Our ride to Pefi’s house and workshop was a good preview of what was ahead of us: simple and unexpected. The only indications we had to go from San Jose to the house were: “take the highway road to Cartago, after the tollgate drive 2.5kms then, when you see a satellite antenna, take the exit, drive for 100 meters, see a portal, cross it and drive again 2.5kms. You are there.” No street name. No city. To be frank we never thought we’d make it, or at least make it alive (us both in a car looking for directions is not the most peaceful experience you can get). But we did and were completely blown away by the place we landed in.
The property is composed of several small houses (all designed and built by Pefi herself!) made of bricks and light blue wooden shutters. On our left was Pefi’s house and on the righ her workshop. It is this kind of joyful places with a zen atmosphere where you can always feel a sweet breeze even when the sun is burning everywhere else. And it was perfeclty in line with Pefi’s character, a dynamic woman who basically never stopped smiling during the whole time we were there. We were lucky enough to discover she speaks a perfect French, when our Spanish is still, for now, very elementary, so we could understand each other perfectly!
But what does this woman do exactly? That’s a wide question! Pefi, Cecilia de Figueres from her real name, has always worked doing pretty much everything she likes. Painter at the age of 20 (inspired by a mother who painted and is still painting today at the very honourable age of 90), she discovered ceramics in the most unlikely way possible: A man owed Pefi’s husband money but wasn’t capable of reimbursing him and therefore gave him the weirdest object possible: A stone kiln. And it became the weirdest gift a husband can offer to his wife: A stone kiln.
Obviously, Pefi’s first reaction was “let’s sell this weird heavy thing”. But when she found out there were only 3 of these in Costa Rica she decided to seize the opportunity and learn the art of ceramics. She quickly got bored with classical Italian and Spanish patterns and decided to make her own drawings, putting a bit of herself in each piece (a daisy will represent her mother called Margarita and dots are a nod to her nickname, Pecas, “freckles” in Spanish). And that is how her cheerful and optimistic patterns were born. Definitely more in line with Pefi’s mood as she says about herself “I am tropical!” they were greatly inspired from her garden and its everchanging colours.
Pefi, who started doing ceramics for her own pleasure soon realized her creations had a real potential as her husband was giving them away to friends who liked them, so she decided to make a business out of it. A few months later they were 25 people working in the workshop 7 days a week to meet the orders. One day of 2006, Starbucks even nocked at her door to have her draw the patterns of 4 mugs they then sold in their stores.
Going from a broke debtor to a collaboration with Starbucks, that’s a pretty good illustration of the “when life gives you lemon, make a lemonade” moto.
After more than 20 year of a great adventure with her ceramics, Pefi decided to close this chapter and never out of inspiration she now fully dedicates her time to painting and sewing.
Few tips on how ceramic works, by Pefi
- Choose your mold
- Pour the clay in the mold and let it solidify
- Paint the obtained piece with the pattern of your choice
- Put it in the kiln for 9 hours at 1200°
- Let the oven cool down for 23 hours than open it
- Cover the piece with varnish
- Put it back in the kiln for 9 hours at 1200°C, the varnish will become transparent and will revive the colours