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Meet Tay Dunivan of Heebie Jeebies Jewelry in Koreatown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tay Dunivan.

Tay, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I attended VCUarts with the intention of becoming an art teacher. After one day in Art Ed, I knew I had made the wrong choice for me. I decided I wanted to work with my hands and settled on Craft and Material Studies with no prior knowledge of the field, but it felt right. I wound up spending most of my time in the glass and metal studios and as time went on, I fell deeper and deeper in love with jewelry making.

I started the very beginnings of Heebie Jeebies the summer after graduation. I regularly worked 3-5 part-time jobs, some jewelry related, most not. Any money I made that didn’t need to go towards immediate survival went into building my studio and making objects. After a couple of years of that grind, I got married to my high school sweetheart and started working an incredibly dangerous, low paying job at a woodshop with no healthcare. Everything felt wrong and I was super unhappy and on a whim applied to a jewelry company in NYC that I admired. I got it.

That was my first “real” jewelry job. I spent a year learning and growing my skills, all the while making more pieces and really starting to understand what Heebie Jeebies is and what I wanted it to be. Then my partner ended our marriage out of nowhere and I needed to change everything so, I moved across the country and got a day job with one of my favorite jewelers. Since I’ve been in L.A., I’ve been learning and honing my skills and making things I never thought I’d be able to. Heebie Jeebies feels fully realized for the first time and I’m so proud of it. Amidst all the chaos of the current moment, I’ve lost my primary source of income, but my business is keeping me grounded, and making is keeping me whole.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Not at all. I’ve had to wait tables, work at a strip club, barista, and nearly die at a woodshop for less than $10/hr just to keep myself afloat and this business growing. It’s been with me through two major moves, coming out as non-binary, one horrific divorce, and (hopefully) one global pandemic. But it is my constant, my rock, and it has been so beautiful to see it take shape and gain focus as I grow and change. It’s been a long, hard labor of love but I know it has legs, and soon we will run together.

Please tell us about Heebie Jeebies Jewelry.
Heebie Jeebies is a queer owned and operated handmade jewelry business. The aesthetic ranges from kitschy to spooky to tuff, tattoo-inspired and sexplotative. My goal is to make jewelry that everyone feels like they can wear (not that only certain people can wear certain pieces of jewelry, but largely jewelry is marketed towards cis, white, women and rooted in a history of misogyny that I refuse to partake in.). I’m not interested in dainty, sparkly pieces, I want to make weird, chunky pieces for people who thought jewelry was not for them. It is a deep part of human nature to adorn ourselves, and I want to make that accessible to people on the fringes who never felt catered to.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My grandparent’s house is in the woods up a hill from this little town in Virginia. In the 50’s or something the town used to dump trash and whatever else in the woods across the street from their place. So I spent a ton of my childhood running around in the woods, digging up old bottles, and shoes, and baby dolls from the dirt. I guess that’s not one memory in particular, but digging up old trash and catching lightning bugs were my favorite things.

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