From childhood, Sol Proaño always enjoyed making things with her hands. Growing up in Costa Rica, her mother decorated their home with textiles and ceramics from Guatemala and Mexico, and in turn, Proaño's love of art was born.
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Now, the artist runs her own business selling and creating prismas: decorative suncatchers made of crystals and brass wiring, inspired by the beauty she experienced hitchhiking through Chile as a teenager.
"All of my travels are really important to me," Proaño tells Hunker. "I was born in Colombia, then I moved to Costa Rica, and then to Chile. What shows up in my work are my life experiences in Chile ... the feelings I have about the landscape, our connection to nature, to the seasons, to the sun coming out — that's how I feel connected to my roots. That's what I want to share."
She makes her prismas out of her home studio in Ridgewood, New York, and the magic happens when one of them catches the light, dispersing small rainbows. It seems fitting that an artist named Sol, or "sun" in Spanish, would develop art that is a celebration of color and light.
Proaño's journey to building prismas didn't happen overnight. When the time had come to go to college, she went to engineering school and put her art to the side for six years. Her work as an acoustical engineer brought her to places like theaters, schools, and concert halls, and while she was helping to design these spaces, she wasn't able to offer her own ideas and aesthetic. "That was really frustrating," Proaño says. "I wasn't able to have any creative input, and I was really yearning for that."
She decided to start a new chapter and made the move to Los Angeles in 2008. As she searched for engineering jobs in the States, Proaño came up empty-handed and found herself making mosaics full-time. Always with a hunger for learning more, the creator enrolled in art classes at Pasadena City College and fell in love with metals and jewelry making. She opened an Etsy shop and sold her jewelry for years, until she felt the itch to try something new in 2019. Knowing she wanted to make a move into home goods and wall decorations, her design work expanded into constructing mobiles.
"I wanted to do something else other than jewelry," Proaño says. "Designing jewelry was really hard because there's so much of it. I wanted to be super original, but you can't be completely original. I wanted to go my own way, so I started creating metal shapes."
Once she started following her artistic intuition, designing on a larger scale felt easier and more natural. She was onto something new.
By hardening, straightening, and shaping wires, Proaño formed simple and elegant lines out of brass. She then hung small crystal prisms from them, which produced flecks of light as they hit the sun. She didn't know it at the time, but she had just created her signature piece.
When the pandemic hit, Proaño's mobiles, or prismas, became a huge success. With more and more people living and working from home, it's easy to see why having something that inspires you to pause and see the beauty in the present moment is really important — especially during an uncertain time like 2020.
"Prisms are magical," states Proaño. "They're so special. They're beautiful objects that are activated by the sun. It's a connection with a force of nature, and it's a connection with a moment, right here. Whatever we're doing, whatever we're thinking, whatever we're rushing through … if you walk by a room and there's a rainbow, you have to stop and look and appreciate the moment. "
At the beginning of the pandemic, her shop had seven different designs, but now she offers 40 products to choose from. This includes tabletop prismas, prisma stakes for your plants, and of course, a variety of prisma hangings.
Going forward, as we continue to move toward a post-pandemic world, Proaño hopes we hang on to the positive outcomes that emerged from our time in quarantine. "I hope we don't forget there was a time when we appreciated the little things," she says.