My Island Art

We’ve followed My Island Art on Facebook for a while now and have enjoyed their mutual tropical attraction. Last fall, I had the chance to briefly meet and speak with owner Jeff and find out more about his company. After hearing his story, (and the hope that one day their company would be successful enough to get a nicer hammock!) I thought it would make a great post in our Making Your Tropical Obsession Your Profession series. This is what we found out about this unique Island Themed Company that has focused on the artists of the Caribbean…so far…

1. Tell us how you started My Island Art.
First, a big thanks to the gang at Rum Therapy for reaching out to us for this guest post. We’re always excited to talk with other Caribbean souls, and especially happy to talk about My Island Art. Actually, when it comes to the Caribbean and My Island Art, good luck trying to shut us up!

My Island Art started in 2007 as an effort to marry our two passions, the love of art, and our need to maximize our time in the Caribbean. After several trips to the islands, it quickly became apparent that we had found our Mecca. I absolutely had to find a way to make this a recurring destination, and turning such trips in business trips had a certain attraction as well! My stated objective was to establish a business I could run with minimal effort, and one I could operate while lying in a hammock, on any beach in the world!

After 3 months drafting a Business Plan, setting objectives, and reading everything we could about bootstrapping a start up, we only needed inventory. As a side note, I could write a book on the things I learned not to do when building your own website! But we persevered, and in February 2008 we set off on our maiden buying trip. I still have the hand scribbled sign I hung in my office with the digits 7-4-08, a simple reminder of the goal I’d established for the site to go live. We ultimately beat the date, and the site went live in June of 2008!

How do you find Caribbean artists like Ruby Bute?
Researching the art community was actually the fun part of establishing MIA. Part of the credit has to go to my beach bum attitude. That is to say, let someone else do the work for me!

During my research I hired a virtual assistant to build a list of artists throughout the Caribbean. Once the list was delivered, I discovered that a large percentage of artists in the Caribbean called St. Maarten home. This played well into our hands, as we had already visited St. Maarten 6 or 7 times, and knew a good deal about the art community there.

When we set out in 2008 for that first trip, my wife actually fell into her element. Meeting the artists, learning more about their lives and their interests, and engaging with them in a personal manner is what drives her. Her ability to communicate, and her genuine interest in them as individuals, has been integral in building relationships with the artists that goes far beyond our business dealings together. Ruby Bute in particular is a genuine lice of Caribbean heritage. The story of our meeting and subsequent business dealing are recorded in the book “A Beach Less Traveled“, available on our site. You can also see a series of our interviews with her at My Island Art You Tube.

When traveling to the islands, we are constantly looking to add new artists. Shopping in galleries, talking to taxi drivers, or visiting at local markets makes each stop a potential resource for us in continuing to build our stable of talented artists.

What are some the favorite items that you offer at My Island Art?
My Island Art offers a wide variety of art and related gifts. Some of my personal favorites are the serene pastel watercolor images by St. Martin artist Antoine Chapon. His images depict such a relaxing setting that I can almost hear the water lapping at the shoreline.

My Island Art 1
I also personally like any of Ruby Bute’s images of island life. Her images of day to day life in the Caribbean are a true remembrance of a bygone era.

And I must confess I am very proud of the Wooden Keepsake Boxes we have created. With the advance of high-resolution printing, we are able to create a number of products that are of a very high quality, and in keeping with the integrity of the artist’s original image. These boxes are a great example of this quality, and they make for a truly unique slice of life from the islands.

My Island Art 2
Describe your work with children’s charities in the islands.

At My Island Art, we are committed to giving back to the people of the islands. We are active in supporting charities in both Belize and St. Maarten, and annually we give a percentage of all our profits to these organizations to help meet the needs of at risk children.

We are currently working on a line of textile art products. In this new line, we utilize artwork created by the children, and then depict these images on a line of cloth napkins, placemats and table runners. We have committed that 100% of the profits from this line will go directly to the children of the islands.

  My Island Art 3

 Where do you hope to go from here?
My Island Art is still in its infancy but we have lofty goals for expanding our presence, so that one day we can get to a nicer hammock! We have the objective of growing the company to cover the full spectrum of ‘island’ art, wherever it is found.

Caribbean art as we know has a very recognizable style, and we feel we have begun to put roots deep into its sand. Eventually though, we intend to spread to the diverse markets of the South Pacific, and beyond. So stay tuned Bora Bora, we’re on our way!


To find out more, check out the My Island Art Website

Read more posts in our “Making Your Tropical Obsession Your Profession” Series