Forrest Curran is the creator of the Purple Buddha Project, an online resource for inspirational quotes that highlight the tenets of Buddhist ideology. What began as a Tumblr blog to mitigate his depression during his stint in college, quickly ballooned into a thriving online community.
After leaving college to travel, Forrest’s stop in Cambodia introduced him to the horrifying reality of the country’s military history. After discovering that the nation is one of the most bombed territories in human history, he had a brilliant idea. He decided to take the wartime debris and repurpose the harmful armaments into a meaningful commodity. After organizing a successful Kickstarter campaign, he was then allowed to go forward with his plan to upcycle the conflict material into intricate and fashionable wares.
Forrest’s altruism and positivity has been used to manifest a new and exciting life of awe and wonder. He has since leveraged this energy into initiatives that contribute to the betterment of Cambodian society like providing work for local artisans and helping to quell Cambodia’s hunger problem.
It’s easy to root for him and support his inspirational journey.
Prox: What does Buddhism mean to you as a philosophy? How have you incorporated buddhist beliefs and sentiments into your own life?
Forrest: I think that it’s all about self-love and letting go. Learning to love myself has allowed me to pursue my dreams as a 21 year old college dropout despite all the risks and the fear of the unknown. Letting go of what's not meant to be is probably one of the hardest lessons I have had in life, but I learned to trust that when you close one door, another will always open.
Prox: Why did you decide to include "Purple" in the title of the project? Is there any symbolic relevance to this?
Forrest: When I was 15 years old I used to be in a group of friends called "The Purps", and it's in honor of one of my best friends that passed away.
Prox: What has been the most interesting aspect of your stay in Phnom Penh?
Forrest: Probably the fact that all the chaos here has become just a normal part of my daily life and how I am so used to it. I remember coming here for the first time four years ago and thinking that I will never get used to Phnom Penh, but now its' more or less home in my heart.
Prox: Spiritually and intellectually, how has traveling helped you to evolve as a person?
Forrest: Probably didn't make me any smarter or more spiritual, but seeing the world made me a happy person. When I started backpacking alone years ago, I thought I would gain some sort of insight about the world, but instead it was a period of learning about myself. It helped me become a much happier person, which in turn helped me naturally become a kinder person to the world.
Prox: Could you detail the process that the jewelry goes through? What dictated design and pricing?
Forrest: It’s a focus on innovation and creating barriers to entry. It takes somewhat of a technical know how to do something like this, so I felt that it would be a unique product where the jewelry pieces were to be made from upcycled remains of weapons such as bullet and bomb shells in Cambodia. The design is combining Buddhist jewelry with modern design input while working with fair-trade artisans. The cord and chains are purchased from Japan, the solvents and polishing from the United States, the gemstones from China, and the jewelry piece made and assembled in Cambodia, so it's quite complicated in terms of logistics.
Prox: What inspires you to continue working in spite of the difficulties you face on a daily basis?
Forrest: I’m always on the lookout for anything motivational like movies, music, art, traveling; it's what fuels me when i’m low in the tank.
Prox: What is the end goal of The Purple Buddha Project? What is the next stage in the evolution of the project?
Forrest: Purple Buddha Project has always been B2C (Business to Customer), but we are now looking to focus into B2B (Business to Business). People ask me all the time why it took me so long to do so, but we have to remember that I was barely turning 20 when Purple Buddha Project began, so I was one clueless kid in a sea of giant fishes, but now it's been 5 years almost and i've been in the game for a while now and it's definitely much easier to operate with a little bit of experience. Really though, there is no school or course for a life of creativity, you just have to dive in, take your hits, and learn along the way.
Prox: Who are some of your favorite artists, business people, or creatives?
Forrest: Pharrell Williams, Vivienne Westwood, B.Yellowtail; all people who combined two cultures: Pharell with Japanese street fashion with American Hip-Hop, Vivienne Westwood combining Punk into high fashion, and Yellowtail for combining Native American art into high fashion as well.
Prox: Favorite Hobbies?
Forrest: Traveling. I try to leave Phnom Penh at-least once a month.
Prox: Tips for aspiring businessmen and creatives?
Forrest: I would say to create an audience and a base of people interested prior to monetizing the commodity, which underlines the importance of patience. Purple Buddha Project originally was a Tumblr blog that existed one and half year prior to launching a successful Kickstarter campaign.
To learn more about Forrest and support The Purple Buddha Project, click here.
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