100 Creatives

Christina "Xappa" Franco on How She Found Her Jewelry Design Style

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 91. Christina "Xappa" Franco.

There are three works of art that have stayed with Christina "Xappa" Franco since she was a child. 

First is Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, which she saw at the drive-in and became obsessed with. So obsessed, in fact, that she wanted to start carving puppets from foam. Then, she remembers, Frank Frazetta's Cat Girl and being "mesmerized by his use of color, the shading, and his absolute command of anatomy." And third was a Reader's Digest book called Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. That one was full of "weird folklore, oddities, and paranormal stories." Of the book, which she laments loaning to a friend who never returned it, she says, "I loved it, and I still draw inspiration from it to this day," she says. 

These images, ideas, and stories haven't left the Mesa-based artist, who, under the banner Xappaland, crafts dangling geometric earrings with quartz centerpieces, wiry naturalist crowns, and playful necklaces with charms depicting eerie enameled skulls or vampire dentures in brass.

"Being creative is what I'm best at," Franco, now 39, says. "I figured if other people are able to do it, why wouldn't I?"

So she set out, taking on "tiny" craft shows in Yuba City, California, where she grew up. That led to consigning at head shops and vending at reggae festivals. 

"As time went on, my aesthetic began to change and a style began to emerge as I learned new processes and skills," Franco says. "I had no idea about branding and packaging until much later in the game. It's been a process, and I'm still learning."

I came to Phoenix with the intent of starting anew without knowing a single soul.

I make art because it makes me happier than any other thing in the world even when it breaks my heart.

I'm most productive when it's dark out, I'm alone, and have great music or storytelling in the background.

My inspiration wall is full of old found photos, art prints from local artists, vintage advertisements, and naughty ladies, with a few design sketches here and there.

I've learned most from my mistakes. Lots and lots of mistakes. Nothing helps you streamline your process better than screwing yourself out of money.

Good work should always strive to be better and be credited to the artist who made it.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more serious collectors/buyers. Serious organization from folks who throw events as well. For real tho! There are very few and I am very grateful for them, but we need more!

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite