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Location: Los Angeles, CA

Meet Christine Mayrina of Gypsy/Hunter

I had the chance to interview Christine Mayrina of Gypsy/Hunter for DISfunkshion Magazine. Christine has an amazing spirit and is a true advocate for life on the open road and living your life to it's absolute fullest. It's hard not to be drawn to her free spirit and her vast knowledge of Native American jewelry and the cultures that produced it.

How did you get started with collecting? I know you said that you get obsessive about things once you become interested in them, but what really set you on this path?

I feel that this path is one I’ve always been on, it was just a matter of putting the pieces together and letting go of my fears of truly committing to this journey. My job is more than a job or career to me - it is a vocation, it’s in my bones. Once I stopped trying to make a life out of what I thought would be a successful, conventional path, everything fell into place. But I always say there are three vastly influential elements that really showed me that this is what I want to be doing.

As a child, I was obsessed with Frida Kahlo. I’ve always been incredibly drawn to her as a person firstly, and secondly as an artist. She truly created the world she lived in. She loved her man, she lived her dreams, and she loved her country. She lived with so much passion and had such a distinct personality- everywhere she went, she was noticed. I think it’s because she was so adamant about being exactly who she was at all times - there was never a compromise. I’ve always felt very connected to that. I remember seeing photos of her with all of her jewelry on and thinking she looked so interesting - that she had a lot of life and passion in her and that it showed in every little thing about her- from her statement necklaces to the rings on every finger. Her jewelry never spoke for her or stole the show, rather it accentuated who she was. I absolutely adore that.

When I was in college, my boyfriend at the time was a vintage buyer for a large retailer. We had such fun collecting amazing vintage, I felt like I while I was going to school for sociology, I was really getting an education in the vintage apparel industry. He and I would go on these long roadtrips, sometimes two months at a time and stay with his family in the Southwest and even in little towns throughout Mexico. We would explore all the little corners of the border towns in New Mexico and down in Chihuahua. We’d thrift every single place in Flagstaff, Albuquerque and everywhere in between. We’d get lost on reservations and buy frye bread with fresh wildflower honey and talk to everyone about all the art and vintage. It was incredible. I’ll never forget those times - especially the first time I saw the red mesas rising out of the desert on our way to New Mexico. It was breathtaking and I’ve been going back and forth from Los Angeles ever since. The jewelry to me is a reflection of the beauty of the natural landscapes in our American Southwest. Every time I look down at my hands, flanked with huge pieces of turquoise, I think of the incredible desert sky…little pieces of heaven on earth.

Lastly, the final push that helped me to jump totally into the antique jewelry business was a woman I met years ago. She is a beautiful, independent passionate turquoise jewelry dealer who is known to have the very best stuff this side of the Mississippi. She inspires me so much. She is probably in her late 60s and works harder than anyone I know - and yet she is always in such great spirits - because she is truly living her dream. She is free and she is her own woman. She truly holds the reigns to her life. She’s taught me a lot about what it means to be a woman who makes and stands by her own choice to be in control and to live by what you love. I see a lot of who I want to become in her. I am so staunchly committed to feeling like I am living my life the way I decide to and when I saw that I could make a life for myself with this, I was all in.

How would you describe your process of finding these pieces? What do you look for when you select a piece? Where do typically go hunting for finds? Do you base a pieces value based on its antiques or its quality?

My process for hunting is not any formula - I wake up between 4 and 5 am, sometimes earlier - and get moving! Sometimes that means I drive an hour, sometimes it means I set off on a little excursion. The early bird gets the worm! Half the process is just showing up at every single place you can think of that may have the goods. Talking to people and gathering details is a big part of it, no matter where I am-  I’m like a detective. I put the picture together and then set off for the hunt.

I always base a piece’s value on antiquity, craftsmanship, quality of material and rarity. I try to buy pieces as old as possible- nothing after the 1970s. My favorite eras of jewelry production are the 1900s, 1930s, 1950s and 1970s. I love a good patina! I always buy sterling silver and try to find the highest grade turquoise I can find - the more matrix in the stone, the better! I love finding pieces that are made with stones from turquoise mines that have been cleaned out of production long ago - the rarity is so special to me. You can tell when a piece has been masterfully and lovingly made, it totally shows in the detail of the silverwork and stonework. They just don’t make em like they used to!

I don’t think there is a “typical” place that I go hunting- my ears and eyes are always open to a good find. Everywhere I go, I talk to people about jewelry, listen for any tips and follow any leads. Obviously the American Southwest is a hotspot for the kinds of pieces I buy but I try not to buy typical pieces - I love a good dig - if you could see how deep I dig for a find, you’d be amazed - I’m talking literally middle of nowhere in seemingly abandoned sheds with cobwebs and overgrown weeds everywhere (with permission of course!). Those kinds of places are a goldmine for me. I always talk to elders. They have the most incredible stories and pieces. Sometimes I am lucky and they are willing to work with me. I am basically on a never ending treasure hunt with no map - I go into every corner I can get into. The good stuff is always what I’m after, even if it means getting over a lot of hurdles to get to. It’s a ton of work but I couldn’t see myself doing anything else!

What do you hope to accomplish with Gypsy/Hunter? What are your goals or dreams?

I hope to take Gypsy/Hunter as far as it can go. I’ve never set a limit or said “this is exactly how it’s going to be run” because I want for the business to grow organically and authentically. I’ll always find amazing old pieces, but the natural progression of things is to start creating my own collections. I’ll take what I learned from the old and incorporate it into my own pieces. They will be an extension of the eye I have when buying vintage- big, bold and beautiful. I’ll never quit the vintage, though. My dream (that I am actively working toward) is to have an amazing studio full of American heritage vintage and also my own collections. Big things in the future!

Who is your target audience when it comes to buyers?

I don’t have a target audience! My client is anyone from a young, wanderlusty woman to a lifelong collector with beautiful white hair and anywhere in between. My pieces speak for themselves. I think I’ve curated a bold collection, and whomever they draw in is exactly whom they are meant for. I don’t need for Gypsy/Hunter to be something for everyone- rather, I love that G/H draws in people with a shared commitment to beauty, age and craftsmanship. These pieces are not fashion, they are American heirlooms and they just so happen to make very fashionable statements!

Quotes to live by, or what is your mission statement?

I don’t have an official mission statement. If you look on my website, the Manifesto that I wrote out is what I try to live by every single day. I am fully committed to finding and creating the best pieces and work that I feel proud to stand by. Besides all that, I just want to live life on my terms and appreciate every last bit of it.

Be sure to check out her store and follow along her open road adventures via InstagramImages via Christine Mayrina

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