The Los Angeles native and owner of el Creativo studio carries his Mexican roots through his personal journey with creativity.
Words by Liz Benitez. Photo illustration by Sam Liacos. Photos courtesy of Juan Renteria.
In Latine culture, young generations may find themselves at a crossroads of honoring tradition or paving a new road. Juan Renteria found a way to do both with his creative studio, el Creativo.
Born in Cuernavaca, Mexico and raised in Los Angeles, California, Renteria has been coloring outside of the lines since young; embracing every twist and turn of his creative journey. Drawn to color and culture, Renteria developed the identity of el Creativo, an “evolving concept” that encourages the freedom to explore creativity through a range of mediums and formats, without the limitations of labels or expectations.
In recent years, Renteria has pursued his passion for art installations through floristry. Inspired by his Mexican roots, the 25-year-old aims to honor cultural tradition, while innovating the framework of those traditions in the same breath.
“I’m not a florist. I’m an artist. El Creativo can be anything. It can be a singer, an actor, or a non-profit. It’s an evolving concept, it just happens to be that right now,” he says. “I’m exploring the medium of florals. I always tell people, ‘It’s a persona.’ These are my superhero powers that I had stored away for a bit, and I’m bringing them out one by one.”
Renteria graduated from L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and began his journey in floral design while working for Rolling Greens Nursery in Culver City, CA. Determined to move his way up in the industry, he began in sales and eventually taught floral and succulent workshops. During this time, he experimented with floral installations as the lead designer for his younger brother’s middle school themed dinners, where 7th graders were in charge of 8th grade promotion dinners.
After designing one dinner, parents instantly fell in love with his work and called him back to do more. Renteria utilized the opportunity to explore his passion for floral installations. A brush stroke of inspiration turned into a mural and Renteria began to share his work through el Creativo, opening the door for his first big budget event – a quinceañera. After taking a big step forward, COVID-19 hit, and Renteria, along with el Creativo, experienced a rebirth.
Noting that it was time to honor his growth and worth, he quit his job at Rolling Greens and walked into a now blooming relationship with his now business partners, Café Santo, a contemporary Oaxacan coffee shop in Montebello, CA. Centered around contemporary art, concepts, and design, Renteria and Café Santo have built a community of like-minded individuals with a passion for not only celebrating Mexico’s layered beauty, but also showcasing its potential through their three years together. His work and relationship with Café Santo have allowed him to travel to Oaxaca and participate in Dia De Los Muertos festivities, his favorite family and cultural tradition.
When creating, Renteria loves collaboration. His ideas stem from references that clients provide along with moodboards and sketches of his own. “I can also now say that I can use my own work for inspiration too, so when I’m creating mood boards, I’ll add pictures of my work.” Renteria has the most fun when he plays with colors, especially his favorite hues of pink, orange, and red. His instagram page is largely tailored around these colors. “I love that color palette, I’ll often do it in different tones, darker and lighter shades,” he shared.
“I want to make sure that anything and everything I do is just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. I’m doing this for the love of art,” he proclaims. “When it comes to working with people, I’m not selective, there’s a lot of opportunity. I have to make sure there’s an alignment of passion and trust. El Creativo provides a space that allows people to be comfortable, see the work, and let the magic flow.”
Before getting to work, he takes time for mental and physical preparation. Replenishing energy is vital for every creative process, and Renteria finds it in exploring the rawness of Mexico during his travels – connecting to what feels like home.
He prioritizes holding space to honor special days like Dia de Los Muertos and Dia de Las Madres with his art as well as for everyday acts of love and routines. Simple things like phone calls with his abuelita are where the beauty in connectivity and tradition lie for him. The L.A. artist inherited the spirit of entrepreneurship and discernment from his family, letting the words, “Mejor solo que mal acompañado” (“Better alone than in bad company”) become more than just a saying for him, but a way of life and guide when making decisions.
“I try to bring a little piece of Oaxaca with me when I come back [to the U.S.]. I really identify with it, even though it’s not where I’m from. It’s colorful, beautiful, and I love the people. In Cuernavaca, my hometown, I have yet to explore more things, but what inspires me the most is El Carnival, which is on the 24th of January every year. It’s massive,” he said. “We wear these beautiful costumes, and they’re called Chinelos. I remember when I was two, one my first memories are of a Chinelo, a red Chinelo. I remember the dances and people jumping up and down. That was something special. That’s from my hometown.”
For Renteria, preserving his culture has allowed el Creativo to push the bounds of his future. Interwoven by the spirit of determination passed down by generations, el Creativo represents the layers of family stories, warmth of community, hues of heritage, and importance of paving his own narrative.