“Today, CocoKanela is a way for me to connect to my Mexican heritage, using the traditional artisanal skills my mother taught me, combined with the colours and styles that express my culture,”

– Vanessa Gatica

When Vanessa Gatica – a vibrant, accomplished woman – arrived in Australia, she thought she knew what to expect. “I had been to Australia when I was 18 and I was so impressed,” she says. “The culture, the diversity… It pulled on my heart.” 

But when she officially made the move, joining her Australian husband after spending five years together in Vanessa’s home in Mexico, a significant culture shock awaited. Having had a career as a busy pharmaceuticals sales representative in Mexico, the lack of connections in Australia came as a surprise. “I was always talking to people. So much so that I even had two phones!” Vanessa laughs. “But when I arrived in Australia, I had a mobile phone, yet no one called me. I remember walking down the street in Melbourne thinking to myself, ‘Wow, not a single person will say hello to me today.’ It was heartbreaking. I didn’t know who I was, or what I was going to do next. I felt like I had lost my personality entirely.”

While it’s not an unusual sentiment from a migrant woman, if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that resilience runs deep in a migrant woman’s veins. “I decided I needed to make the most of this opportunity,” Vanessa says. “I did some therapy, and I tapped into a passion that I had put to bed for many years.”

That passion? Jewellery making. And aren’t we glad she did. Taught to make jewellery at age 12 by her mother, Vanessa had a thriving business by the time she was in her teens. “My mother was a designer and she loved business,” Vanessa says. “She encouraged me to make jewellery but also to make a business.” 

However, that business came to a halt while she was in university. “I had secured a space to open a store for my jewellery,” Vanessa tells us. “And just before we were due to open, a flu pandemic hit Mexico, so I needed to put my dreams on hold. Instead, I went down the safe path of pharmaceuticals.”

So in a serendipitous twist of fate, it’s been remarkable that Vanessa – now also working as a radio broadcaster – has been able to revive her business during a global pandemic, on the other side of the world. That business is CocoKanela, a range of beautiful jewellery made up of everything fro boho earrings to delicate necklaces. 

“Today, CocoKanela is a way for me to connect to my Mexican heritage, using the traditional artisanal skills my mother taught me, combined with the colours and styles that express my culture,” Vanessa says. “But I am most excited to share with my customers the importance of connecting with nature and the earth’s healing properties. Using gemstones and crystals in my pieces, customers can really connect to the energy of the earth.”

Vanessa tells us that gemstones will call us if we need them. Whether it’s the pull of amethyst or the appeal of turquoise, nothing is without a reason. “If you like something, it’s because you need it,” she says. “Gemstones are alive and they have energetic properties. It might help you to balance your chakras or regulate your hormones. Or maybe just to look great!”

We’ll take a little bit of all of the above, thank you, Vanessa!

Published by Amy Malpass-Hahn, Freelance writer