Women Who MAKE: Clementine Studio

June 5, 2016

There’s power in reaching out to like-minded people. You’ll always hear me advocating for collaboration and not competition. Practice finding joy in another person’s successes, and I promise more success will come your way. I know it’s easier said then done, but anytime I feel a pang of jealousy, I try and remind myself that there is much more to gain in supporting one another, and choosing joy over fear. You also never know when reaching out might make you a new friend. Carly Martin a.k.a Clementine Studio took the leap to reach out in a brand new city.

A Chicago transplant from NY, Carly connected with me through the #womenwhomake series on Instagram and emailed me directly about her work. I was so excited to see Carly’s beautiful illustrations blending whimsy, color and nature effortlessly. I was hooked! A visit to her studio in the very cool Lacuna Artist Lofts along with my gal pal and wonderful photographer Anna Sodziak led to the photos and interview below.

In case you love what you see as much as we did, Carly is offering blog readers a 20% off discount on any wedding stationery, as well as 15% off any prints on her site using the code SPRING. Carly has a big heart and I can’t wait for you to call her a friend too! Here’s the interview:

Centered By Design: Women Who MAKE Interview – CLEMENTINE STUDIOS

  • Name: Carly Martin
  • Age: 28
  • Current title/company name: Owner and Designer at Clementine Studio
  • Years in operation: 1.5

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What is your first memory of making [art]/being creative? My mom is an artist, so creativity was encouraged and exercised frequently when I was growing up. One of my earliest memories is when she let my sister and I paint a mural on the walls of the bathroom we shared!

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How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business owner? I knew from my first internship when I was 16, at an art auction website, that a traditional office setting wasn’t for me. I didn’t necessarily know that I wanted to work for myself at that point, but knowing what you don’t want is just as helpful. After studying Studio Art in college and being surrounded by like-minded people, it became more normal and comfortable to think about being independent in a career.

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Tell us about the process of launching your own business. Best parts? Biggest challenge? Oh man, where to start. The short version is that I had been freelance illustrating alongside my full-time job in the start-up art/tech world for a few years and during that point I painted a design for my sisters save the date card. I got great feedback and requests for similar things after that, so in the Summer of 2014 when the company I was working for was about to go under, I took the leap and decided to launch Clementine Studio, focusing mostly on custom wedding invitation design. The best part, day in and day out, is just the satisfaction of doing a job that I created for myself that actually seems to be working (!). The biggest challenge was the emotional roller coaster of launching a business on your own. It still is a roller coaster but I’ve finally learned to accept and appreciate the ups and down and remain positive.

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 What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why? I’ve actually grown to really enjoy the digital editing side of my process, which I’d never thought I’d say. I paint everything by hand and then make minor adjustments and lay everything out in Photoshop or Illustrator which brings a kind of collage element to my work that I think is so fun to create. I get inspired by the usual suspects: travel, books, the desert. Also Peter Beard and Walton Ford have been a consistent source of inspiration to me since college. Their subjects both focus heavily on animals while also carrying darker themes throughout their work, which I seem to be drawn to for whatever reason.

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What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs? Invest in a good therapist! Seriously. While it’s important to surround yourself with supportive people, I think it’s more important to remember that nobody will understand your vision/passion/goal as well as you do. And because of that, it’s necessary to be your own biggest cheerleader, all of the time. Which is incredibly exhausting! But in the end your own belief in yourself is all it takes.

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Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it? I think I have an anti-philosophy. I used to worry my work didn’t seem consistent style-wise. My personal aesthetic is pretty minimal while my work usually has tons of color and more whimsy. I used to feel like I wasn’t being authentic in my “work self” because of that, until my mom told me I didn’t need to choose between the two. I’ve realized my work is where I like to inject my fun, more colorful side and my home and closet is where I like to keep things simple and easy. So my only design philosophy is to not put pressure on my creativity to be something that it’s not.

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Imagine your business in five years. How would you like to grow? I plan on expanding the brand outside of the stationery world. Right now I’m throwing around ideas for textile design. I’d also love to get back to painting on a large-scale. Essentially, I want Clementine to be an ever-evolving brand with lots of different avenues for design.

 Do you have a most popular item? 3 years ago on Valentine’s Day I painted a little kissing camel just for fun and it’s since become one of my wholesalers’ (Shop Waiting on Martha) best-selling items. I actually resented it for a long time because I thought it was too “cute” for what I wanted my brand to represent. Classic example of why you can’t take yourself too seriously!


What do you enjoy most about the creative community here in Chicago? Oh my gosh, so many things. I just moved to Chicago this past Summer from New York City where I lived for 5 years and I grew up in a suburb just north of Manhattan, so the Chicago creative scene is still new to me, but it’s so refreshing. I love NYC, but the Chicago scene is so welcoming and unpretentious. It’s been easy to meet people and there’s truly a sense of community support rather than competition.

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Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how? I love that! When I design something that I truly love, it’s usually because it challenged me as an artist/designer, it feels like a true representation of what I want my work to say about me and (because I’m my own biggest critic) the satisfaction in actually loving something I created drives me to push forward to the next.

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Carly’s Chicago Favorites:

  • Favorite spot to get inspired: Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Favorite florist: Asrai Garden in Wicker Park
  • Favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture/thrift: Nadeau, Alapash, Gather Home + Lifestyle
  • Favorite place for coffee: My neighborhood go-to’s are Wormhole and the newly opened Volumes Book Cafe. But I also love Dollop and Little Goat Bakery!
  • Favorite place for a sweet treat: Bake, in Wicker Park makes the best cookies, cakes, brownies, etc. You get a sugar high just from walking in the door, it’s awesome.

Thanks for sharing you insights and lovely studio with us Carly! Stay tuned for a few more surprises from Carly and me, and don’t forget if you’ve got a friend looking for wedding invites Carly is offering 20% OFF if you mention the #womenwhomake series. You can contact Carly HERE. 

All images by Anna Sodziak Photography, please do not repost without credit to source. Anna shoots weddings as well and you can contact her HERE.


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Meet Claire

Claire’s creative energy comes from her unique perspective on the world as both a trained interior designer and a passionate yoga teacher. Her affinity for kitchen design, timeless style and eclectic decorating are shared here, along with lots of interior design education and tips. Thanks for being here, please enjoy!

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