INTERVIEW: Carmen Miller, artist behind LoveAntigua

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Carmen Miller

Given the colour palette of the Caribbean where tropical seas meet the myriad of greens of the rainforest and then the flowers that bloom all year round: Carmen Miller with her eye for design splendidly captures it all on her extraordinary and stunning hand painted scarves.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Carmen this week and to appreciate fully how it takes a designers eye to take a single leaf and make it into something artistically splendid. For many, the idea of painting on silk is a hobby, but Carmen has got it all – a vision for business and the talent to make it happen, both artistically and fearlessly motivated. I was instantly awestruck!

Carmen’s work reveals the way she sees the world through colours. Watching her draw onto the blank canvas of silk is refreshingly free of any inkling of self doubt. The strong visual appeal of her bold designs have allowed Carmen to quickly develop a huge following – not just here in Antigua but also in St. Barths and further through the islands. “I like to design but I love to paint” she says with confidence.

“The simple designs are the most effective” she continues. One could mistakenly assume she has been in business for more than one short year, but Carmen shows that being focussed and driven in her artistic business allows her to do what she really loves on a daily basis. “I feel zen and happy when I’m painting”. Clever girl.

 

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A stunning array of scarves freshly painted and hanging to dry

 

Uniquely personal to Antigua featuring ginger lily (Alpinia) and hummingbirds amongst the dazzling patterns in this wonderful collection by the very talented Carmen Miller, a silk scarf, sarong or kimono is an ideal gift to take home for friends or more likely to keep for yourself.

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Let’s meet her!

Let’s start at the beginning, where are you from originally and how did you discover Antigua?

I am originally from Melbourne, Australia. I came working on a Yacht as a Stewardess. I spent a good year in Antigua with the boat, and when it was sold I decided to stay! Antigua feels like home now, and it’s been nearly four years. 

– And your art, tell me a little about how you found this passion?

I have always had an obsession with fabrics and textiles since I was a little girl. I’ve been sewing since I can remember. I studied Costume and Fashion design at University, and have always loved textiles. Silk painting was a natural art for me to take up as you can express the colourful nature of the Caribbean so vibrantly on silk. 
– Can you describe the process of your silk painting, from idea to finished product?
I feel inspired walking around every day. It can be the tropical flowers, birds, beaches, even the colours the sun makes as it sets over the sea. 
I  come up with an idea for the design and sketch it out. 
I then free-hand the design directly onto the silk. I then colour it in with my Silk Paints. It makes every single piece one of a kind .
After that I let the piece cure for a week, then it is heat set, washed a couple of times and ironed. Then it’s labelled and ready for the shop. 

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Your painting reflects the colours and the nature in the Caribbean to me. How would you describe your designs?

There is so much inspiration to take from the beautiful nature here it’s like a moving canvas. I enjoy painting bright colours and designs that accentuate that feeling .

– What particularly inspires your art here in Antigua?

In Antigua I enjoy gardening and going for walks and I love tropical flowers. I also love the seascapes at the beach . Sometimes I pick up a shell or a flower and decide to run with that colour. 

– Can you describe a typical working day for you, do you like to stick to routines?

I wake up in the morning and after coffee head down to the studio. I paint for about 6 hours a day. On Fridays I iron and wash the previous weeks collection, and get them ready to deliver. I also spend time driving to the stores and checking in with retailers. 

– I hear you also have some musical talents, can you tell me about that?

I love playing ukulele and guitar. I’m in a Jazz quartet and we play in the Nelson’s Dockyard every Wednesday night. It’s a lot of fun!

– Who or what are your current influences to create?

I’ve fallen in love with a specific set of colours this season so I’ve been running with them and incorporating those colours into my designs. At the moment my favourite combinations are Turquoise and Salmon, Magenta and Royal Blue, and 3 colours of Blue blended in together. I usually use 3 different shades of every colour I paint, to create depth in the piece. 

– I think your silk is an ideal gift to take away from Antigua or if you are lucky enough to live on the island, it is perfect for covering up from the sun or in a (rare!) chilly breeze. Can you tell me where it is available to buy?

The scarves are perfect gifts to buy and take home with you. I have fun tying the scarves up into tops as well. 

The sarongs are a great easy beach cover up and can be tied up over swim wear. 

I also make hand painted silk Kimonos which are a great throw over swimwear for a beach bar or a cocktail evening. I like to make everything flowy and breezy to wear as comfort is everything in the Caribbean. 

CURRENT STOCKISTS in Antigua: 

The Inn Hotel Antigua

Fig Tree Art Gallery Antigua 

St James Club Hotel Antigua

Cocobay Resort Sheer Rocks Antigua

Carlisle Bay Resort Antigua

Sugar Ridge Hotel Antigua

Crossroads Center Antigua 

Gingerlily Antigua, Airport and Heritage Quay

Sunseekers Antigua

Sea Island Trading , Redcliffe Quay and Friars Hill- Antigua, 

My Studio in English Harbour of course!

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Silk scarf hanging to dry
Some thoughts about Antigua:
– Where is your favourite restaurant destination in Antigua?
I love Sheer Rocks for a great day out with cocktails, and also the classic roadside Jerk Chicken stands on the weekends. 
– What is your favourite thing to do on a Sunday morning?
I’m normally sleeping in from being out on Saturday, followed by taking the dog to the beach for a chill afternoon. 
– On the island of 365 beaches, which one is your favourite?
Pigeon Beach and Galleon Beach are my favourites living in English Harbour. I go to Rendezvous Beach for a treat. 
– Where is your favourite view in Antigua?
Shirley Heights
Quick Quiz
Coffee or meditation? Coffee
Wine or chocolate? Wine
Your book club pick? The Magnificent Mango by Caroline Fabre.
Daily mantra? Just do it.
Music that makes you happy?  Anything that reminds me of home 🙂
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Carmen Miller of LoveAntigua “Happiness is Homemade”!

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Jennifer Ritchie is a freelance writer and amateur photographer currently based in Antigua with her family and Ricky the dachshund. She works in hospitality by day and sometimes by night too, but mostly her interests are in lifestyle, food, travel and a passion for flowers. Her work has been published in the Irish Times and various magazines and websites.
No part of this content may be copied or published without the consent of the author.

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