When Ruben Dario Villa started making air fresheners, he first meant it as a joke. Now he’s turned it into a business. Villa’s family used to tease him for taking forever on the toilet, so in response to the constant ribbing, Fúchila Fresheners was born. Villa spoke with mitú about his inspiration, his art, and the future of his unique air fresheners.
Ruben Dario Villa is the brain and artist behind Fúchila Fresheners. Yes, fúchila as in gross or smelly.
Villa says “bathroom time” was an important factor in creating his air fresheners:
“I just like that bathroom time, it’s like me time. People always tell me I take forever, and it’s like, well it’s for good reason though,” says Villa. “That’s where my best ideas come from and the idea of company called Fúchila that made air fresheners. I thought that was the funniest thing, to have a company named Fúchila that makes air fresheners.”
Villa says that even though the idea was just a joke, his family and friends really got excited about it and convinced him to see what could come of it.
Villa turned to Kickstarter to raise funds and see if there was really any interest outside of his family and friends. Villa went all out, creating six designs for the Kickstarter campaign to show people what they would get for contributing to his campaign. The original six Fúchila Fresheners were Frida Kahlo, Selena, Panchito Villa, Cantinflas, La Máscara Azul, and La Calavera. Villa was able to raise $3,583 in just 25 days.
Villa wants to make sure he represents his culture and childhood with his product, because authenticity, according to Villa, is what makes the air fresheners relatable.
“It’s nostalgia. People are very tied to the memories they have as a child,” Villa says about his inspiration for his work. “They made us who we are, so if I am authentic about it, and I talk about my childhood, then someone out there will be able to relate to their own childhood. Whether or not it’s the same experience, the feeling still comes across through my work and the people that I choose to feature.”
By staying authentic to himself, Villa has portrayed many Latino icons including Frida Kahlo…
“She [Frida Kahlo] still remains front and center when it comes to pop culture,” Villa says. “Part of why she’s so inspiring is that her art has spoken louder than anyone in these past few generations. She has been an inspiration in the fact that she wasn’t afraid to be herself, and part of that has inspired me to just not be afraid to be myself, to share my inspirations, my insecurities, my loves, my hates.”
He has given classic Mexican desserts some love.
Villa tells mitú that he plans to expand his cultural representation but mentioned he wants to stay authentic to his experience. Villa says he’s reluctant to use items that he didn’t grow up with because he doesn’t “want to be a poser.”
And, of course, Selena was one of his first air fresheners. But Villa made it clear that Selena won’t be coming back.
“Every week, I get at least four or five emails or texts about when is Selena coming back,” Villa says. “That leads me to my next response, which is from the Quintanilla family. They responded in a less-accepting manne and told me to stop making Selena because they hadn’t approved of me using her image as an air freshener. I tried to talk to them and let them know what I was about and why I was doing it and they still weren’t having it.”
As an artist himself, Villa has a series of limited edition designs he does with various Latino artists called “ARTE.”
It stands for Art Radically Transforms Everything. As you can see, Villa has collaborated with other Latino artists, including Tony Peralta, who offered up his “Con Rolos” series for a set of air fresheners.
Villa’s most recent ARTE series is with Amber Tilden.
“I started that series because I want to work with other artists. What more important than connecting with another Latino artists and have them share their perspective, in their style and their voice,” Villa says. “I reach out to artists that I like or want to meet. It’s really just my way of being like ‘Yo, I’m your fan, I want some of your art. Let’s make it into air fresheners.'”
Due to the success and popularity of his air fresheners, Villa is expanding the representation of Latino icons.
“There’s tons more icons and people I want to feature in Fúchila. I’m working on a Divos series with icons like, Juan Gabriel, Walter Mercado,” Villa says about future Fúchila products. “Those guys are icons within themselves and deserve to be featured as well, and I want to do some of that. I think a lot of what I’m trying to do right now is expand more into the broader Latino audience. I can’t say that I feel authentic trying to represent pop culture for everyone in the Latino community, because it’s tough.”
Villa says he also wants to team up with other Latinos whose art represents experiences different from his own.
“I want to connect with a little bit of everybody by pairing up with more Latino artists, female artists, artists from the LGBT community. We all may be Latino, or Latinx, but we’re very diverse,” Villa says. “I want to be able to tap into that by connecting with different artists. I’ll stick to what I know I can do well, and be authentic, but I’ll let other people tell their stories for their own community.”