Serena Janet Israel – founder
Inspiring • Artistic • Committed
Serena Janet Israel (1971), the creator of the Chichi®, is a professional mould maker, designer, art restorator, artist and art teacher of German origin. She settled down in Curaçao years ago, after she sailed around the world in a self built sailing boat for an adventurous period of eight years.
Serena leads her own successful Art Factory and Art & Souvenir shop. Together with her team, she produces a wide range of commercial art products and souvenirs, handmade and hand painted on Curaçao. Of all her products, her Chichis® are the most well known worldwide.
Serena also runs an art restoration practice, specializing in the restoration of sculptures in plaster and stone, a craft she learnt in Germany and perfected during the years she worked for famous art museums in Berlin. Her clients include churches, museums, commercial companies, nonprofit firms and individuals.
Serena frequently leads art workshops at Landhuis Bloemhof, a local art gallery. She also organizes open air workshops in the tropical sculpture garden, surrounding her own Art Factory. Here, individuals and groups up to 25 members enjoy painting Serena’s souvenirs and art sculptures, assisted by her team.
Following a passion for color and form
Serena Janet Israel (1971) was born into a creative and loving family of hardworking craftsmen and entrepreneurs in West Berlin. Her family stimulated her to appreciate music, culture and art and from a very young age Serena, the eldest of three sisters, developed a passion for color and form. A passion that is easily recognized in her craftsmanship and art works of today.
Inspired by the old craft of casting molds, she joined the formative German Handwerk Schule at the Gipsformerei Staatliche Museen in Berlin at a young age, learning to cast molds from plaster, silicon and Knochenleim. She continued her studies at the Natur & Volkenkunde Museum of Berlin, taking part in a demanding and full time internship in order to become a professional restaurateur.
After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, Serena chose to work in East Berlin practicing restoration techniques and styles typical of East Germany. Working for the Egyptian and Pergamon museum of East Berlin by day, restoring famous sculptures of Greek gods and Egyptian Pharaohs, she and her teacher ran their own atelier by night, working on commercial restoration assignments for firms.
Sailing the seas and traveling the world
Just before joining the university to earn an academic degree as a restaurateur, her life took an adventurous turn and she decided to travel the world and the sail the seas together with her partner. Their self made boat was appropriately named ‘Momo’, after the main character of Michael End’s world famous book relating to his specific time philosophy.
Travelling for over two years from Germany to England, Portugal, the Canary Islands, Africa and the Cape Verdean Islands, Serena set sail for the Dutch Caribbean in 2001 and fell in love with the region’s bright colors, multicultural atmosphere and welcoming hospitality. After meeting her late husband, she decided to start a family and an art career in Curaçao.
Serena’s first Chichi® was born at Landhuis Bloemhof, a well known art gallery, during one of Serena’s Art workshops. Wanting to teach her students the art of paper maché, she constructed the original chichi form from chicken wire, paper and glue. Later on she molded the ground model in clay and casted a mold using one gallon of silicon so that she could more easily reproduce these attractive figurines.
Setting up a successful business in art souvenirs and restoration
At first, Serena painted the chichi’s herself, but as demand grew, she expanded her team, including local craftsmen and artists, who shared her creative passion and welcomed the additional income for their families. From then onwards her success grew, leading ultimately to her own Art Factory, shops and outlets in Curaçao and Bonaire and an amazing line of original art sculptures and souvenirs.
In addition to her sculptures and souvenirs, Serena offers professional restoration services as well, working for churches, museums, individuals, profit and nonprofit organizations. She also creates original and customized products for corporations and government institutions, adding a special charm and unique qualities to buildings, festivities and events.
Supporting the community and stimulating others to create
Besides her artistic and commercial activities, Serena provides community support by creating and auctioning objects of art and custom made souvenirs, usually together with specific target groups. These activities help to fund valuable initiatives like fundamental cancer research or empower vulnerable groups like teenage mothers and children in care.
You can observe the famous Chichi® sculptures being created at Serena’s Art Factory and buy them in the adjoining Art & Souvenir Shop or at the Souvenir Shop in Punda, Willemstad. But if you’re fun loving and artistically inclined, we highly recommend you join Serena’s lively workshops and paint a colorful Chichi® yourself!