Leticia Rodarte started her art career and became an entrepreneur at age eight.
It started during grammar school in Mexico, she drew maps for her friends and charged them a “torta” for it, Rodarte said.
“I started making my own money selling my drawings to friends from grammar school,” Rodarte said. “That’s when it started, that’s when I became a business lady.”
Rodarte and her husband, Randy Williams, opened Reciclarte studio & shop in 2012, located at 1846 S. Ashland Avenue in Pilsen. Reciclarte specializes in handcrafting pieces of art using everyday recyclable materials.
Rodarte grew up near the monarch butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán, Mexico.
“I grew up surrounded by nature,” Rodarte said. “My grandpa was a bee keeper, he grew up in a rural area, my grandpa taught me to love and respect my planet.”
Rodarte said although she was brought to Chicago against her will at age 14 in 1990, she is glad her grandparents made that decision for her.
“Many of the opportunities that I have had in America, I don’t think I would have had them in Mexico.” Rodarte said. “I’m glad I grew up in Mexico, but I’m also glad I live in America.”
For most of her art at the Reciclarte studio in Chicago, Rodarte uses recycled materials that have been donated from friends, bought from thrift stores, and salvaged from alleys. She transforms recycled materials into unique pieces of art.
“I try and preserve the material’s original form,” Rodarte said. “I know if you treat something with love and care, something good is going to come out. Like when you see a diamond in the ruff, once it’s polished, its true beauty is enhanced.”
Itzel Munoz, 39, a Pilsen resident who shops at Reciclarte said she remembers when she first met Leticia 10 years ago.
“I remember when Leticia first told me about her plan to open Reciclarte, she told me not to throw away anything that I used, because she could make it pretty,” Itzel said.
One of the first recycled art pieces Leticia introduced to Itzel was a salt container, which was hand painted by Leticia and transformed into a pencil holder.
“I love Reciclarte, what Leticia is doing is really great, she sees beauty in things where a lot of people don’t see it,” Itzel said.
Norma Yanez, 43, a Pilsen resident, has supported Leticia’s art for 15 years.
She gives containers to Leticia so she can turn into art. Yanez said Leticia’s style is very unique and creative.
“The whole process is really inspiring,” Yanez said. “I was even talking to her about taking an art class.”
People like visiting Reciclarte because it’s a very cozy space, and if they are looking for something unique and eco-friendly, Reciclarte is the place to shop at, Rodarte said.
Customers must knock on the door in order to be let in, and then they walk into a room full of vintage, decorated furniture, colorful art, with ivory colored walls, adorned with unique pieces of art. Reciclarte’s windows are dressed with orange curtains and outlined with its original brown wood work.
Hanging on top of Reciclarte’s fire place is one of Rodarte’s paintings. The painting is titled “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful and smart.”
It’s a portrait painting of a skeleton woman, wearing a turtle neck mustard yellow dress, with a purple flower and paint brushes pinned to her black curly hair, and around her neck a butterfly necklace.
“This painting is done with a recycled canvas,” Rodarte said. “It’s from an old painting someone else did, I saw the person throwing it away and I asked if I could keep it.”
Also, Rodarte teaches art classes to people of all ages. She has students that are in their 50’s and as young as nine. The art classes Reciclarte offers are: watercolor, acrylic and oil. The curriculum is developed based on individual learning and is taught and adapts to the student’s schedule.
“Through my art there is a lot of will power,” Rodarte said. “I may not save the world when I die-but at least I go to bed with a clean conscience.”
Munoz pointed out that Leticia has defeated many obstacles in her life.
Yanez who formerly owned a business in Pilsen understands the struggles that come with owning a business.
Leticia’s first phase of her art business venture was Monarte, a name that combined monarch, and her last name, Rodarte. She eventually had to close because it was very overwhelming, after three years, She started the second phase of her business, Reciclarte.
“I was by myself,” Rodarte said. “It was overwhelming because I was a female, because I was a minority, because I was Mexican, and because I didn’t have the basic knowledge of creating a business, like booking, promotions and computers.”
Rodarte is a self taught artist who has exhibited her art work in galleries in the Chicago area, Mexico and Paris.
La Catrina Cafe , located at 1011 W. 18th Street in Pilsen, will present Rodarte’s painting, handcrafts and Jewelry now through July 11th