"My inspiration comes from the beautiful things that I find in nature, in the traditions of my country, and in the typical things that distinguish us from other countries."
"When I was 12 years old, my father lost everything we had, everything he and my mother had worked so hard for. We found ourselves homeless due to his alcohol problems. We went through a lot of financial hardship.
"Even so, I was able to finish my studies thanks to scholarships, and was even able to go to college. But my dad never worked with leather again, nor were they able to regain their financial stability.
"Many years after his bankruptcy, my father bought a cheap little car and we were all happy. When we went to sit on the seats, they were on one side, all crooked. But we went for a drive anyway and, along the way, we laughed about the seats.
"I'm Wendy Oviedo Carvajal from San Jose, Costa Rica. I'm a creative, persevering and elegant woman. I was born in 1972 and I spent my childhood in a neighborhood, south of the capital. My family consists of my father, a shoemaker, my mother, a seamstress, and my two younger brothers.
"From the time I was a child, I helped my father make shoes, doing the things he allowed me to do at my age. I also helped my mom with sewing. I remember the smell of leather throughout our house, where Daddy had his workshop. I loved going with him to buy the leather and materials he needed, and I really enjoyed helping him design new styles.
"With my mother, I enjoyed shopping for fabrics and having her teach me to use the machines. I was born and raised amid leather, heels, buckles and fabrics as well as their machines and everyone who helped my father make shoes. He sold them in the main stores in San Jose and in some rural areas, and I'm proud to share this story.
"I have three children. At the age of four, the youngest was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. He was nonverbal and was about to enter a public institution for Asperger's and autistic children. I decided to help him to function in society as a good person. It was a long process, and I learned what it's like to be kicked off a bus or asked to leave the cinema. I'd listen to strangers criticize us while I tried to get my son out of a meltdown in the middle of the street.
"Now he is 16 years old, is bilingual and he speaks perfectly. He handles himself very well in society and next year, he goes to the NASA camp with a group of advanced students. This fills me with pride, and I wanted to tell you about it.
"When I finished my studies, I returned to making stained glass and leather crafts once my children were older. When the pandemic began, I decided not to put it off any longer and now I work on my own. It's been difficult because of COVID-19, but I'm focused on my goals. This gives me hope and I wake up every day convinced I am moving forward.
"My first project was a handbag I made with the leather remnants left over from crafting shoes. The bag was small, and I added a cord to hang it on my shoulder.
"My dad gives me advice on how to do certain things, and a friend also helps me with tips and some techniques. In addition, my partner has experience in leather work so he also gives me ideas. I design and craft my bags.
"My material is mainly leather, and I use hardware, glue, foams, paints, brooches, dyes, zippers. Some are easy to find in the country, but sometimes I have to bring certain hardware and kinds of leather from abroad for the quality.
"My inspiration comes from the beautiful things that I find in nature, in the traditions of my country, and in the typical things that distinguish us from other countries. I appreciate quality in everything.
"I use a sewing machine as well as my own tools. I use some of my father's tools as well in his honor.
"I especially enjoy it when I start to imagine something I want to make — whether a bag, shoes or a wallet — and I can imagine the design I want, and the colors or the shape. I love designing, then crafting my design. When it's finished, it makes my heart happy to see the buyer's face or read comments about my work. My biggest challenge is how to reach more buyers and be able to export my designs.
"Costa Rica has 5 percent of the world's biodiversity, so I reflect this in my designs. I use a lot of color. I love to incorporate elements of nature such as our national flower, the guaria morada, a small cattleya orchid. Or the clay-colored thrush, our national bird, and the white-tailed deer that symbolizes the fauna of my beautiful country. And the colorful hand-painted oxcarts that symbolize work, the marimba that represents our culture and tradition, the Torch of Independence, a symbol of freedom. Chirripo Peak, the manatee, the National Theater and coffee. I like to capture a bit of my country in each design."