If you visit Curacao, you will notice throughout the entire island little handmade statues of women with voluptuous curves painted in bright, joyful colors. These are the famous ChiChi’s, a project which started as a part-time job and became a project that empowers and employs many women on the island.
Serena Janet Israel, born in 1971, is the creator of the ChiChi. She is a designer, professional mold maker, artist, art restaurateur and art teacher. She was born in Germany into a loving family and creating a family of hardworking craftsmen and entrepreneurs. She learned to cast molds from silicone, plaster, and Knochenleim at a young age at the German Handwerk Schule.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Serena chose to practice restoration techniques at the Egyptian and Pergamon Museum of East Berlin, restoring famous sculptures of Egyptian Pharaohs and Greek gods.
But, just before going to university, Serena decided to travel the world with her partner in a self-made boat, which they called Momo. They have traveled from two years from Germany to England, Portugal, Africa, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verdean Islands. In 2001 she set sail towards the Dutch Caribbean and instantly fell in love with the welcoming hospitality, multicultural atmosphere and the region’s bright colors. She also met her late husband there and decided to start a family and a career in the beautiful Curacao.
Her first ChiChi was created at the Landhuis Bloemhof art gallery when, during one of her workshops, Serena wanted to teach her students the fascinating art of paper maché. She made the original ChiChi from paper, chicken wire and glue. Later she came up with the idea of molding the inittial model in clay and to cast a mold using silicon. This way she could reproduce these cute little figurines more easily.
At the beginning Serena used to paint the ChiChis herself, but as the demand started to increase she expanded the team and included local artists and craftsmen with the same creative passion as hers. From this point her success saw a boost and she created her own Art Factory, outlets, and shops in Curacao and Bonaire. Serena now offers an amazing collection of souvenirs and art sculptures. All the products are handmade and hand painted.
Serena also teaches her students the art of restoration sculptures in plaster and stone that she has learned back in Germany and perfected over the years while working at the Egyptian and Pergamon Museum. She works for individuals, nonprofit firms, commercial companies, museums, and churches. She also leads many workshops at the local Landhuis Bloemhof art gallery and organizes open-air workshops, near her Art Factory in the tropical sculpture garden.
But this is not all. Serena provides community support through her auctions, which target specific groups. She sells custom-made souvenirs and objects of art and we the money she gathers she supports various initiatives such as empowering vulnerable groups like children in care and teenage mothers, or cancer research.