tell me how you draw on that time for inspiration as an artist?

Guatemala is a very colourful place, and one where colour combinations are very important. There, indigenous women wear beautifully embroidered shirts called ‘Huipil’, which indicate what village they are from. Being surrounded by these bright colours, their symbolism, and the 24 dialects that the indigenous groups speak is a great inspiration. Historically, Mayan society really valued artwork, especially jewellery, which was considered very precious. This tradition of really valuing jewellery as a special art form was another early inspiration for me.

Why did you decide to make jewellery?

My first idea was to travel – to leave my small town and see the world. Making jewellery came after. I began to see that working as an artist and selling my jewellery as I traveled was a great way to see the world. As I began to travel, I also started surfing at beaches around the world. Surfing and art really came together in my jewellery, which was another way for me to express myself. This idea of travel and my surfing were really what motivated me to make jewellery, which is a very portable art form.

Can you explain what the Artisania tradition is and why you use it in your designs?

Artisania is a collective art form, meaning it does not really come from any one culture or place. Rather, it is a style of art that is passed amongst travelers as they make their way around the world. As they go, they experience new cultures, which inspires their work, as well as meeting other ‘Artisanos’, with whom they share techniques. Artisania is an interesting art tradition as it isn’t taught in schools – rather the artists are self-taught or peer taught, and the streets of the world are really their classroom. This artisan tradition is what I was a part of when I first began making jewellery, and is the biggest defining aspect of my work – the art style of travelers, passed from one to another around the world.

What materials go into your jewellery making?

My priority is always to give life to my materials. For example, I use coconut shell a lot, as it is very much alive when I begin to work with it, often right from the tree. I then clean and begin carving the coconut shell, and my aim is to continue to give life to this living material when it is a finished piece of jewellery. I also work a lot with stones, seeds, leather, metal and thread. These are simple materials that let my workmanship show, which is what makes the jewellery unique.

What are your favorite colours to work with?

Natural colours and colour combinations are my favorite, especially earth tones.

What are your price ranges?

My prices start at $10 for my simplest bracelet, up to $300 for one-of-a-kind pieces.

Your ethos is very free spirited – what are some words you live by every day?

My dream was always to travel, but I grew up in a place where travel was almost impossible. No one from my town had the means or idea to travel, but I knew I had to fulfill my dream. Many people think that money is one of the greatest forces in the world, but I really believe the human spirit is the strongest thing that exists. I think keeping that in mind is part of my daily philosophy.

What can our readers expect if they come and visit your store in Kensington?

My store is really a reflection of my life as a traveling artist. There you will find all types of jewellery that have an overall bohemian vibe. Images of my travels, in particular surfing around the world, are featured in my shop. It is a great place to come if you have an inspiration for jewellery and want to have someone create a one-of-a-kind piece for you – it is my working studio as well as a retail store, and I think you will really get that sense when you come to check it out.

Are you in attendance at any festivals or exhibits this summer?  

I am always doing festivals around the city in the summer and fall. I will be at the Queen West Art Crawl and Danforth East Arts Fair (both September 15th-16th). I’ve attended Queen West Art Crawl for a few years now – it is a great show.

What is your favourite piece to make?

While I’m working on it, each piece is my favorite! But I think my macramé pieces, which can all be so different and really allow me to express myself, are my favorite.

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