Carly Martin is controlling her destiny.
Lounging with her dog in her immaculate, eclectically-designed Bucktown greystone, the artist behind Clementine Studio has come a long way from her time freelancing in New York. Focusing her work on watercolor designs, we enlisted Carly to make our team portraits and neighborhood maps precisely because of her incredible talent and shared love of the community we call home.
Carly’s foray into owning and operating her own business began as a fluke. When her sister got engaged, she asked Carly to design the Save-the-Date cards. To her surprise, guests began approaching Carly about their own invitation needs, and pretty soon she had enough clients for her freelance business that there was hope of committing to her art full-time. “I saw it as my way out,” she says. Of course, people weren’t always so keen to believe she could make it. “The response I got a lot was, ‘Don’t worry your little head about this business stuff.’” People wanted to write her off, which only made Carly double-down and work harder. After a year of working for herself in New York, she packed up and moved to Chicago.
“When we moved,” Carly says, “my whole idea was to get my own studio space. That was the dream. I thought it would make people take me more seriously, and solidify me as a ‘serious artist.’” But Carly found that the space—an idyllic, brightly-lit loft in Pilsen—was rarely used, and often sat empty while Carly worked on projects at home. Ditching the studio entirely, Carly chose to live in Bucktown, opting for an apartment with its own separate room in which to work and store projects. She gets to set her own hours, and whenever a new idea comes to her, she can drop what she’s doing and work on it right in the comfort of her own home.
Bucktown was the only place she and her boyfriend wanted to live when they moved from New York. “I love how it’s sandwiched between main streets with lots of activity,” Carly remarks. “[There are] restaurants, bars, trains…but once you turn on a quiet street it’s quiet and feels like a true neighborhood.” Most of all—more than the quiet streets and the nearness of shops and bars—it’s the community that drew Carly to this side of Chicago. Upon moving here, she says, “My favorite unexpected surprise was how involved the community is in this little neighborhood and how easy it is to connect with people and contribute. Whether it's sharing info on events like the annual Bucktown Garden Walk, supporting a new business or welcoming the new homeless shelter, I've really felt a community aspect here that comes together for the good of the 'hood.”
Carly says her biggest inspiration comes from the books she read as a child. Her ongoing projects relate to finding minor, interesting characters from these books and building worlds for them on art prints. She lets her personal history and love of literature guide her work, which explains the decorating in her current home. “I love things with a story, things that have been lived in.” When she moved into her historic apartment (which was built in the 1890s) Carly says she “let the oldness of the place guide” her design, scouring antique stores to find the perfect items. Her work feels very much in line with that particular weltanschauung; there’s a sense that she is always guided by the history of the work itself, even when she’s the one creating that history.
We here at Olive Well are committed to lifting up those in our Chicago community, especially those who have come to embrace it and work to further beautify it. You can learn more about Clementine Studio by visiting their website here, and be sure to show your support by browsing their prints or commissioning a work all your own!
Photography by Alina Tsvor
Text by Eric Grant