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I think I speak for everyone who watched Honey, I Shrunk the Kids when I say that every once in a while, we find ourselves asking what it would feel like to be part of a world that seems so distant and fictional, but that, at the same time, is only an attentive look away. Just imagine the number of things we could find if we just opened our eyes a little more.
Since I was a kid, I have felt a great fascination for miniature things. The idea of new and different worlds created by shrunk-down versions of everyday objects is something that always filled me with joy during my childhood and left a few of the dearest moments of my life. To a large extent, those moments define our tastes in the future. For that reason, it was inevitable that, when I came across the work of Sofía for @madreselvabyp, I was flooded with memories and a renewed fascination for the worlds that surround us, but that, in order to really see them, we just have to stop and enjoy.
Sofía Churruarin is a professional photographer and math teacher, something that is quite clear when we find that her works easily meet the golden ratio. She is very passionate about botany and music, always present during worktime. She has a daughter named Isa and a great entrepreneurial spirit. And she is capable of realizing one of the most fulfilling achievements possible, at least for someone like me who was not born with that gift: solving the Rubik’s cube. That’s the achievement she tells us that she plans to leave written on her gravestone.
We talked to her about her project, the origin of this passion and her plans for the future, and she also gave us some advice about caring for our plants responsibly.
First of all, I would like you to tell us a bit about the origin of the project. What motivated you to start Madre Selva?
We are always learning in life. We used to live in an apartment in our twenties and someone gifted us a pothos, “the immortal pothos”, poor little thing. But we were not that bad, because, without knowing anything, we hung it up near a window and we watered it merely intuitively. Step by step, we started getting involved in this muddy world [laughs]. We work hard, we studied and, one day, in 2017, we were offered a position selling plants at a craft fair. That was where we came up with the name Madre Selva and, little by little, we went on finding different ways to use our creativity and take the project more seriously. We decided to start working on social media to grow and we always try to keep a focus on artisanal work rather than on a mass production level; everything we create is made by hand and comes with personalized attention for our customers.
Something that is very present in all of your work is your love for plants. Could you tell us where this passion comes from?
I started with bonsais, passionate and rewarding from every perspective. It’s always about those tiny worlds. Miniature is something that attracts me a lot: proportions, geometry. Then I started adding a few succulents, and those who have this species at home know that they are truly addictive. Discovering new species, collecting them… Besides, in comparison to bonsais, their care is a piece of cake [laughs]. Today I can say that my plants give me so much that I cannot conceive of a life without them.
Almost everyone has plants at home. What advice could you give us to take care of them in a responsible way?
First of all, be aware that, besides being decorative items, they are living beings and need different kinds of care depending on the conditions of the origin of the species. For example, “indoor” plants mostly come from forests or jungles, and that is why we can adapt them to the indoors, even though they would always be better in outdoor protected spaces. On the other hand, succulents need direct sunlight for their correct development, and we received a lot of questions from people that want to keep them indoors. And we don’t want to be the bad guys, but we always tell them, succulents inside of the house, no! There are some exceptions, but we won’t get into those right now.
And lastly, enjoy. Learn from your observations and the experience of taking care of them, which is the most gratifying part of it. Enjoy the bond that you create with them and the surprises that come with the wonders of nature. Cultivate, experiment and make compost! Do you know that 40% of the waste that we generate is compostable? That compost is super beneficial to our plants.
When we visit your Instagram profile, we find worlds, or better said, microworlds, where plants coexist with different human realities. Is there anything in particular that you would like to communicate with this part of your project?
The gardens are works where my love for creation and my love for plants coexist. They are a fusion and a way to give whoever buys them a little piece of greenery with a personal touch. They are a means to express ourselves and, of course, to give voice to what the client wants to see reflected in them. I think that’s the part that we enjoy the most, the most creative of the project, the one that allows us to play a little at work and the one that gives us more satisfaction the more distinctive the request is. It is a challenge to understand what somebody else has in their mind and make it real. Sometimes we come across ideas that we would like to try out and we let our creativity run wild.
It is quite clear that you put a lot of time and effort in each of the requests. Do you work alone or do you have a team?
We are a team! And we would love to keep adding more people as long as the project demands it. Mauro, who apart from being THE odd-job man, is in charge of creating our handcrafted concrete pots, everything by hand, no mold used. Patri, our ceramist, who we met at the craft fair. We love what she does and her willingness to create the figures that we request. Cami, my sister! Grower of succulents, cactus and bonsai. Aide, collaborator in the care of our plants. Marce and Emma, in charge of the wooden figures. And, last but not least, our delivery service, which is an independent business from ours, but complements us.
Can you tell us a little about your creative process?
Creating is externalizing a part of you, the final result may vary according to what you are consuming at that time and your state of mind during the process. We try to have pleasant atmosphere: good music and anything that help us externalize our being. We work with great care and we always try to satisfy our own expectations. We love that people enjoy our work. Our time at work is always surrounded with a lot of different music: trash, Sinatra, Amy Winehouse, eighties pop, electro, Guns N’ Roses, grunge, Pantera, Juan Luis Guerra, etc…
What are the pieces that people normally buy and which do you enjoy making the most?
We find our work very gratifying most of the time. We like it when people ask us for fantasy scenes and to see how we manage to represent that in the piece. For example, some customers have ordered a basketball court, a divan, grandmothers, their dogs, families. It is so much fun. There are also some requests that we can’t make due to our material limitations. For example, some people have ordered thematic gardens of Harry Potter, Cobra Kai, Jurassic Park. People let their imagination loose and we love it! We try to find everything for every person. The succulent arrangements are very requested and it is also very pleasant to make them.
What plans do you have for the future of Madre Selva? Any wish that you would like to share with us?
In regards to the future, we would love to open a physical store where everyone could come to see and choose whatever they like, because it is something that we are asked for a lot. We would also love to do courses and online workshops; there are a lot of things to do. It’s a matter of time and waiting for the right moment. We would like to add more ecological products with a mindset towards the future.
If you would like to know more about her work and, who knows, get one of those mini-gardens for that special someone or for yourselves, you can contact her via Instagram.