This week, we sat down with the owner and operator of VeryThat, a company that’s products are so puro San Antonio, they’ll make you proud to represent the 210. VeryThat specializes in handmade, locally and Hispanic-culture-inspired household decorations and apparel, from the infamously puro San Anto tiles, to the handmade Frida earrings, hand painted wooden boxes, magnets, and so much more.
The creative genius behind VeryThat is owner and sole operator Cristina Martinez. We’ve known and have been vending along side Cristina for almost two years. She is hands down one of our favorite vendors. When you meet Cristina for the first time, her warmth immediately draws you in. She makes you feel like you’re old friends, even if you’ve only known her for ten minutes. She’s a genuine person, making art from her soul that represents the city she loves.
BarbacoApparel (BA): So when did you start VeryThat?
Cristina Martinez (CM): [I started] VeryThat in 2012. The name comes from [back in the day when I was] a baby in the San Antonio drag world in my early 20s. My best friend was a local drag queen, and I was his sidekick. I heard queens calling each other VeryThat, which KIND OF translates to Ay Tu. It's one of those beautiful phrases that has a million meanings!
BA: How long have you been crafting?
CM: I'm an Old G crafter! I've always loved making things with my hands, so I don't really have a start date . . . but I love it!
BA: Is there a family tradition of handmade?
CM: My mom is an avid hobbyist. She picks up new stuff all the time, and I tend to follow. We make the loteria sets together!
BA: That’s awesome! There’s nothing more rewarding then having a business that lets you spend time with family and friends. What made you want to be an entrepreneur?
CM: Time to get a little deep . . . A few years ago I got a call that changed my entire life. My mom, my best friend/hero/wonder woman, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It changed every single thing for me. I realized that happiness is mine for the taking, that life is short and I get to decide every single thing, and that a future is not guaranteed . . . so I chose to be happy and follow my heart. It hasn't been easy and there have been a ton of hiccups along the way, but I'm so happy that I've chosen this path.
BA: From where do you draw your inspiration?
CM: It definitely starts with my childhood. Both of my parents are from Mexico, and I spent so many summers, holidays, and weekends there. I grew up (and still live in) the South Side of San Antonio, and I'm so proud of that. Spanglish was, and still very much is, the universal language. So I think of what shows we watched, the sayings that have been ever present in my life, the little dichos my Mami drilled in us. All of the things that make me who I am — that is where my inspiration comes from.
BA: What's your process for making tiles?
CM: There are so many ways to answer this! Something inspires me, I figure out how to portray that — a digital edit, a photo, a handwritten word . . . and then I go from there. Making my tiles is very much a labor of love, but the results make me so happy.
BA: They make us, and we’re sure all your fans, really happy too! They’re so unique and puro San Antonio. Describe the best reaction you've ever gotten from your tiles?
CM: I'm going to switch this up because the best reaction I've gotten was for one of my loteria boxes. Every holiday season I make these tiny loteria sets inside personalized boxes. An older woman came and bought one from me at Peace Market at the Esperanza Center, later she came back with tears in her eyes and asked to buy another. She told me she was proud that I was keeping this tradition alive and that she was getting the sets for her two granddaughters.
BA: It must be an amazing feeling to know that you were able to bring so much joy into a complete stranger’s life. That’s something to really be proud of . . . Now, we here at BarbacoApparel love good chisme. Can you tell us what your worst reaction was?
CM: A woman came and yelled at me because of my Chinga Tu Madre designs. She asked, "What would your mother think?!" So, I asked my mother, who was sitting right next to me at that very moment, and she replied, "I love it!"
BA: LOL! I guess you can’t win everyone over. Shout out to your mom for being awesome, though! So what’s your favorite tile design?
CM: I can't pick a favorite. That's very Sophie's Choice of you, BarbacoApparel! Chingona Como Mi Madre has a special place in my heart, though. Lots of my designs have been inspired by my mama. :)
BA: Fair enough. It’s hard to pick a favorite when they’re all so unique. How about the best sellers? Which ones are the fan favorites?
CM: Chinga Tu Madre,Tacos Before Vatos, Chingona Como Mi Madre, and Please Don't Do Coke in the Bathroom. San Anto's got a great great sense of humor!
BA: They really do! While we’re on the topic of favorites, can you tell us your favorite event to vend at?
CM: That's a hard one! I honestly can't pick just one. I can tell you that one of my favorite smaller shows is San Anto Cultural Arts' Chupachanga — right in the heart of the West Side. I LOVE doing Muertos Fest — it's so beautiful all around. My love for Brick Marketplace knows no limits, both on Sundays where it’s like hanging out with friends and chilling on couches, to the crazy First Friday nights! It's really an SA gem that has become a home.
BA: Where do you see VeryThat at this time next year?
CM: San Anto is my heart and soul, and I hope to continue being a full time artist and vendor with my work set up around more local stores. Also, I'd really love to continue taking VeryThat on the road. It's been really gratifying sharing my stuff with people in other cities! I have some secret projects in the works and I plan to nurture those ideas for future events. I want to continue to help keep SA Puro — so working with my community of artists, vendors, musicians, thinkers to create spaces that are about preserving SA's integrity. One of my dreams is to have a huge event in my beloved South Side merging music, a car show, workshops, and of course ARTE!
BA: Count us in! (If we’re invited) Where can people find your work?
CM: My usual spots are Brick on Sundays and First Friday, and everything else I post on my Instagram @verythat. I make my living off of vending, so you can find me almost every weekend at a gig! For the upcoming season, I'll be at Muertos Fest (along with BarbacoApparel!), Dia de los Muertos at MexicArte in Austin, and a few other big shows! [You can also buy online at] www.verythat.com or contact me on Instagram.
BA: Anything else you’d like to say before we wrap it up?
CM: I'd like to give a shout out to the BA homies! We have a really great network of vendor/artist friends, and I love our camaraderie! On a personal note, I'm so grateful for you all for the support and love you've shown over the last year. I'm so proud of ya'll and so glad we get to kick it on the regular!
BA: We’re grateful for you too, Cristina! We couldn’t have made it this far without your support!