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Journal

Wedding Tales - Julia and Braden

Serena Martin

The quiet and charming town of Kennebunkport, Maine was the perfect backdrop for the romantic nuptials of these two college sweethearts.  Julia, a dear friend of mine from Wake Forest University, grew up spending her summers in this idyllic seaside town.  Lucky for me, I got to spend my first "grown-up" summer there with her.  Well, our first summer break in college pretending to be grown-ups at least, so this place held very special memories for me, as her wonderful family and her grammy took me in like one of their own. 

Julia and Braden created an effortlessly chic September wedding and fabulous party.  Julia wore an elegant lace dress by Ramona Keveza reminiscent of Grace Kelly circa Cannes 1955.  Julia possesses an elegance that does not cry out to be noticed, but rather radiates through her subtlety, which in our days of selfie culture, is a nice breath of fresh air.  In keeping with her personal style, Julia created an elegant, romantic evening with a touch of classic New England charm.  She kept her colors clean and simple, opting for blushes, pale pinks and a touch of navy throughout, letting her florals and decor complement the natural beauty of the seaside setting.  

I was honored when Julia asked me to address her invitations and design a wedding crest for her custom designed programs and menu.  It was so special to take her vision and style and translate it into stationery.  Working on her day of paper made me realize that subtlety is difficult to accomplish, but when done well, it looks like this wedding. 

Wedding Dress:  Romona Keveza

Wedding Invitations: My Gatsby

Calligraphy, Wedding Crest, Programs and Menus: Serena Martin Design

Groom's Tuxedo: The Black Tux

Wedding Portrait & Calligraphy: Serena Martin Design

Wedding season: Summer

Location: Kennebunkport, Maine

Wedding style: Romantic, classic, nautical, natural 

Wedding colors: Blush, pale pink, light green, navy


Photography: Emily Delamater | Event Planning: Blissful Beginnings | Cake: Let Them Eat Cake l Floral Design: Fleurant | Invitations: My Gatsby | Stationery & Illustrations: Serena Martin Design | Ceremony & Reception Venue: The Nonantum | Catering: The Nonantum l Dress: Romona Keveza





Wedding Tales - Jeeun and Ethan

Serena Martin

One of my favorite parts of the job is creating custom wedding invitations.  It is an honor every time someone commissions me to create stationery for them.  I feel like the bride and groom invited me in to get to know them on a deeper level, and the stationery is a way to capture them and their unique styles.  

After doing a handful of custom invitations last year, I really start to see how the couple's personalities and styles permeate every aspect of their wedding, and it is really special.  Next time you are at a wedding, look for the couple's personalities in places you may not expect - from the invitations, to flowers, to color choices.  

Here I will share one of my first custom wedding stationery for good friends, Jeeun and Ethan.  

Wedding season: Fall

Location: Centreville, Virginia

Wedding style: whimsical, a touch of rustic, but still classic 

Wedding colors: Burgundy, pale pink, green

It's interesting to see how every part of an invitation is reflective of the couple, down to the fonts they choose.  

 

 

 

 

 


Chalkboard programs for the wedding.  This is a great way to add personal touches and decor for the ceremony while being budget friendly. 


Words to describe the couple:  Faithful servants of the Lord, kind, compassionate, genuine, fun, goofy, adventurous and wonderful beyond words.

They even gave me the opportunity to create custom thank you cards for them in illustrated traditional Korean wedding attire.  

As you can see, this was a very fun couple to work with, and thanks to their whimsical and creative styles, I would say the stationery turned out OK too :) 

 

 

Year End Recap - Grateful for my family

Serena Martin

It's already January 5th and I am just now recapping the end of my year.  Like some people, I rush to create new years resolutions on January 1st, I have started as early as Dec. 26th.  Rarely do I stop to give thanks for the year that just concluded.  

Last week, as I sat down to write my 2016 goals, my first step was asking myself how I can improve from the previous year, but my husband, Blake stopped me in my tracks and suggested, "instead of focusing on what went wrong, why not look at what went right." 

Well, given I started my business last January, and it has sustained itself for a year, it wasn't a bad idea after all to look back on the year.  When I started writing down all that went well, it was evident how richly God had blessed the year, so I should begin this year by first saying thank you, and the first thank you goes to God. 

My career journey has certainly been interesting.  It was amazing to look back on the year to see and acknowledge how God had perfectly orchestrated everything.  After getting over my own ego and quit pitying myself for all that went wrong (several doors closed on the career path I was determined to pursue), God opened the most amazing door of all, but it took complete humility, giving up control, my excessive planning, and to earnestly seek His help, he delivered me a dream so great I dared not even dream it. 

Once that door opened and I walked through it, many great and unexpected things started going right.  I am someone who needs, at times to my own detriment, craves validation.  I certainly always sought that from my family, and I never thought I would get their support when I told them I wanted to be an entrepreneur and create art.  I come from a family of doctors and engineers.  They live life by reason and logic.  I was shocked when they decided to support this idea, and wholeheartedly nonetheless.  

My Mom and Dad on my wedding day (I painted this in Dec 2014 as my Christmas gift to them)

Then there are my in-laws, who are wonderful and kind people, but I still feared they would think I was reckless to quit a good job and try my hand at art.  But they didn't.  Instead, they encouraged me.  They were some of my biggest advocates and shared with all their friends my work, and they shared with me stories of other successful artists they knew.  That kind of encouragement helped me get through my own self doubt.  

The Martins (on the day I became a Martin :) )  I painted this in Dec. 2014 as my Christmas gift to my Mother and Father in-law

Left to right:  Sheppard Martin (Blake's older brother), Blake (my husband), Jamie and Steve Martin (my in-laws) 

The most surprising of all, I received a gift several months ago from my grandparents.  When I opened it, it brought me to tears.  I spent a large part of my life with my grandparents, which is pretty traditional in Chinese culture.  I had utmost respect for them and always wanted them to be proud of me.  Art is not typically a career Chinese families encourage their children/grandchildren to pursue.  My uncle studied science, my Mom is a doctor, and my cousin is training to be a doctor.  I thought I would be considered the black sheep in my family for deciding to be an artist.  But when my uncle returned from China after visiting my grandparents, he brought me back two books - One was a coloring book of fashion illustrations, the other was a how-to guide to drawing cats.  They had found it at their local bookstore and insisted my uncle bring it back to me.  

The two books my grandparents gave me

As I sit to write this, I am filled with gratitude all over again.   I don't stop often enough to reflect on just how fortunate I am for my family, and now to have their complete support as I pursue my dreams.  This is one of the best aspects of what went right last year. 

With deepest gratitude, 

Serena 

Finding My Way

Serena Martin

As I approach the end of nine months in business and head into my fourth quarter, I am amazed at the journey thus far.   Now standing here in the intersection of past and future, I ask myself what has my business been about?  What am I trying to achieve?  What do I hope to accomplish? 

It all began in January 2015, when I first pitched my idea of creating a pet stationery line to my husband, I had no idea where that would take me.  Well, I still have not created that stationery collection I set out to do.  Instead, I painted many pet portraits for amazing new clients, and I never imagined the joy it would bring me!  I penned wedding envelopes, designed wedding crests, invitations, painted baby and bridal portraits among other things.  It has been quite the exciting, unpredictable and incredibly blessed adventure.  

My first illustrations in January and February

 

I painted this in February 2015 at the start of this journey. 

Looking back, sometimes I question if I got lost along the way.  I started out with pet stationery, and now I'm doing weddings.  I can't help at times compare myself to my peers in the industry and think, they really know what they are doing!  They have such a distinctive style, a theme, a real identity.  But when I look closer at my own path, there was one consistent (and amazingly blessed) thread.  Relationships.  

Relationships make this all possible, and all the worthwhile.  Loving relationships got me through moments of panic.  Encouraging relationships pushed me to keep going.  Forgiving relationships gave me opportunities for redos and extended deadlines.  Trusting relationships referred me new clients.  Generous relationships welcomed me into their network, and inspiring relationships challenged me to go beyond my limits, to be more and go bigger. 

Until now,  I was not actively aware of that driving force behind it all.  As I step forward from the past and into the future, I want to make relationships the foundation of my business, my compass and guiding principles - In how I serve my clients and in all decisions I make.  It will serve as the underpinning message to my art, encouraging us all to pass it on.   After months of searching for my identity, I'm grateful I found it in my mission statement below: 


Encouraging one another to live relationally through love and generosity in order to positively change the world. 


Thank you all for making it all possible.  I hope you keep me accountable in my mission as I continue to joyfully serve you all. 

Cheers! 

Cheers! 

With sincere gratitude,

Serena 

4 Weddings, 4 Seasons, 4 Dress codes and 1 Capsule Closet

Serena Martin


2015 is my year to minimize and simplify.  Last year, My husband and I moved from a two bedroom Atlanta home to a one bedroom apartment in Washington D.C.  Our square footage was literally cut in half.  Then I proceeded to quit my job to pursue my dream of being an artist entrepreneur.  These two decisions forced us to really examine what we considered essential.  Not having the space nor the budget forced us to look deeper at what we valued.  Some might see this as a ghastly scenario, but truthfully, getting rid of most our stuff, we became happier people.  We gained a new sense of freedom by being less tied to material things.  

This also coincided with a time a dear friend introduced me to the "capsule closet," first created by Courtney Carver of Be More with Less.  The concept is to narrow your wardrobe down to 33 essential pieces.  This was especially difficult for me.  Having worked in the fashion industry most of my life, I have acquire a lot over the years.  At one point, 4 closets worth!  My clothes became my identity, my security, my happiness and many more thing it was not meant to be.  Needless to say, I found this "Capsule Closet" project quite challenging, but necessary. 

A year later, I finally made a dent, and learned a few tricks along the way.  It's possible to narrow down your closet to a select few pieces without losing your sense of style, and still have room to play with fashion.  It involves more creativity, but I promise you, you will love what you have even more, and have a lot more fun getting dressed!  

Here's my latest challenge:  I am attending four weddings in the coming year, each in a different season, held around the world, and all with different dress codes.  My first instinct is to buy a new dress for each wedding, but as a budding "artist-preneur," that's not quite an option anymore.  So here's what I put together from my capsule closet.  I would love to know your thoughts and feedback! 

Wedding #1: 

Season: Summer   

Location: Kennebunkport, Maine

Attire: Semi-formal  

Outfit:

  • Navy Tibi high neck silk Tank
  • Navy Alice and Olivia satin dress pant
  • Black suede d'orsay pumps 
  • Gold belt
  • Purple gemstone clutch (from local Cambodian artisan)
  • Green topaz necklace

 

 

 

 

 


Wedding #2

Season: Fall 

Attire: Cocktail

Location: Burgundy, France

Outfit:

  • Classic LBD (low back makes it more interesting and unexpected)
  • Green topaz neckplace
  • Purple gemstone clutch
  • Statement shoes - Prada Spring/Summer 2012 runway car shoes (Ok, I'm slightly obsessed with these)

 

 

 


Wedding #3:

Season: Winter

Attire: Black-tie

Location: Savannah, Georgia

Outfit:

  • Navy Tibi silk tank
  • Champagne colored satin skirt 
  • Black d'orsay pumps 
  • Green topaz necklace 
  • Purple gemstone clutch 

 

 

 

 


Wedding #4

Season: Spring

Attire: Beach Casual

Location: Tulum, Mexico

Outfit: 

  • Navy Tibi silk tank 
  • Printed maxi linen skirt
  • Panama hat
  • Tan leather sandals (by local artisan in Positano, Italy) 
  • Straw woven large clutch 
  • Long gold necklace (by local Brooklyn artist) 

 

 

 

My guiding principles to my Capsule Closet

Rule 1:  Fit is the most important.  If you love the way it looks on you, you will feel good wearing it.  

Rule #2:  Quality, quality quality!  I can't stress this enough.  Quality is important for several reasons.  Your clothes will last longer, so you spend less money to replace.  Quality shows.  I personally HATE fast fashion.  Buying cheap, poor quality clothes not only adds junk to your life, but it adds waste to this world and inadvertently endorses the poor working conditions of clothing factories overseas. 

Rule #3:  Don't be afraid to keep special and sentimental pieces.  I know the original capsule closet emphasizes keeping only the "basics." However, accessorizing with a few statement pieces really adds fun to your outfits.  The caveat is to invest in quality and truly special pieces.  For me, this is finding one of a kind pieces during my travels, so it not only supports and embraces the art of local artisans, but it also brings me back special memories each time I wear it.  Our best items are ones that tell a story. 

I hope you enjoyed this.  Again, I would love your feedback on how you are "essentializing" your closet and would love suggestions on other ways to style for weddings! 

Happy "essentializing," 

Serena 

 

Nepal In My Mind...

Serena Martin

   A Nepalese girl wearing Prabal Gurung's Resort 2015 gown with a native tiger from Nepal standing in front of the Vatsala Durga temple in Bhaktapur's Square 

 

A Nepalese girl wearing Prabal Gurung's Resort 2015 gown with a native tiger from Nepal standing in front of the Vatsala Durga temple in Bhaktapur's Square 

I am sure all of you now know about the devastation the earthquakes in Nepal caused on its people and historic landmarks.  The first quake occurred on April 25th causing death tolls as high as 8,000.  The second quake occurred earlier this week, unraveling the already anxious nerves of many Nepalese citizens.  Many have lost their homes and loved ones.  Food and water shortage is a daily worry, and aid workers are struggling to deliver supplies to badly hit nearby villages. 

The world has seen the devastation in photos, on their mobile news feeds, and heart wrenching tweets calling for help throughout the land of social media.  The power of social media to spread news and mobilize action is incredible.  On the flip side, the distracting power of social media is also undeniable.  Just seconds after scrolling through photos of distraught families who have lost everything, the next images are of glamorous people enjoying the splendors of southern France.  We now can construct our realities through our smartphones, filling our screens with what we want to see while scrolling past what we don't want to see.  Therefore, we are easily desensitized to the tragedies happening right now throughout the world when we can just "filter it out."  

I am no different.  I have the fortune of working out of my home in Woodley Park, D.C. doing my dream job every day.  I paint pictures of adorable dogs, precious children and glamorous fashion illustrations.  To say I live in a fantasy bubble is an understatement.  I am so grateful for my circumstances, but I am tempted to stay comfortably inside my bubble when filtering out unpleasant news is at the click of my fingertips.  

However, that is not how we are called to live.  As I am typing this, families in Nepal are burying victims of the earthquake.  There are mothers unsure how to feed their children without resources.  There are also the families mourning the loss of the U.S. marines and Nepalese soldiers who died en route to delivering aid just a few days ago.  

To continue to live in my bubble and just let the news pass by like a movie is not how I choose to live.  Prabal Gurung told CNN after hearing about the first earthquake, "non-action is not an option..."  I painted this watercolor as a reminder of what was lost and a call to help.  The majestic temple in the center of the painting now lay in ruins.  This was a 16th Century temple famous for its grey sandstone and gold capped pagodas.  Below is a photo of what it looked like prior to its collapse.  The second photo is what it looks like now. 

Photo courtesy of: Karp Panta via  Panoramio.com  

Photo courtesy of: Karp Panta via Panoramio.com 

Photo courtesy of  BBC

Photo courtesy of BBC

You can purchase prints and stationery of this painting HERE.  I am donating 100% of the profits to the Shikshya Foundation Nepal.  You can read more about this organization and its Earthquake relief efforts HERE.  The Shikshya Foundation Nepal is a local Nepalese non-profit that has currently mobilized a full time team to deliver aid directly on the ground.  New York based Fashion Designer Prabal Gurung, who was raised in Kathmandu, is also raising funds in partnership with the foundation and you can access his fundraising campaign HERE.  I hope that having the print in your home or sending the cards to friends and family, it will serve as a reminder to not live isolated in our blessed realities, but to extend a hand to the rest of the world suffering in need.  

This is one of my favorite quotes from Author and Theologian, Frederick Buechner, "The Place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." 

There are so many ways to give.  I am amazed at the individuals and organizations who took the initiative to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for relief efforts.  I am also grateful for the volunteers from around the world who are taking time to serve.  The opportunity to help is available.  It is now our time to pitch in. 

Thank you for your time and thank you for reading.  Please share this with your friends and family. 

Love,

Serena 

Congratulations to a beautiful Mom-to-be

Serena Martin

 

I had the pleasure of painting a portrait for a soon-to-be Mom.  She is a first time Mom so I can only imagine her excitement.  How magical it must be to bring a new life into this world.  Congratulations to a sweet, sassy and stylish Mama-to-be! 

 

The Joys of a Furry Friend

Serena Martin

I painted this for a sorority sister of mine, who is also a great blogger living in Australia. Check out her blog at www.abbysroad.com.  You will find interesting reads on expat life, awesome restaurant reviews for places around the world and unique travel tips.

This painting reminds me of my dynamic with my own pup, Mochi.  Before I brought Mochi home 2 years ago, I could not imagine how much I would love him today.  I also have a cat, so that is double the love and double the joy. 

I am a firm believer that animals make our lives better.  Whether they are the pampered pets in our home or the wild animals that roam this earth. Therefore, we should do what we can to protect and preserve the things that bring us so much joy, and there are many ways.  There are countless animals in our cities that need homes.  Also, by being mindful of our life choices, from what we consume to how we dispose, those small decisions can tip the scale from damaging to preserving the habitats of many great species on earth. 

You can figure by now, I am passionate about the welfare of animals. Partly because I cannot imagine life without them in my home, but also because animals truly make this world a more wonderful home for us all. 

Love,

Serena 

Year of the Sheep

Serena Martin

Chinese New Year rang in the year of the sheep (some refer to it as year of the goat or ram - the same Chinese symbol " 羊 " is used to describe all three). 

According to astrologers, 2015 is the year of the wood sheep.  This signifies a time of renewal and stabilization from a tumultuous 2014.  This could not be more true in my life.  Though 2014 was an incredibly blessed year, it was filled with immense uncertainty.  New changes were thrown our way all throughout the year, from job changes, a big move, to getting married (well, the marriage thing was planned).  As much as I hate to admit it, but when things start to stir and life gets uncomfortable, greater things happen.  I would not be sitting here writing to you if I didn't go through what I did last year.  According to Go To Horoscope, there is a saying for this year that I like, “the creative side of the Wooden Ram; its diligence applied to hard work ensures prosperity…"

As my lovely pretend sheep puppy is telling us, "羊羊得意" is translated to "all will be well in the year of the sheep." I hope you all enjoy some time of renewal, and reap the prosperity of your diligence and hard work.  

Happy New Year, 

Serena, Mochi and Teddy (my two lovely models) 

Hello, World!


Birthday in Couture

Serena Martin

Birthday girl KB and her Birthday boy Lolly

Birthday girl KB and her Birthday boy Lolly

We should all wear haute couture on our birthdays.  Not just because every girl looks gorgeous in haute couture, but because of what it signifies. Haute Couture in French is translated to high sewing. It is generally made to order and custom cut to one's body.  Like a dress made exactly to our measurements, with each birthday, we get closer to self actualization.  We learn more about ourselves, and hopefully, embrace the person we have become. 

Birthdays ushers us into a new year in our life. It brings with us another year of experience, of lessons learned and of sweet memories. 

When I was a little girl, I use to count down the days until my next birthday, until I turned 16, 18, then 21...Though I no longer have the rushed desire to get older, each birthday feels sweeter, more cherished. 

Let each birthday be the celebration of a year well lived, of hopes fulfilled, and walking head held high as a wiser woman ready to embark on another adventure. 

Wishing you all a Happy Birthday and another year of happiness! 

Love,

Serena 

Valentine's Project: Project 7 of 7

Serena Martin

The Power of Community 

The Power of Community 

This is the last of the Valentine's Series, and I want to dedicate this to my family, friends and community of supporters.  I am overwhelmed by the power of community.  

The Valentine's Project Series was labor intensive, though certainly a labor of love.  After several failed paintings, there were days I wanted to hang up my brushes and quit.  I felt like I would never be good enough.  I would see other amazing artists online, and after seeing their incredible portfolios, I felt like I could never measure up.  I felt like I was swimming against the current, and the most destructive pull of all was my own self doubt. 

What kept me moving everyday was the community around me.  My husband cheered me on daily, taking over the cooking and grocery shopping so I could finish the paintings for each day. I was encouraged by all of you who reposted my contest, shared with friends, and served as my cheerleaders and inspiration through it all. Also, thank you to those I have not had the good fortune to meet, maybe one day, who submitted your email in the contest.  Reading your stories of service made every hardship, every frustration worthwhile.  

I asked you all to give to others in the Valentine's Project, but I want you all to know that you gave me more than you can imagine. The gift of encouragement to carry on, to pursue my dreams, and hopefully through my art, make the world a better place. 

With deepest gratitude, 

Serena 

Valentine's Project: Series 6 of 7

Serena Martin

Happy Valentine's Day to you all!  As this day draws to a close, my heart is filled with so much joy and gratitude. Thank you to everyone who sent me your giving stories.  There is nothing more special than reading about your generosity and heart of service. 

I hope you all had a wonderful and blessed Valentine's Day. 

Love,

Serena 

Valentine's Project: Series 5 of 7

Serena Martin

I drew inspiration for this painting from my previous blog post exploring where creativity and imagination come from.  It brought to mind Jonathan Haidt's metaphor from his book, The Happiness Hypothesis, about the rider and the elephant.  Our mind and reason is the rider, controlling our desires, which is embodied in the elephant. The rider can control the elephant's movements, but if the will of the elephant takes over, the rider is no match against the elephant's power.  I started wondering, what if the metaphor was changed a little. Instead of a rider controlling the elephant, what if instead, we walked in tandem with the elephant. Would creativity flourish if reason and passion were equals? Not one controlling the other? 

As I began painting the elephant, I started getting excited about seeing real herds of elephants on my upcoming trip to Africa with my husband. As you can deduce by now, I love animals.  They bring me immense joy. Thus, I feel a responsibility to protect them and advocate for them.  I have read countless books about animals in nature and devour National Geographic documentaries. The beauty and majesty of these animals remind me that we live in a bigger world than ourselves.  However, seeing the brutality against these beautiful creatures so we can indulge our own desires for glory and vanity is heartbreaking. I will keep this short as I know I can get on my soap box about this issue, but I believe the first step to stopping the illegal trade of exotic skins and ivory is from the demand side.  It starts with us.  If there is no demand, there is no supply. Laws and policies can be put in place to limit poaching and illegal imports, but the trade will always continue if there is money to be made.  And we, the consumers, can control that.  Next time you see an ivory trinket, think how much more beautiful it is to see the elephant instead. 

The world would be such a sad place if elephants no longer roam, but we build up ivory treasures that will eventually rot away. 

Happy protecting,

Serena 

Valentine's Project: Series 4 of 7

Serena Martin

Happy Valentine's Project from Bao Bao (baby Panda at the Smithsonian National Zoo) 

Happy Valentine's Project from Bao Bao (baby Panda at the Smithsonian National Zoo) 

New York Fashion Week kicks off today with an incredible line up of designers. What comes out of Fashion Week is awe-inspiring.  I am amazed by how much newness designers usher out, sometimes several times per year (Christopher Bailey of Burberry is an example of endless creativity).  If you have a moment today, take a look at Style.com for what comes down the runway.

Creativity is something that I struggle with. You may find that surprising because I draw and paint.  However, to not simply copy but create something from pure imagination is difficult for me.  I somehow fall exactly in the middle of left and right brain.  I have spent my life honing my rational and analytic side, letting reason sit in the driver's seat.  Sometimes, I think it stifles imagination. 

Ever since I began this venture, I have tried to release the stronghold from my left brain and push myself to be more creative and imaginative.  I struggle daily with it.  I have the urge to analyze and test what the market wants through various means, and I don't think that produces anything exciting.  I believe creativity stems from being courageous and giving the world something new and inspiring.  What an incredible challenge!  Mrs. Prada is the epitome of creative genius in the fashion industry.  What comes down her runways are so unexpected but such fantastic and provoking pieces of art. 

I am grateful for the inspirations from Fashion Week. I will challenge myself in the remaining series to push my creative boundaries and hopefully give you all something exciting.  I will end with a quote I love from Picasso: 

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. – Pablo Picasso

 

Happy creating,

Serena 

Valentine's Project: Series 3 of 7

Serena Martin

Happy Valentine's Project from D.C. in Mexico

Happy Valentine's Project from D.C. in Mexico

The Yucatan Peninsula, a region covered in lush rainforests, peppered with magical hidden cenotes (natural fresh water sink holes), and painted with beautiful red, yellow, and magenta birds of paradise.  

Around this time last year, my good friend and I took a trip to Cancun, Mexico.  We saw and experienced the charm of the Mayan culture. The vibrant colors of their land purposefully designed and woven into their clothing.  A centuries old practice of back loom weaving still used by Mayan women today.  Sadly, their art is slipping away due to poor economic conditions and a lack of channels to expose their weavings to the international market.  

Organizations like Mayan Hands and Cojolya Association of Mayan Women Weavers have opened new economic opportunities and gave the Mayan women a new voice through their art.  They are working to prevent such a precious piece of history from getting lost.  You can also find blouses like the one painted above at Chiapas Bazaar's online boutique.  The founders have amazing stories and a powerful mission.  On the high fashion end, check out Pineda Covalin. I snagged a gorgeous blue and gold silk scarf with Chichen Itza printed on it while in Mexico.  Their designs are breathtaking!  Take your shopping one step further and buy one of a kind pieces from master artisans of Mexico. Decorate your home with a piece of ancient history. 

Valentine's Project: Series 2 of 7

Serena Martin

For Day 2 of the Valentine's Project Series, I have chosen to dedicate this to all my friends and readers in the New England area, You all have been under a blanket of snow for some time, so to bring you some warmth, welcome to Thailand! 

This cuddly cub is a Clouded Leopard, indigenous to Southeastern Asia, primarily found in Thailand.  I met my first Clouded Leopard, named Thai, at the Smithsonian National Zoo, and it was love at first sight.  I am fortunate to live in walking distance from the zoo, and the Smithsonian zoo is free to all!  If you are ever in D.C. I highly recommend a visit. 

The Smithsonian National Zoo has an extensive Species Survival Plan to help save some of the most endangered species in the world, and Thai is on that list. 

Find different ways to protect these endangered animals, and it doesn't have to be hard. Think about what you buy, how you consume, and how you dispose.  The bag in the picture is handmade in Cambodia from recycled cement bags from Thailand.  If you have a chance, pack your bags and visit Thai's homeland, marvel in the beauty of Southeast Asia, and bring back an Elephant Brand bag!

Happy Giving,

Serena  


Valentine's Project: Series 1 of 7

Serena Martin

Happy Valentine's Project from D.P. and her cockapoo puppy, Noodle! D.P. is wearing pieces from her Capsule Wardrobe and carrying a Cuyana leather tote. #lessismore

Happy Valentine's Project from D.P. and her cockapoo puppy, Noodle! D.P. is wearing pieces from her Capsule Wardrobe and carrying a Cuyana leather tote. #lessismore

For the first painting of my Valentine's Project series, I wanted to dedicate this to the idea of less is more, quality over quantity, and essentialism = happiness. 

A lovely friend first introduced to me the concept of a Capsule Wardrobe, the idea of editing your closet down to a few essential items that can be mixed and matched.  After embarking on this closet clean-out journey with her, I have a newfound appreciation for the items I own, and a lesser desire to buy impulsively. Instead, I invest more time in finding special and quality pieces.  My search for good clothes led me to the company Cuyana, a San Francisco based fashion house whose aim is to promote this very idea.  I love a retail company that advocates and celebrates buying fewer things, but promotes high quality, fine craftsmanship, and the preservation of culture and skills in the industry.  The Cuyana leather tote is definitely in my Capsule Wardrobe. 

The Valentine's Project - The Art of Giving

Serena Martin

Happy Valentine's Day from Bam Bam, a sweet Shih Tzu from   Lucky Dog Animal Rescue . 

Happy Valentine's Day from Bam Bam, a sweet Shih Tzu from Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Valentine's Day, a day retailers rush to fill their shelves with chocolates, flowers, jewelry and other luxury items.  Thus, emerging from the post holiday sales slump. For us, the consumers, we are making our new "wish list;" pulling out our credit cards again after a losing battle to our New Year's savings resolutions. Here's to a new year of spend, spend, spend.  

I was no exception.  For years, holidays became a time where I could give my loved ones MY wish list.  It was time to get my new spring bag, the pair of Manolos I had been eyeing ever since I received my Saks new delivery email, or the trip to none other than the romantic city of Paris.  According to the National Retail Federation who surveyed 6,417 consumers in January of 2014, the estimated spending for Valentine's Day this year will reach $17.3 BILLION.  That is a staggering amount of money to show love.  What is interesting to me is, once my presents are unwrapped, the plane touches ground in U.S. soil, I loose sight of the meaning of Valentine's Day and begin looking forward to...Mother's Day? I'm not even a Mom, I have a dog and a cat, but hey, that counts, right?  This year, I paused long enough to contemplate what really leads to a fulfilling life.  After reading a number of self-help books and listening to "happiness" podcasts, the consistent source of happiness is, wait for it... giving

So after kissing my wish list goodbye, I've decided to give the idea of giving a try. I challenge all of you to join me in the Valentine's Project. The idea is simple. On Valentine's Day, instead of receiving, spend the day giving. Find a cause you care about and take the day to volunteer, pay it forward to a stranger, or spend the day with a friend or family member who needs your company. Whatever it may be, spend this Valentine's Day giving your time and service. There is no price tag that can be attached to the act of kindness.  The impression it makes actually lasts longer than diamonds, and they say, diamonds are forever

On Feb. 15th, send me a short email to info@serenamartindesign (subject: Valentine's Project) with what you did for Valentine's Day. On Feb. 16th, for those of you who emailed me, I will enter your name in a raffle drawing. The winner of the drawing will receive a free print from my Valentine's Project series.  I will post a new watercolor each day on Facebook and Instagram, leading up to Valentine's Day. You can choose your favorite from among the seven.  Your act of kindness to others will be your gift to me, and my painting to you to say thank you, that will be my gift to you. 

Happy giving! 

Serena