Phind out Phriday: Lights, Sewing Machines, Brush Strokes- Serena saunders of PassionArt Designs LLC

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a great fashion show competition here in Philadelphia hosted by Lypstick. Not only did I get to attend the show and see amazing collections by local and not so local designers, I got to meet the designers who participated in the show. Each designer bought their own unique style to the runway. One particular designer not only bought style, but she bought lights. Kanye West’s song "All of the Lights” played as models walked the runway in bold shapes, hues, and lights.(Some of the pieces were glowing!) The use of color was amazing. But then again, what else would you expect from Serena Saunders, owner of PassionArt Designs? What else would expect from a teacher, painter, mom, designer, seamstress, teacher, Philadelphian, all things art local entrepreneur?
I was thrilled when I sent Serena a “remember me from the fashion show” email and she agreed to an interview. I was even more thrilled when we got to meet at Starbucks and talk over coffee cake and tea and she got to shed some light on who she is. This is what I got to phind out.

Phreedum: So how did you get started?
SS: I’ve always been an artist. When I was little I knew that’s what I wanted to be. I preferred construction paper instead of dolls. I went to high school and college for art.
Phreedum: Where did you got to school?
SS: For high school I went to CAPA and then I started college at Tyler School of art and am finishing up Moore College of art.
Phreedum: So has it always been fashion or painting or both?
SS: I’m a painter. I started as a painter and my degree will be in fine art. In 2009 I taught myself how to sew. Initially I started with bags and clutches. But then I realized a shirt is just a square with openings for the arms. Sleeves are just cylinders attached to the square. So the fashion has been more recent. I paint by day and sew by night. On occasion I bring the two together as my clothes do have some of my paintings on them.
Phreedum: Who are you in 5 words?
SS: Mother, teacher, painter, designer, Christian.
Phreedum: What has been the biggest lesson you have learned so far as an entrepreneur?
SS: There have been so many lessons. But you know I think the biggest one has been to stay in your own lane. Just stay focused and don’t make stops to compare and see what other folks are doing. I would also say learned to find joy in the now. Embrace all parts of the process, including the struggles.
Phreedum: What do you hope to communicate to others through your art?
SS: I want to visually document African Americans. Art is historical documentation. It existed before letters and words which have created language and literature. As a people we are still making change. It’s not like when Dr. King did, but it should be captured nonetheless. I think the change we are making is more individual, one person changing at a time, but that ultimately make a collective effort and that effort is what I hope to capture in my art.
Phreedum: Who has been most influential in encouraging you to phreely pursue being an artist?
SS: Hmmm. You know it’s been a lifetime journey really. During most of it I have felt alone, but there have definitely been different people cheering me on along the way. I think following my dream I have lost more people in my life than I’ve gained. I hope that in the end sacrificing socializing and having a large support system and network has been worth it.
Phreedum: How does the work you do as an artist change the lives of others.
SS: Well. You know people are surprised to see young Black artists. A lot of people I meet say that have never met an artist and they think art is that foreign thing in museums and is extra expensive. It’s nice that by me being me and pursuing my dreams that I get to expose and expand people’s conception of art and artists.
And, I teach how fashion/design classes to 13-19 year old girls through my program Art of Fashion.
Phreedum: Wow, okay talk about giving back. How long have you been teaching?
SS: Well actually I have been teaching in general for the past 8 years. I started working with The Village as a poetry teacher. Several of the girls in that class said they wanted to do a fashion show. Initially we started by just collecting clothes and styling them. But, as I taught myself how to sew I began to teach them and that’s where the Art of Fashion classes that I teach now came from. The models at the Lypstick Fashion show were actually my students.
Phreedum: That is really great. So how would your students describe you in one word?
SS: Okay the word that comes t I mind is artsy, but that’s because you said I had to use one. I think they would probably tell you I am like their mom. I just don’t know how you say that in one word.
Phreedum: Speaking of mom, you are a mom. So what do you hope our son sees as you pursue your dreams?
SS: Well, I hope my son and my students see my resiliency, to love and live your dream because anything is possible. I also am sure to let the m see the process so they know what it takes to makes dreams become realities.
Phreedum: So with all that you do, painting, designing, sewing, teaching, being a mom, how do you stay motivated and balanced?
SS: God keep me motivated. And then painting. Painting just recharges me. I get to take nothing and turn it into something. I can’t help but want to keep doing that. And as far as the balance, it’s really all connected.-the painting and the designing and the sewing. Each part impacts the next part, but each part has it’s on demands and requires that I kind of switch gears, but I still get to stay in the creative world despite the mediums.
Phreedum: From whom do you get inspiration?
SS: As it pertains to visual art I admire Frida Kahlo and Jean Michel Basquiat. I always imagine Basquiat as like an older brother. Now with Fashion, huge Coco Chanel fan.
Phreedum: What do you believe is your greatest asset?
SS: My faith. It gives me hope and hope for me is everything. It allows me to live in my vision and what I know will be. If I lived in reality it wouldn’t be good. I live what I see, not just what is.
Phreedum: Okay, so last question. As an entrepreneur and an artist of so many different mediums, what advice would you give to budding artists and entrepreneurs?
SS: What I’ve learned is there is no grey. As long as you live in grey you won’t experience the fullness of either side.

For more information about Serena and PassionArt Design LLC visit or follow on twitter @PassionArtDLLC

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