Today's post is on a very special Etsy colleague, Serene Wright, who I met via one of my favorite Etsy Teams, Friends With Benefits (FWB). I do a lot of treasuries to help promote others' businesses -- as this is the function of most treasuries. (An Etsy Treasury is basically a selection of photos and links to items for sale by Etsy sellers -- generally around some type of theme, like a color, a 'mood', a selection of similar objects, etc. See one of my favorite treasuries Exquisita as an example.)
I did several searches for 'FWB' items, shortly after joining the team -- and virtually every time I saw something so gorgeous and juicy and exotic that I just had to include it in a treasury, it turned out to be from Serene's shop, TemplesTreasureTrove. After that, I featured a few of her items in my treasuries, and she was above and beyond in graciousness -- in acknowledging the treasury, helping to promote them, and sending sweet notes of thanks.
Between this kind spirit of Serene's conveyed online, and my fascination with the beautiful objects of her shop that seemed to carry their own sort of spirit, I decided I wanted to get to know Serene better. I asked if she would be willing to do an interview, and true to form, she graciously accepted the request!
Here is Serene's story. I do hope after reading it, you will become fascinated too -- and will drop by to drool over (and buy!) her very special items at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TemplesTreasureTrove?ref=shop_sugg
Serene spent the early part of her childhood growing up in the back of her beloved grandmother's yarn/knitting shop, where she learned to knit, crochet, and create all kinds of handcrafted items. She was intrigued with stones and crystals and collected them from a very young age; after her grandmother took her to a shop selling jewelry making supplies, she begin to turn her treasures into jewelry that she sold out of the yarn/knitting shop. She also made and sold slippers -- becoming an entrepreneur at the tender age of 5 or 6!
Like many of us born in the 50's, In high school Serene was steered toward secretarial and/or nursing classes, though she quickly realized she preferred art and music. The artistic inclination had to be suppressed for a while as she spent a number of years as a Red Cross volunteer and working at a VA hospital. But as she put it, that 'entrepreneur streak' survived, and she now feels her Etsy shop was always 'in her stars'.
There were more travels down life's road before she learned this, however. First came college while she was pregnant, with all the trials and challenges that entailed. Like many students then and now, she ended up giving birth to her daughter in mid-semester, and went right back to class with baby in tow. With a great deal of hard work and personal sacrifice, Serene graduated with high honors -- earning a two-year degree in Graphic Technology. She then went on to the University and worked on getting certified as a substitute elementary teacher and did her practicum teaching in a local 1st grade classroom. One thing she helped her realize she wanted to make a difference for children.
Before she could get established in Education, though, life intervened again (as life is prone to do) and she was called by one of her college professors, offering her a job in a photography studio. (Here we get to the rags to riches part...) A matter of months later, she was supporting herself as a photographer, instead of working the bar/restaurant industry, which had been her primary work previously. She ended up in NYC working with Zotos International out of England -- shooting stills for a television program about women and fashion. She worked with the likes of Oscar de la Renta,Vera Neumann, Revillon Furs, Formfit Rogers and more. During that job, she was offered the cover of Vogue Magazine and an apprenticeship with Francesco Scavullo along with the "Black Velvet Campaign".
Working with/photographing some of the top models in New York, and seeing their external beauty compared to their (frequent) "bad energy/mean spirited" behavior, led Serene to say "NO THANK YOU!!" She didn't want to get sucked into "the machine". Thus the next phase of her life began. She became the second person in the state of Nevada to earn the status of 'Master Photographer', and for many years, ran a successful home-based wedding portrait studio.
Then life took yet another turn.
She spent a number of years working at a local antique mall and being a vendor there. She got her 'entrepreneur feet' wet again. Because she had experienced such economic struggles as a young woman, she began to think about how she could not only make a living, but contribute to helping other women through her work as well. She started networking and brainstorming on how she could help other women and children by giving them a hand up, and assist them in helping themselves to be self reliant and self sufficient.
When she first started acquiring her tribal collection, she was purchasing boxes of Afghani Bedouin pieces through a connection in Canada -- a woman who had escaped and was helping to funnel the one thing Afghan women had of value -- out of their homeland -- to sell them and get the monies needed to these women to help them escape. At this same time, Serene was contacted by a woman from Afghanistan via the internet, and asked for her help in selling some items directly. she had to promise not to list the items on eBay, because if the male family members of these women saw the pieces on line, it could endanger their lives even further.
Serene was told that every $250.00 she spent was enough to house/feed a woman and her children for about 2 1/2 years. That was about 9 years ago. The message she got a link to a video with a "Thank you for helping to make this happen....." This is the video she received that knocked her to her knees!!! To have a woman in Afghanistan know who she was and know how to contact her to send her this message = LIFE Altering Moment.
She also received an e-mail from a woman who was one of her 'on the ground buyers' in Morocco. The woman was mother to an infant and living on the street, contacting her via a cybercafe. The e-mail said: " Thank you thank you thank you! Because of you I now have an apartment and a little fridge to keep food and juice for me and my baby."
Now, Serene looks at the tribal pieces in her shop and imagines women she will never meet, having a roof over their heads and food for their children.
One of her many favorite items is shown to the right. The purchase of this piece is still housing and feeding women and children!
Every purchase from Serene's store helps to feed and sustain widowed women and their children in countries such as Tibet/Nepal, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan,Tunisia, Morocco,
Ethiopia,Thailand,Maylasia, and more. This is her way of giving back to the world, raising consciousness on the plight of women in far off lands who face unimaginable circumstances, and introducing her buyers to beautiful cultures the world over.
Serene has recently branched out to help her own community. Living in Las Vegas, NV, the 2nd hardest hit in the U.S. during the economic crash -- she encounters a huge population of people losing their homes and selling off their possessions so they can eat and have shelter.
Of all the Etsians I have encountered, including people just now working to set up treasuries and items and even entire shops as ways to help charity, Serene seems to be the most active, committed and successful in terms of her outreach and assistance to those in need. I admire her so much, and hope to bring more awareness to her cause. For those who are going to buy anyway, why not get the word to them that they can buy from someone who is making a concerted effort to give direct help to those in need? I know Serene has my vote on this! Let's help spread the word! Here are her social media sites:
If you enjoyed this post, you'd probably also enjoy Beaders to the Rescue.