Finding new life in old hardware

As with many adventures, the birth of Burnaby's Divina Denuevo began with a skeleton key.

The company's designers, Victoria Ronco and Dave Kelly, use keys and other antique hardware to embellish their leather bags and accessories.

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Ronco started out making jewelry and working with fabric.

"Then one day I came across a piece of leather, and it kind of changed my world," she says.

Ronco began creating bags after holding a key up to that old piece of leather.

"The rest kind of did itself," she adds.

She always had a nostalgic bent, she says, and even studied English literature in Scotland's oldest school, the University of St. Andrews, founded in 1413.

"An old-world esthetic is something I've always been drawn to," she explains.

Kelly, who worked with Ronco at a point-of-sale company, encouraged her to pursue her passion and got involved in the business in February.

At first he just helped out at craft fairs and trade shows, but he has since shifted to being a designer and also manages the books.

"Now it's 50-50," Ronco says.

"But I still struggle with the clutches," Kelly adds, laughing.

Divina Denuevo, which means "Divine Again" in Spanish, upcycles antique hardware and leather from scraps and clothing to create messenger bags, clutches, wallets, laptop bags, keys, cuffs and other items with an out-of-time feel.

"We're going for an old-world romantic, rustic kind of look," Ronco says.

"As long as it's vintage or antique, it's interesting to us, Kelly adds.

They find the hardware pieces at antique shops, estate sales, and eBay, crafting their product line in Kelly's Burnaby apartment.

Sewing leather has proven challenging, according to Ronco, who has sewn with fabric all her life.

"You can't treat it just like fabric," she says of leather.

Modern sewing machines didn't have the power the duo needed to create the bags, so Kelly refurbished a 1929 Singer sewing machine for the job.

"Now, as if he didn't have enough to do with work and the business, he's restoring old sewing machines on the side," Ronco says, laughing, adding there are four or five sewing machines around the apartment, ranging from the late 1800s to the 1990s in age.

The business is much more than a hobby for the two of them, she explains.

"It's a second full-time job," Ronco says, adding at 5 p.m. she heads straight to Kelly's house from work, creating pieces in his kitchen till midnight or 1 a.m., and on weekends they're at craft fairs.

But it's not like a regular job, Kelly says, adding if it was, "I'd probably pass out from exhaustion."

Ronco and Kelly hope to make the business their sole source of income. They have a deal, Ronco says, that as it grows she will eventually shift to doing it as her only job, and once it can sustain both of them, Kelly will do so as well.

Even though the company has been in business for less than a year, Kelly says, sales are good.

Ronco and Kelly will be selling their wares at the Vancouver's Eco Fashion Week trade show and boutique, which runs from Oct. 5 to Oct. 7.

They'll also be at the Fab Fair on Nov. 19 and 20, at Vancouver's Heritage Hall on Main Street, and many other craft fairs throughout the region. A full list is available on the Divina Denuevo website.

Items can also be purchased online at divina-denuevo.com.

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