When Claudio and Karla Herrera first met, they were part of a small population of Ecuadorian immigrants living in New York City. Karla was attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, intent on studying fashion design and following in her mother’s footsteps. Claudio was working in the jewelry business in the diamond district. The couple married and eventually moved to Florida, but Karla says they were dissatisfied by the lack of culture. Karla’s mom had recently vacationed in Sedona, a place she called an “art mecca.” Karla and Claudio packed up their four children and moved to Sedona, sight unseen, in 1994.
The couple owned a gallery in Old Town Cottonwood, and Claudio worked in jewelry repair and restoration for businesses in Cottonwood, Jerome and Sedona before the Herreras purchased a coin shop/jewelry store called El Dorado located in the Sacajawea Plaza in Uptown Sedona in 2005. The Herreras discontinued the coin aspect of the business and began focusing on local jewelers and artists. The gallery moved to The Shops at Hyatt Piñon Pointe in 2009. Today, the 600-square-foot space showcases precious and semiprecious jewelry, wood carvings, kachinas and glass artists. The centerpiece of the shop is Claudio’s small studio where he combines his Ecuadorian and Native American heritages in his own jewelry designs. Karla is a jewelry designer, too, though she prefers to work at her home studio. She says she began designing pieces 32 years ago but only became serious about her work in the past 11 years. (Karla was very active in nonprofit organizations and in area schools.) Her bold jewelry features semiprecious beads.
Karla is always looking for new artists to represent, but it’s important for her to have a relationship with each one. Take El Dorado’s kachina artist, Sammie Walker, as an example. When Sammie delivers his dolls to El Dorado, he performs a ceremony and places bits of ash in each doll’s crown. It’s no wonder Karla is so invested in each artist: She says the gallery is her favorite place to be. “My parents always had stores when I was growing up, so I just love being in the store,” she says. “I can be here until 10 p.m. at night, and I’m happy.” – Erika Ayn Finch. Photo courtesy of El Dorado.
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