In this semi-regular column, we profile local crafters whose wares we love.
Haydee Yanez is well aware that most people discovering Mexicons automatically think they're inspired by emojis. To be fair, her line of crafty items that feature cartoony caricatures of Mexican icons do bear a striking resemblance to the ideograms. Yanez is quick to point out the similarity is coincidental, but doesn't complain when people see a connection.
"Almost everybody nowadays think they're Mexican emojis," says Yanez, who came up with the cutesy characters more than 13 years ago as part of a college thesis that aimed to teach children about Mexico's own cultural heroes and pop-culture idols. "I wanted to take these icons and present them in a much more graphic, minimalist way for kids so they'd understand that while Michael Jackson and Madonna are amazing, we also have really cool Mexican icons."
What started out as a simple coloring book for kids has since turned into a part-time craft business for Yanez. She still sells coloring books with her signature portraits of Frida Kahlo, María Félix (aka La Dona), Chilindrina and, of course, lucha libre wrestlers like Blue Demon. Now she has since expanded the Mexicons line to include postcards, stickers and wrapping paper. She admits that she didn't know just how popular they would be until she was featured in a Frida-themed art show at Little Italy art space Casa Artelexia.
"At first, it was just for children, but I learned that it could be something for everyone," Yanez says. "I definitely have an older clientele now, because a lot of the icons are from the '50s and '60s."
Before moving to North Park more than a decade ago, Yanez spent most of her life in Tijuana. She had a modest upbringing and the fact that her family didn't have luxuries, like cable, meant she was exposed to a lot of classic Mexican cinema, or whatever they could pick up on the TV antenna. She always had a knack for art and soon those cinematic and television personalities made their way into her work. She now works full-time as a graphic designer, but says she'd one day like to devote herself completely to Mexicons and have her own brick-and-mortar space.
"I want a clothing line. I would just love that," says Yanez, who is now getting requests from people to do custom portraits or even portraits of their entire family in the Mexicons signature style. "I just wanted to do something that makes people feel good and I like that these do that."