Artist Diana Castro is a multi-hyphenate. Under the name Pana Li, the Mexican designer, art director and musician explores the use of design, technology and music for self-transformation. Her design work spans a variety of mediums; she creates visual identities for musical projects and album covers, as well as interactive installations for festivals, DJ performances and sonic experiments. But across these many mediums, her practice shares a common thread: a focus on healing and spirituality, and a desire to help people connect with their higher selves.
With her design label Ser Paraíso, Castro has created a collection of mindful accessories, including notebooks, art prints, greeting cards, notepads and DIY objects. In the form of these metaphysical accessories and modern talismans, she hopes to help people manifest positive intentions.
We caught up with Castro to learn more about the inspiration behind Ser Paraíso, and what it takes to get a spiritual business off the ground.
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist? Did you grow up in a creative home?
I did, my mother is always making beautiful art and my father is a great singer. My sister is a lighting designer for architecture. I realized I wanted to make art (professionally) when I started making sound design and music for art installations in Mexico City (before moving to NY, around 2012). I was also a full-time DJ at that time.
What was your path to becoming a designer? And how did this work connect to your work in the music space?
In high school, I was always in charge of making the projects look pretty and bringing the music to house parties. So I just knew I had to pursue those paths. Years later, and by the time I left my full-time job in CDMX, I committed to myself to work only on design projects related to music. So I started designing album covers, parties (I believe making parties is definitely designing a music experience). Later on, that evolved to music-making apps, my own textile synthesizers, my own music, making mixtapes and playlists, because again, they are music experiences too — personal parties. And recently designing “Sound Altars” (interactive art installations).
How did the idea for Ser Paraíso come about?
The Ser Paraíso idea has three main origins. First, I started making my own synthesizers out of fabric and pompons for a series of performances pieces called Mágico Real, in which we explored shamanism and ritual through new media and technology.
When I was a master’s student in the NYU Digital Media program, for my thesis, I created a music box for meditation that incorporated sound to support meditative practices, to find a sense of inner joy and calm. Here is when I started Ser Paraíso — formerly known as Magic Objects (2013) — as a project to make sound objects for spiritual purposes.
At the same time, I’ve been studying metaphysics for some years now and I realized that this spiritual path worked for me very well, it allowed me to find emotional stability, so this really motivated me to share what I have understood so far about life, and by merging it with design, it resulted in a series of goods for self-care and intention setting purposes.
You make metaphysical accessories. How would you describe or define this concept?
To me, the metaphysical is what goes beyond the material reality — so, our spirit. Metaphysical goods are gifts for your spirit, self-care and healing tools that you can use to connect with your higher self or to bring high magical vibes into your space.
What are some ways people can use your products?
You can use the mantras as reminders of intentions you are working on, the paper altars as altar tools, you can use the note pads to write the intentions you want to manifest in specific areas of your life, and the notebooks to write down your goals and how you’ll feel when you accomplish them.
And some of the products that I will be launching soon include house talismans, to bring an intention to a specific place in your home, and charms, wearable reminders of the intentions you are working on.
As a designer you know the importance of branding, what has been the process of branding Ser Paraíso? How has it evolved or changed?
Yes! It is always changing, branding goes beyond the name, it is how you communicate with the people that share your vision, and to find the best way to communicate with those people, you have to experiment. I started this project with the name Magic Objects, and after some years I felt the need to change the focus from the power of the objects to the power that is inside each of us, our power of creation and manifestation, and how we can use it to create a reality where mind, body, and soul are in complete harmony, therefore in a state of mind that is a paradise.
When it comes to starting your own business, what were your biggest learnings? What were your biggest challenges?
Learnings: You have to hustle every day, but still find time for play and fun. Otherwise you will burn out, and if you’re burned out you can’t grow your business.
Biggest challenges: Finding the balance between work and play, keeping the motivation during hard times, knowing how to communicate with the right people.
Any tips or advice you would share with budding entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself, believe in your intuition, and vision, trust that they will lead you to where you want to go next, stay curious, stay motivated, and celebrate small wins!
What do you hope is next for Ser Paraíso?
I really hope I can help people find their potential to transform their minds, attract what they most desire, and manifest their brightest futures. I believe healing the world begins on an individual level. In terms of creation, I hope to be able to integrate new music tech accessories soon, think of music-making as part of a healing practice, in the form of a paper object.