South Carolina Sunshine is honored to feature Sasha and Ella Marushchenko, the co-founders and owners of Ella Maru Studio located in Charleston, SC. The business specializes in Scientific design and animation.

Ella Marushchenko and her scientific illustrations inspire me. When Darcy and I set out to make South Carolina Sunshine a serious endeavor, we reached out to the Ella Maru Studio to see if they would be willing to be interviewed for a feature in our SC People section. They replied "yes" within twenty minutes of receiving our email. I was thrilled by their generosity. I have followed Ella Marushchenko's career as a scientific illustrator, often incorporating images of the Ella Maru Studio into my Color and Composition syllabus. UofSC students are in awe of the visualizations of chemistry, nano, and biological concepts coupled with the compelling artistic expression of the subjects. They are inspired by Ella's career path, particularly drawn to her social media accounts, where she is authentic about who she is and sometimes shares challenges that she overcame in her youth. Which, for them, is relatable and makes them realize that their goals are obtainable.

Sasha and Ella Marushchenko in KUDU Coffee and Craft Beer, Charleston, SC. Photo by Dawn Hunter

Artistic Background

Ella was born and raised in Ufa, Russia. Art has always been part of her life. Her grandmother was an artist, and her mother, who also has artistic talent, always supported her creativity. She received excellent training while she assisted the famous Russian painter, the late Sergey Krasnov, and his assistant Vera Asanbaeva for eight years. While training with Krasnov and Asanbaeva she learned the importance of observation and honed this skill.

Above, painting by Sergey Krasnov.

After completing her apprenticeship, she earned her Master's degree in art from Bashkir State Pedagogical University, Ufa, Russia. She eventually moved to the Czech Republic and began to explore many different art forms like ceramics, textiles, and watercolor, but she focused primarily on interior and fashion design. She fully expected to pursue a profession in interior design upon arriving in the United States however, she met Dr. Sergiy Minko, who insisted that she create an illustration for an article he planned to publish in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Advanced Functional Materials. Her image was selected for the cover of the journal.

Above, artwork by Vera Asanbaeva.

Ella Maru Studio

Other scientists recognized her ability to summarize their content with the well-designed components (texture, lighting, and color) of her images, and she received more requests for work. Sasha and Ella Marushchenko founded Ella Maru Studio to meet the demand. Sasha, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry, organized a business plan so that Ella's creativity and scientific illustrations could flourish.

In the beginning, it was just the two of them, but Ella Maru Studio has grown and now employs eight people. Their team is a combination of Ph.D. scientists and professionally trained artists from the top universities throughout the United States. In each commission they implement Ph.D. level scientific insight with top art design talent to create engaging scientific images and animations. Her illustrations have been selected as cover art for numerous scientific journals, which include: Nature, Nature Physics, Nature Materials, Nature Nanotechnology, Cell, Nanoletters, Angewandte Chemie, and JACS.

Sasha and Ella have teamed up for other endeavors outside of Ella Maru Studio in the Charleston area. An example is the conservation of eagles and other wildlife in the low country. Recently, an eagle's nest was threatened by new construction. Sasha is passionate about eagle conservation, so during the peaceful, organized protests against disrupting the eagle's home, they created a painting to put at the site for public display. Through their creativity for conservation, anyone who passed by could be educated regarding dynamics in the region that are threatening to wildlife and endangered species.

Ella also continues to develop and is devoted to her personal artistic practice. Occasionally, she accepts special commissions, like the painting featured below. It was a work created for Ella's friend. The painting took three months, and it depicts in rich colors and fine detail the Russian fairytale Lukomorye.

Ella's Lukomorye painting is as fascinating and as full of wonderment as her scientific illustrations. We don't know about you, but South Carolina Sunshine is looking forward to the next cover produced by Ella Maru Studio!

Ella Marushchenko with her painting about the Russian fairytale "Lukomorye."

Follow the link below and visit the Maru Studio website. There you will find lots of examples of her scientific illustration and animated work.

SARA SCHNECKLOTH is passionate about teaching. Her excellence in the classroom was recognized this past spring when she was awarded UofSC's prestigious Michael J. Mungo Teaching Award - for the second time during the past ten years! The first was for her undergraduate teaching and the second was for her Graduate teaching.

Welcome to CONVERSATION, interviews with Sara Schneckloth, Nakisa Abdollahbeigi and Stephanie Allen by Dawn Hunter, June 10, 2022.

Image above, by artist and UofSC professor, Sara Schneckloth from her Topographies series: Earth pigments, graphite, colored pencil, wax on Yupo, 2021.

Professor Sara Schneckloth has been teaching at UofSC since 2007. She has a reputation among the student population as a great motivator who is prone to incorporating the unexpected and innovation in the art classroom experience. Students find her classes exciting, rigorous, and rewarding. South Carolina Sunshine has interviewed Sara and two of her recently graduated students: undergraduate Stephanie Allen and MFA graduate Nakisa Abdollahbeigi.

Dawn Hunter: Teaching is a great passion of yours. How did you become interested in teaching?

Sara Schneckloth: It is indeed a driving passion! I had the pleasure of teaching for the first time in Cape Town, South Africa at the Community Arts Project from 2000-2002, where I discovered how grounding and satisfying it is to be in a studio classroom with people who are focused, engaged, and motivated – it has grown and expanded ever since, whether at the University of Wisconsin as a grad student and instructor, and here at Carolina since 2007.

Dawn Hunter: You have won two Mungo teaching awards, one for undergraduate teaching and one for graduate teaching, what are your perceptions of similarities and differences among those student populations?

Sara Schneckloth: Our students all bring different levels of experience into the classroom, and I believe it’s important to meet people at whatever level they are starting. In any level of drawing course, we engage with the questions, techniques, and processes that can help bridge the gap between what they aspire to create and a growing bank of skills and resources they have at their disposal. Like many of us teaching studio art courses to undergraduates, SVAD classes attract both art majors and students from across the university who are keen to bring artmaking into their lives – it’s these interdisciplinary conversations that can really take an undergraduate project in exciting directions, as students look to combine their other academic interests and cares with drawing. SVAD graduate students bring a host of life experiences with them as they engage in three years of creative and academic study and studio work, and I am perpetually inspired by the strides these artists and scholars take in bringing their creative visions to light while in the MFA program and beyond.

Above: Sara Schneckloth working at her summer studio in New Mexico. Photo by Megan Clark.

Dawn Hunter: When you pursued your MFA at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, at the time, did you envision teaching becoming such a big part of your life and studio practice?

Sara Schneckloth: I did, if only because of recognizing early on the excitement and joy I feel when working with a group of inspiring and motivated students – that dynamic energy, the flow of ideas, the deep immersion in creative process – all of it elevates my overall approach to making artwork. There is a cyclical flow between what happens in my studio and what happens in the classroom – each feeds and inspires the other and I honestly and simply love working with people as they bring a vision to light.

Dawn Hunter: Describe your teaching style.

Sara Schneckloth: My approach to teaching combines rigorous attention to a range of traditional and contemporary drawing methodologies, encouragement of self-discovery, and active engagement in peer critique. I believe that every student brings a unique set of personal experiences to the university environment, and that one of my roles is to support undergraduate and graduate students in investigating and translating those diverse experiences into meaningful works of art, through drawing, writing, and speaking, becoming artists who move fluidly between ideas and images.

From teaching to mentoring and advising, I work with graduate students to build solid technical skills in visual artmaking, confidence with materials and processes, and a critical and incisive language for talking about their work and the work of others. Students move forward with a better understanding of themselves as thoughtful practitioners they learn to ask questions of their artwork, each other, and of the enterprise of art making as it manifests across disciplines. In my career at UofSC, I am dedicated to training a generation of artists, scholars, and future educators who embody principles of open exploration and expression of ideas, and care for the aesthetic dimensions of being in the world.

Dawn Hunter to Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: How or why did you decide to work with Sara Schneckloth as your mentor?

Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: Professor Schneckloth is a very kind and supportive person—also highly professional and experienced in studio art with main focus on Drawing. Since Drawing is my primary major, I have decided to work with Professor Schneckloth as my thesis mentor.

Dawn Hunter to Stephanie Allen: How or why did you decide to work with Sara Schneckloth as your mentor?

Stephanie Allen: I've worked closely with Sara since I was a sophomore. Even before I had asked her to be my thesis director, she had mentored me more than any other professor I had worked with. She understands my goals as an artist, knows my range of skills and where to push me. Choosing her just made sense. She was always willing to go above and beyond to support me and I am so indescribably grateful for how she's helped shape my undergraduate experience.

Above, image from Nakisa Abdollahbeigi's MFA thesis exhibition, Carry On.

Dawn Hunter to Sara Schneckloth: How does teaching a class or working one-on-one with a student in a classroom setting manifest differently from mentoring a long-term project?

Sara Schneckloth: When working with any student on a project, long- or short-term, my hope is that they allow their thinking and processes to be fluid and evolve. That evolution can take on many forms, whether in how they approach the act of seeing, the drawing techniques and materials they use, or how they invent new conceptual challenges and questions for themselves. Being able to work with a student over an extended period of time is so rewarding, as often the project will go through a period of radical reinvention, as the person goes deeper into what is really motivating them to make the work. It’s that blend of discovery and excitement that can propel a project to even greater success, with momentum to keep making more work going forward.

Above, Nakisa Abdollahbeigi and Sara Schneckloth at Nakisa's MFA exhibition, Carry On.

Dawn Hunter to Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: What qualities did Sara bring to the relationship that helped you progress your thesis in the right direction?

Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: One of the most important qualities I admire in Professor Schneckloth is her organized and detail-oriented personality. As my thesis mentor, she played a key role in helping me coordinate committee meetings routinely and provided excellent mentorship for developing the idea, implementation, and management of my thesis project. She also evaluated my performance in the program and provided thoughtful feedback on each step of my project to help me complete it with the best quality.

Dawn Hunter to Stephanie Allen: What qualities did Sara bring to the relationship that helped you progress your thesis in the right direction?

Stephanie Allen: Sara has a knack for finding the most interesting and unconventional mediums and surfaces. I knew she would be a great resource to have when working on a project that required unusual materials. I wasn't sure what the pieces would be made of or how they would be hung, and she provided resources that allowed the project to look professional while staying within budget.

She has a great eye for abstraction. This show features some of my very first exclusively abstract pieces that would not have been conceptualized without her guidance on materials, abstraction, and the intuitive mark. Sara has worked with similar interview-based projects before— she knew where to look for weak spots in interviewing ethics and how to create successful visual narratives. While I technically have a drawing concentration, Sara has a very expansive definition of what a "drawing" is. I knew that this perspective would give me the creative freedom to work however I needed to and would allow me to take an untraditional approach to drawing.

Above, Strive, a mixed media drawing by Stephanie Allen. Below, Stephanie Allen's BFA thesis exhibition titled, In My Skin, Her Skin. Both photos by Stephanie Allen.

Dawn Hunter to Stephanie Allen: Your thesis exhibition is a personal and biographical (of you and others) show. What did you want the viewers to learn, understand or experience from the show?

Stephanie Allen: The ways in which the spoken word and the creation of art can lead to a larger understanding of self was deeply considered in the creation of this project: by understanding other queer stories, I could more clearly engage with my own. This exhibition is an artistic investigation of queer femininity and body image. As our bodies and identities are so deeply intertwined, this project explores the way in which the body and presentation create and structure perceptions of queerness, gender, and beauty. Each portrait represents a queer woman or non-binary person that I interviewed, directly rendering their appearance and abstractly interpreting their relationship with their body and queer identity. This project aims to visually record the feeling of being seen and one’s developing knowledge of their identity. Specifically, by realistically showing a variety of different body types that all relate to queerness and femininity in some way, we may expand our presupposed notions about the body enforcing identity. Additionally, despite these varying appearances of the body, the throughlines of body insecurity, navigating queer expression, and learning self-love unify these differences to reinforce the idea that the person is so much more than the body. Understanding that the body is art and art is the person is a key component of my work. In extending our definition of art to include the body, we can shift out of a sense of moralizing critique to one of understanding, appreciation, and respect for both the self and others.

Dawn Hunter to Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: Your thesis exhibition, Carry On, was a personal/autobiographical show. What did you want the viewers to learn, understand or experience from the show?

Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: One of the most important aspects of my thesis exhibition was to help the viewers feel and communicate with the emotional challenges immigrants face during and after immigration. Most importantly, I aimed to show them how feelings of living far away from loved ones, like parents, siblings, best childhood friends, and family members can have personal and emotional impacts on an immigrant’s life. Another aspect was to show how the sense of disconnection from the original culture, language, memorable moments, and nostalgic places in life can affect an immigrant’s personal identity. Lastly, my goal was to reflect on challenges that immigrants experience after moving to a new country such as adapting to a different culture and learning a new language.

Above, image from Nakisa Abdollahbeigi's MFA thesis exhibition, Carry On. Below, Nakisa (center) with guests at her exhibition opening.

Dawn Hunter to Stephanie Allen: The work is created in layers, and each piece is a complete experience on its own, but the entire show works as an installation. Was that intentional, or did it synchronize in the installation process? Was that intentional when creating the works for the show? How did the choices in the installation evolve?

Stephanie Allen: These pieces are what I have come to describe as "floating collages." The question of materials was something that long haunted me in the beginning stages of this project. More specifically, the question of how to hang said materials was one of the biggest early challenges that I faced. I was set on the pieces being larger than life and knew that the show had to function in layers. I wanted to have a layer that realistically described the body, and another layer to describe the person's relationship with their body femininity, and queer identity. This made it difficult for traditional materials (canvas, board, frames, etc.) to practically function. Acetate was light but durable, and had the transparent quality that I wanted. Ultimately, the installation came together because it had to. Once I had created the pieces, they needed to go up however would work. Based on the advice of Sara Schneckloth and my second reader, Brent Dedas, I used magnets and metal plates to hang the drawings. I wanted the pieces to invade the viewers' space, have intricate cast shadows, and have distinctly separate layers (i.e. I didn't want them stacked flatly on top of each other). The choices I made for installation then followed these requirements that I had established for myself.

Above, BFA Thesis exhibition, In My Skin, Her Skin, by Stephanie Allen. Photo by Dawn Hunter Below, closing reception for In My Skin, Her Skin. Photo by Rachel Kaiser/

Dawn Hunter to Stephanie Allen: You selected unconventional drawing materials for the works, and the figures are larger than life in scale. Why did you decide to use unconventional materials, and what was the process that led to the large-scale figures?

Stephanie Allen: A big part of the show was subverting the expectation that the body dictates identity and expression. It was the perceived difference between these two things —body and identity— that I wanted to focus on. Because the two exist in different spheres, I wanted the visual representations of each aspect of the subject to have separate spaces on the piece. Yet, because they are combined to create one person, they had to exist within a singular composition. I didn't want to create separate pieces (one about the body of the subject and one about the identity of the subject) because that would strip the body of personhood and the person of body. Our identities and bodies are deeply and personally intertwined, so the notion of a floating collage seemed like an interesting challenge that fit my thematic goals. I wanted the pieces to command attention— these drawings are about real people and their stories, so they deserve to be on a scale that appropriately describes the complexity of queer identity.

Dawn Hunter to Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: There was an installation piece in the show, Memories in My Carry On. However, one could argue that the entire show is an installation with sub or "mini" structures within it - like, Family Album or the diptych Family Tree. Was that intentional when designing the show? How did the choices in the installation evolve?

Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: The central idea for my exhibition was developed based upon the concept of immigration and its challenges. The components of the show were designed to reflect on different aspects of this main concept with the goal to show how personal, cultural, and emotional challenges play a critical role in an immigrant’s life. The most challenging part for setting up the exhibition was the installation of the "Memories in My Carry On" as the central component. This theme was designed by wrapping a suitcase – as a symbol of immigration – in red straps inside a wooden box and visually connecting it with photos of family, moments, and nostalgic places printed on fabric. To develop the idea for this theme, I played around with the sub-components and changed their order and composition several times. The empty space between photo installations on the wall and the suitcase on the floor was filled with red-strap loops hanging from the ceiling. This latter component was designed to create an obstacle and make it difficult for the viewers to walk in the space between components with the goal to symbolize challenges that immigrants experience during and after their transition to a new life.

Above, Stephanie Allen's mixed media drawing titled Skin. Photo by Dawn Hunter.

Dawn Hunter to Stephanie Allen: How did your work evolve and change while at UofSC?

Stephanie Allen: The biggest change that came to my work was increasing degrees of abstraction. I was almost afraid of working abstractly when I first came to Carolina I felt that I had to "prove" my ability to work realistically before delving into the abstract. This then resulted in an interesting combination of realism and abstraction: I love creating weird abstract shapes and images that functioned realistically within their compositions without being directly representational. This project was in some ways far more representational than I have worked in a long time but is simultaneously one of the most abstract series I've done. I honestly see myself continuing to spiral into more abstract territories. My work has consistently focused on feminine and queer identity while at Carolina, and I am interested in expanding and diversifying this thematic base that I've established.

Dawn Hunter to Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: How did your work evolve and change while at UofSC?

Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: Studying art at UofSC was my first experience with an American educational institute after my immigration to the United States. At the beginning, I found it very different from my experience with an educational institute in my home country, Iran. I gradually adapted myself to the new environment and learned many new things about the art, culture, and language by taking different courses and working on studio art projects for my classes and the MFA thesis. The SVAD program has given me the chance to interact with amazing students and work with inspirational professors and artists who showed me how to think and work creatively and supported me along the way. In my program, I became familiar with a wide range of materials and learned many new techniques for creating art and these skills will be critical for my collaboration with other artists and exploring new things in my future career.

Above, Nakisa Abdollahbeigi at the opening of her MFA thesis exhibition, Carry On. Below, detail of an installation piece.

Dawn Hunter to Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: What are your future plans?

Nakisa Abdollahbeigi: Personally, I enjoy working in academic environments and continuously exploring and learning from other people’s work. I also highly value teaching and am enthusiastic about having the chance to share my experience with students. As an immigrant artist with Iranian background, my plan is to continue working on projects that can help raise awareness about and promote appreciation for cross-cultural values and differences. I believe this is one possible way artists can contribute to building bridges between people from different personal, social, and cultural backgrounds.

Dawn Hunter to Stephanie Allen: What are your future plans?

Stephanie Allen: I majored in English and studio art while at UofSC and truly enjoyed both subjects. Right now, my career is aligning more closely with my English degree. This summer I am attending NYU's Summer Publishing Institute and I plan to pursue a career in publishing from there. However, as I'm always looking for ways to combine my passions, I am certainly keeping an eye out for publishers of illustrated books and art-based magazines. I plan on continuing my artistic practice regardless of my career path and hope to ultimately find my way back to grad school.

Dawn Hunter to Sara Schneckloth: You have initiated a lot of opportunities for teaching, outreach, and community engagement. Do you have plans to develop other teaching initiatives? - like in NM, is that a program/residency you aim to grow?

Sara Schneckloth: The studio work I do in the summer in New Mexico is a central part of my overall creative research, and working out here in this remote and rural location is a point of ongoing inspiration and challenge. It’s exciting for me to be able to share the kind of work I do out here with others, and I am interested in growing that in the years ahead, but slowly and with care. I just hosted a small in-person gathering for six artists keen to integrate natural materials into their practices we gathered local clay and ground it into pigments, hiked though the San Juan Basin badlands gathering visual inspiration, and created drawings to connect mark to landscape. The act of uniting material to place is one that can be revelatory, and I hope to create more opportunities to do that with others in the years to come.

Dawn Hunter to Sara Schneckloth: What surprises you the most about teaching? or, What event did you experience in education that gave you the biggest surprise?

Sara Schneckloth: I think I’m most surprised by how new it always feels every semester, with the rush of jumping in to a full stream of potential, and being a part of such personal exploration, development, and growth. I am grateful for being a part of hundreds of people’s creative processes over the past twenty plus years of teaching, and look forward to many more.

Sara Schneckloth, final thoughts on teaching: ​I would say my teaching style closely mirrors how I work in the studio – I’m driven by an ethic of play and experimentation, curiosity, and a willingness to hold things lightly throughout the process, even/especially when things don’t unfold as planned. By engaging in a blend of close observation, traditional drawing approaches, and experimenting with diverse materials and processes, my hope is for students to make discoveries about their own investment in creating images and artworks, and find satisfaction in process and image alike.

Learn more about Sara by visiting her website link below.

South Carolina Sunshine would like to thank Nakisa Abdollbeigi, Stephanie Allen and Sara Schneckloth for taking the time to participate in this interview. You are all doing innovative things and creating compelling art.

To our readers: we hope you have enjoyed learning more about these fantastic women from UofSC and that you are as inspired by them as we are.

Stay cool in the heat of summer everyone, and check back to learn more about South Carolina's outstanding people.

One love, peace ~ Dawn and Darcy (South Carolina Sunshine)

Stitching the Past into the Present: an interview with a great gal who owns and operates FAST DOLL, by Dawn Hunter, published 4.3.2022.

Above, Caroline DeSanctis, owner of FAST DOLL Hand Embroidery, Charleston, SC. Photo by Michelle Hart, Palmetto Snapshots, Charleston, SC.

Introduction: Based on her original drawings and unique designs, owner and operator of FAST DOLL Caroline DeSanctis creates 100% hand-stitched patches, custom clothing & accessories influenced by the tattoo flash of the 1940s & 1950s. All embroidery and designs are drawn and stitched by Ms. DeSanctis. Most designs you see here are original to the shop unless otherwise noted (i.e., the Sailor Jerry designs and some custom commissioned work). The cost of her hand embroidered patches range from $20.00 - $125.00. Her shop additionally features hats, pennant, key chains, tattoo passes and custom orders. All patches are cruelty-free: made from eco-felt, which is made from recycled plastic bottles, and 100% cotton embroidery floss. Let's catch up with Caroline and find out more about her unique shop and business.

Above, an example of some of Caroline's custom work. Hand-dyed, hand-stitched & hand-drawn patch flash sheets prior to being framed.

Dawn Hunter: When and where did you establish FAST DOLL?

Caroline DeSanctis: I started Fast Doll in 2015 when I still lived in Atlanta, Georgia. Back then it was still known as Fast Doll Fine Vintage, and I was exclusively selling vintage clothing from the 1920s-1960s online. When I first started I was still working full-time for MAC Cosmetics and was selling vintage on the side after clocking out at MAC every day. I resigned at MAC in April 2016 and I remember as I was leaving the counter that day my phone was buzzing with orders from Etsy, and I remember smiling, and thinking that I had made the right decision to leave.

Hand-dyed, hand-stitched & hand-drawn framed "patch flash sheets."™

Dawn Hunter: Has the business always focuses on hand embroidery? If not, how did that evolve?

Caroline DeSanctis: It was exclusively vintage clothing & accessories for almost 3 years, until I taught myself how to embroider by hand and eventually evolving that into the current style of the things I make today. I remember stitching the first thing, which was the words Fast Doll on the back of one of my denim vest, and then thinking “oh no, I’m already addicted to this“. I started to post my creations on social media and there was immediate interest. They started to sell more and more and eventually became more popular than any other vintage items that I was selling. I got so busy during the holiday season of 2019 that it became the only thing I had time to do, and I officially stopped selling vintage clothing and renamed the company to simply ‘Fast Doll’. And I’ve been stitching full-time ever since.

Portrait of Caroline DeSanctis by Michelle Hart of Palmetto Snapshots.

Dawn Hunter: When did you locate to Charleston?

Caroline DeSanctis: I moved to Charleston in August 2020 in the middle of the pandemic! I got here and got straight to work and tried not to miss a beat. I think I took off maybe one full day to unpack when I moved, but that was it, haha.

Dawn Hunter: How do you come up with ideas for designs? What is your inspiration?

Caroline DeSanctis: I draw inspiration from a lot of vintage 1940s and 1950s iconography, ephemera, magazines, illustrations and tattoos from that era of American history. They had bold black lines and were limited to only a few colors — these designs translate so well to embroidery and look very clean and satisfying when they’re done. I also love pinup art and often make things that represent or remind me of vintage glamour and aesthetics.

Dawn Hunter: What is your most popular design?

Caroline DeSanctis: I think my most popular designs are any of the flowers that I do, any of the skulls, and the ‘Mama Tried’ patches & trucker hats, haha.

The imagery in this work was taken directly from a Sailor Jerry sheet of flash featuring an eagle. This is not one of Caroline's designs. The embroidery is straight-up satin stitching. The eagle is embroidered with white, red, and dark & yellow gold embroidery floss. Flag is sewn with deep navy blue, white, red, gold and brown embroidery floss. Flowers are sewn with mustard yellow, green and black embroidery floss. Images are sewn to an off-white piece of sturdy felt that are then sewn on top of a black piece of felt with black embroidery floss (creating a border) and trimmed to fit. Since each patch is handmade, there may be slight, minor differences and no two patches will be 100% alike. If you'd like a different color scheme for your patch, feel free to make a custom request. Please allow additional processing time for custom requests.

Dawn Hunter: What are the range of products that you sell?

Caroline DeSanctis: I try to keep a lot of patches in stock of all sizes, but I also embroider cotton bandannas, assemble DIY kits featuring my patch designs, and have been working more frequently on creating more merch with my designs as screen-printed line drawings. I also enjoy hand-staining watercolor paper with coffee and then painting that as a background to mount patches on, making it a framable piece of art. I called them patch flash sheets and they’re pretty popular with my customers as well.

Hand-embroidered, hand-sewn and hand-cut black and off-white felt patch. The patch flash sheet features pointy-tipped daggers with a hearts detail and dots details. Image is sewn to an off-white piece of sturdy felt that is then sewn on top of a black piece of felt with off-white embroidery floss (creating a border) and trimmed to fit.

Classic & timeless traditional-style rose that looks good on everything. Hand-embroidered, hand-sewn and hand-cut felt patches in 4 different color schemes. Patch features a traditional-tattoo-style rose with three leaves. Great for a leather or denim jacket / vest.

Dawn Hunter: Where can people buy your work?

Caroline DeSanctis: My work is always available online at my website — — and you can also commission a custom piece from me there as well. I also sell items on my Instagram feed from time to time — @fast.doll. I do lots of local handmade & vintage markets regularly in the Park Circle and North Charleston area. I also have pieces available at The Station, which is located locally in Park Circle.

In case you forgot — The boots stay on 😉
‘The Boots Stay On’ felt pennant featured in two different color ways.
• 100% hand-stitched & hand-assembled (no machine! ❤️)
• Each measure 12” x 6”

Did you ever wonder how the trees got their scarves? by Dawn Hunter, published 3.7.2022.

An interview feature with 2021 Jefferson Award recipient, Cola City Yarnbombing leader and Columbia Art Center Director, Bohumila Augustinova.

Above, Bohumila Augustinova, Director of the Columbia Art Center. Photo by Dawn Hunter.

Introduction: While aesthetically improving the forefront of a local business five years ago, Bohumila Augustinova, unwittingly launched a Cola City art installation winter staple by YarnBombers of Columbia on Main Street and beyond. The Yarnbombers of Columbia is a group that Bohumila spearheaded brings together over one hundred local artists who create unique, brightly colored, and patterned crocheted and knitted forms that they wrap around trees or parking meters during the winter months. The project evolved beyond aesthetics with the emergence of the “Giving Tree” located on the corner of Main and Taylor, downtown Columbia. As part of the tradition, artists hang hundreds of scarfs, hats, and gloves for anyone to take and use from that tree. This past December, Bohumila was recognized for her hard work and community investment with a Jefferson Service Award.

Yarnbombers of Columbia art, downtown Columbia, SC. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.

Dawn Hunter: How did the "Giving Tree" get started?

Bohumila Augustinova: Our first installation by the Yarnbombers of Columbia was on Main Street, and it was during the winter. At the end of our first installation day, an artist noticed a man "stealing" part of an installation wrapped around the bottom of a tree. Later, we saw him walking downtown, and he was wearing it as a scarf, and then we realized that it was not an act of theft but necessity. After that, the group created scarfs, hats, and gloves and offered them free at the tree site to anyone who needed them. It is now an annual tradition. Items are installed during November and are up until mid-March.

Yarnbombers of Columbia art, downtown Columbia, SC. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.

Dawn Hunter: Your Jefferson Award is incredible and well deserved. The Jefferson Award, also known as Multiplying Good, recognizes members in the community who selflessly give of their time, embrace service to others as an essential part of life, and have a positive impact on the community. What are other initiatives that you participate in, other than Yarnbombing?

Bohumila Augustinova: I have volunteered at Transitions for years. In that capacity I have offered classes in crafts, like teaching others how to crochet. I also collaborated in workshops with Brenda Oliver, the former Columbia Art Center Director, at Transitions and we were part of a team of volunteers. I haven't been able to volunteer as much as I would like to during the pandemic. I am able to continue community service and outreach through my role as director at the Columbia Art Center.

Scraffito ceramic bowl by Bohumila Augustinova. Photo by Dawn Hunter.

Dawn Hunter: Tell me more about that.

Bohumila Augustinova: Other than our regular roster of classes that we offer at the Columbia Art Center, we work with members and organized groups from the community. Examples of groups that we work with are veterans, the Girls Scouts, homeless, and international groups. We also have a partnership with Sister Care, a national organization that assists women who are trying to escape abusive relationships. There are other initiatives that we participate in, too, like, Art Along the Trail, a dynamic visual and performing arts experience that occurs at Columbia's Riverfront Park.

Scraffito ceramic bowl by Bohumila Augustinova. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.

Dawn Hunter: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Bohumila Augustinova: All of it. There are so many examples. I love our international programming because the event is for an entire family, and I witness multiple generations conceive of and create a collaborative art project on those occasions. Our programming features fantastic teachers who are dynamic members of the local art community. I am always looking for people who want to volunteer or participate in some capacity. It is exciting because it is a community-driven job, and my day-to-day activities change based on needs - so it is unpredictable. We offer Open Studio memberships to local artists who utilize the work studio space to create ceramic work. Through their membership, artists are given a 25-pound bag of clay, use of the studio, a shelf for storage, access to various glazes, and use of our kilns. They are able to hand build work or throw pottery on the wheel.

Scraffito ceramic bowl by Bohumila Augustinova. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.

Dawn Hunter: Tell me about your art. Have you always created ceramics?

Bohumila Augustinova: No, but I have always been creative. All of my life, I was sewing my own clothes as a young child - when I was the same age as Darcy!

Dawn Hunter: Didn't you win the Columbia Design League's Runaway Runway twice?

Bohumila Augustinova: Yes.

Dawn Hunter: How do you decide what materials to use?

Bohumila Augustinova: My mom was always making something creative, and she was very innovative. I didn't think it was unusual. Making things was just part of life, and it really didn't matter what the material was. I went to college for fashion design, but when I was done with school, I knew I didn't want to pursue a career in the industry. I have never felt afraid to try new forms of expression, and I have made a lot of art work from recycled materials, and I teach classes that focus on sustainability and use recycled materials, too.

Dawn Hunter: You used wire for many projects, too, right?

Bohumila Augustinova: Yes, that is correct. I am originally from Czechoslavakia, now known as the Czech Republic. One summer, when I was visiting home after moving to South Carolina, I borrowed my niece and took a class structured for mothers with small children. Not all of the projects were collaborative, and they offered workshops that were just for adults. One of the workshops was in traditional Slovakia tinkering. That is a tradition where experts in the craft travel from town to town to create a wire cover, or casing, for the clay cooking pots. It prevents them from cracking or breaking during use. I took to the medium naturally, and when I returned to the United States, I started making jewelry, too. I expanded the language of the wire beyond its traditional use, and I have created many projects out of it, including my Supper Table setting for Jasper. That table setting was symbolic and expressive of the late Elizabeth Evelyn Wright's life.

Dawn Hunter: Your current sgraffito work in clay is expressive, too. How do you come up with the color and patterns?

Bohumila Augustinova: When I first started, I found inspiration in mid-century design. Now I find inspiration from the natural outdoor surroundings of my home, like patterns and colors from my garden or ripples from the fish swimming in the pond.

Dawn Hunter: What's next?

Bohumila Augustinova: Well, this week I am participating in the Cottontown Art Crawl on March 12th, and as things slowly open up more, I hope to expand my volunteer work - both personally and professionally. The pandemic has made it challenging to gather in the numbers that some outreach initiatives require. Outreach has been a big part of my life and artistic practice, and I am looking forward to future projects. When I came to Columbia, I immediately felt a sense of community and belonging. I love my work at the Columbia Art Center, and it is rewarding to be part of the process that enables people to be inspired and create. That inspires me.

Yarnbombers of Coulumbia art. Photo by Bohumila Augustinova.