Artisan Kathe Cuervo carries a large brown box in one arm and holds her 6-year-old son’s hand with the other. She excitedly unlocks the door to her store and carefully places the heavy box on an empty countertop. The Colombian jewelry maker is gearing up to open her first brick-and-mortar location — inside Upper Buena Vista — and it's a moment she's been anticipating for some time.
Cuervo has been making jewelry for most of her life, but she began dedicating herself to the process full-time only five years ago. Many Miamians will recognize her pieces from her time as a vendor at the once-popular Miami Flea or from Pivot Marketplace at the Citadel. And, naturally, the jewelry-maker manages an online shop, kathecuervo.com.
Now Cuervo and her business partner/husband, Andres Mora, are ready to nurture a physical space of their own.
“We know there’s a risk factor in opening up our own place, but we’ve been taking risks for the last five years, and so far they’ve paid off,” says Mora, who stands beaming next to his wife inside their store.
One such risk Mora refers to is when he and Cuervo decided to uproot their lives in Miami and move to Colombia for two years to study jewelry-making. Although Cuervo graduated from New World School of the Arts, where she studied painting, she is mostly self-taught when it comes to jewels and precious metals.
“Over there,” Cuervo says of her time in Colombia, “you learn things a little differently. It was all about learning how to make jewelry from scratch, and it was such a great experience for me.”
Cuervo wears six rings, most of which are pieces she has made herself. She spins one on her middle finger and smiles as she admits rings are her favorite pieces to make.
“I once had a professor in Colombia tell me that a ring is like a problem we need to solve, and I just loved that idea,” she shares.
The craftswoman works mostly with silver and recently began experimenting with gold. Many of her pieces are customizable and allow clients to select a personalized engraving. In case you lack inspiration for a pithy phrase, Cuervo sells rings, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings already inscribed with uplifting phrases such as “stay curious” or “just keep growing.” Imagine looking down at your ring and having it send you a little reminder to “trust your magic.” It’s a comforting thought.
“I like to make jewelry that someone can wear every day, that means something to them, and is representative of who they are,” the artisan says. “I like to create pieces that are more than just beautiful — they’re pieces of jewelry that are meaningful and personal.”
Cuervo is open about her process and often shares snippets of her methods with her followers on Instagram. “I love the process,” she says as her eyes light up. “For me, it’s so therapeutic and so incredible that you can start off with one idea and end up with a completely different concept. The process is a beautiful thing.”
The store, named simply Kathe Cuervo, is situated directly across from Upper Buena Vista’s main draw: the restaurant Vista, owned and operated by another husband-and-wife team, Roberto Bearzi and Fiorella Blanco of Fratelli Milano. It's a highly coveted location.
“We’ve always wanted to open a place in Buena Vista,” Cuervo says. She admits she didn’t feel wholly ready when the open-air market opened in mid-2018, but the timing eventually aligned and she received the keys to her own store in December 2019.
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Buena Vista is the area where Cuervo and Mora first lived as a married couple. Their son learned to walk in the shade of the neighborhood's idyllic greenery, and the last job Cuervo had before working for herself was at a bakery in Buena Vista. “This neighborhood holds a special place in our hearts,” Mora says. “The fact that we can open our first store in Upper Buena Vista is like coming full circle for us.”
For now, the Kathe Cuervo store will mainly sell Cuervo’s jewelry as well as some secondhand clothing for babies and adults, nail polish from Deco Miami, stationery, and various knickknacks.
“Our goal is to work with other local makers and feature their works at the store,” Cuervo says. “But for now, I want someone to walk in and walk out with a really great and thoughtful gift.”
Kathe Cuervo Store Grand Opening. 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, January 18, at Upper Buena Vista, 184 NE 50th Ter., Miami; kathecuervo.com.