Haitian artist Béatrice Célestin creates abstract art on diverse mediums, including canvas, wood panels, dinnerware, fabric prints for furniture, resin and more. Her business, Lady Octopus, is an art-driven lifestyle brand concept aiming to provide its supporters with beautiful and functional art.
For background, Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and experiences gang violence and crisis. A period of political unrest prompted Béatrice to begin selling her art and start Lady Octopus. “This [business formation] happened at a time when we were all stuck at home because my country, Haiti, was undergoing a bad lockdown due to political chaos and a great peak of violence from gang tribes ruling the streets of the capital. I started painting dinnerware, doing art pieces, and playing with clay with resin, all while receiving messages and calls from a bunch of people wanting to buy,” Béatrice recalled. The artist reveals more about her business and creative work in our interview. Artisan Joy also featured her artwork in Issue 3 of our quarterly magazine.
How did you get started creating your art or creative product?
From a very young age, I was always doodling, and in my teenage years in high school, I discovered how doodling actually helped me follow the classes. After doodling, I started exploring with paint and oil pastels. A good friend of mine showed me the etching technique with oil pastels, and from that, I developed the same technique using acrylic and oil pastels. With that technique, I introduced my first exhibition in 2004. From there on, I never stopped experimenting with different materials while maintaining my signature style, which is very organic with underwater world vibes and always over a black background.
At what point did you realize that you could turn your artwork or creative product into a business?
When I did my first exhibition in 2004, I sold out all the pieces. I knew there was potential, but I was hesitant because I knew that in dead times—when I was not inspired—nothing would make me pick up a brush or an etching knife. So for me, it had to be a side hustle, and I did a show every three to four years whenever I felt inspired. But then I started learning not long ago how to fuel my creative brain and constantly produce without losing my authenticity. This happened at a time when we were all stuck at home because my country, Haiti, was undergoing a bad lockdown due to political chaos and a great peak of violence from gang tribes ruling the streets of the capital. I started painting dinnerware, doing art pieces, and playing with clay with resin, all while receiving messages and calls from a bunch of people wanting to buy. From there, I decided to launch Lady Octopus.
How do you define success for your creative business?
Being able to touch someone’s emotions when they see my art is my first step to my success, having my own voice that can impact in a positive way to build and get my brand, Lady Octopus, strong and standing out there. Being able to continue to fuel my passion, being persistent, being authentic, and, to me, a key point that I leave as the last but utterly important point: discipline. To me, these are the elements that define success in my creative business.
Where do you find inspiration?
My emotions primarily. Art has been the channel I use to truly speak my emotions. And also, as a graphic designer, I am very visual to the core details, meaning I can look at a wooden chair, but I see more than the chair; I go all the way into the pattern of the fibers of the wood and can find inspiration just from that.
What’s one piece of advice you wish someone gave you when you first started your business?
That at the beginning, you were everything: the artist, the manager, the accountant, and the marketer full-time. You have to realize that it’s not just about running wild and creating; you also need to plunge time into the business aspect of it all.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to begin selling their art or creative product?
Even if your art is spontaneous and free, be the artist when it comes to your art, but also be the left brain that plans and sets up the business aspect of it all, which is why I mentioned discipline earlier in the success points.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
That I wear many hats, and actually, this is where the name Lady Octopus came about, as I am known to be multiskilled and well-versed in many disciplines. Mostly a creative person, a graphic designer, an artist, and a DIY-ist. I still share some love for numbers, and this curiosity for entrepreneurship that pushed me to pursue a Masters in Business Administration. I love branding, marketing, and Marketing and Visual Merchandising. I also share a great passion for the fitness lifestyle. Deciding to go deeper into my Art and actually developing a long-term project and venture with it is, believe it or not, personally breaking down a barrier of self-limiting belief that I have long kept deep inside.
As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism? This question makes me laugh because I am a virgo. If any sign is a perfectionist, it is virgo. And lots of times, I find myself not satisfied while everyone else is in awe. With time, experience, and maturity, I have learned to actually aim for the perfect imperfection in everything in life.
What’s something that surprised you about running a creative business?
In exploring myself, I was surprised by my capacity to do things I never thought I would be able to do.
Running a business brings joys and challenges. What advice would you give to someone about handling the highs and lows?
Highs and lows are the main pillars of life, and they come and go. Once you know that, you will learn to ride the waves as they come and go but never give up. With discipline, you get to learn to appreciate the process with your goal in mind.
Has someone ever criticized your work? How did you handle it?
Yes. But I am fortunate enough to depict when I am being criticized with malice and when I’m being criticized in a constructive way. The way I handle it: smile, take the good out of it, and forget the rest.
What’s a cause you are passionate about, and why?
One of the causes I love is the Haiti Street Dog Project simply because I love dogs and think it is the animal most loyal to human beings. And this organization tries their best to shelter needy street dogs and put them up for adoption.
Editor’s note: You can learn more about the Haiti Street Dog Project at haitistreetdogproject.com.
Can you share the name of a supplier or vendor that you use for your business that you just love—one that makes running a business a bit easier?
Blick Art Materials and Hobby Lobby to buy my crafts materials, and PITO, which is the manufacturer that does my Lady Octopus branded dinnerware.
What brings you joy?
Being surrounded by good people, art, design, craft, making, working out at the gym. And believe it or not, being disciplined brings me joy.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.