I returned from Costa Rica last week, where I spoke at the 6th annual FID Costa Rica, a multidisciplinary design festival of 2000+ creatives, designers, architects, and artists across all disciplines, including graphic design, industrial design, architecture, culinary, and fashion. I was truly honored to share the stage with luminaries like Carl Sprague, Marian Bantjes, Eike König, Big Team Architects, and many more.
In Costa Rica, people use the phrase pura vida (pure life) as both a greeting and a way of life. And this ended up being a big theme for me over my time in this beautiful country. My presentation at FID was a big departure from my usual talks, which tend to be about my accomplishments. This was a very personal — and very vulnerable — story about who I am, and how I got to this place. My own pura vida on stage for all to see.
I spoke about my upbringing in an immigrant family, how that instilled values of grit, determination, and hustle that inform my work every day. I talked about the moments where I felt wholly unfulfilled as a designer, and how that led me to start my own company and then join forces to found Crave. My career path has definitely not been straightforward, but I’ve always had a strong sense of purpose, and that I wanted to design products that were meaningful not just for a company’s bottom line, but that are vital to people, culture, and our society.
This theme, my pura vida, continued into my first ever gallery show, called “Pleasure in Plain Sight,” which debuted at the historic El Steinvorth building in San Jose as part of their annual Gallery Art Walk. This show was a dream come true for me in many ways. As an industrial designer, I make products for people to use, and while I believe strongly that these objects should be beautiful, I’d never imagined they might be displayed as art.
I also had some hesitation about showing this work in a country that has such a strong religious presence. There’s a Catholic church in nearly every town square, and I wondered if sex toys might be an overly provocative display. By the end of the show’s opening night, however, I was relieved to find such a warm reception from the people who attended. As in the United States, it seems that things are shifting and people seem ready to have more open conversations about sex and pleasure.
I loved the warm welcome, gorgeous setting, and deep appreciation of design I found in Costa Rica. It’s rare to find a place where you can really express and embrace your truest self, your pura vida, and find community. If you get a chance to visit this wonderful country — and especially this amazing conference gathering — I’d very much encourage you to do so!
photo credit: Ti Chang