MAKER: MAFE SOlTERO
Mafe is a fiber and multidisciplinary artist who explores the beauty of chaotic uncertainty found in thoughts. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mafe credits her Boricua culture for influencing her affection of lively color. Her childhood memories are flooded with the vibrant color combinations that surrounded her daily life growing up in the Caribbean. After exploring various art disciplines at The Savannah College of Art and Design, Mafe eventually found herself submerged in fiber arts. She developed an immediate connection to the diverse processes of meticulously creating objects with her hands. Mafe focuses on transforming fiber materials into sculptural beings to represent distorted memories. All of her products are handcrafted in Austin, TX and will add just the right amount of spice and color to your life!
WHY DO YOU CALL AUSTIN HOME
I only moved to Austin two years ago, but so far it’s definitely proven to be an inspiring place for an artist. I’ve been lucky that I found my creative community and a loving, supportive group of lady makers that have made the transition to a new place very welcoming.
who has had the most creative influence on your life
Meeting my boyfriend Rob Summerlin ( @robsummerlin_ ) has definitely had the most creative impact in my life in a multitude of ways. He is an incredible and ultra talented contemporary portrait painter, and has always been my main go-to person with whom to share ideas. Rob has seen the transformation of my work throughout the years, and how it’s been shaped and formed by experiences we’ve shared. He actually introduced me to my future mentor and the person who showed me the world of fiber art - his mom Lori Keith Robinson, another wonderful jill-of-all-trade creative. So definitely Rob is the person who has had the most creative influence on my life.
WHO DO YOU FOLLOW FOR INSTAGRAM INSPIRATION
Oh wow, who don’t I follow! Instagram is such an incredible community. I feel bad just picking out a few artists because honestly, it’s the wholeness of my feed that inspires me. But people who I can always count on to have incredible content and present themselves beautifully through their writing are: @gennawilliams_ceramics, @sarahkbenning, @ellenbeezy, @craftsandarts, @celeste.iii, @elizabethpawle, @adinamills, @annieeveryday, @sallustration, and @lostpinesstudios.
WHERE DO YOU CREATE BEST? EX: HOME, STUDIO, NATURE, ETC.
I’m definitely a tactile creator, meaning I don’t tend to fully sketch out my ideas before starting a project. So, I need to be in my studio near all my supplies in other to make my ideas come alive.
WHY DID YOU CHOSE TO BE A MAKER
I’ve always been a creative person, so I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment I became a maker. Regarding committing full-time to my craft, it was about a year ago that I was working as a Spanish teacher for an elementary school. I decided that I would finally commit to opening up Sunfern Studio after my contract was up. Once I put those vibes out there, slowly everything came together. I started working part-time at Bead It, thus surrounding myself with incredibly talented ladies who have helped me out so much in this new business endeavor.
HOW HAS SOCIAL HELPED YOUR BUSINESS, IF ANY
I swear by Instagram and its hashtags! I’ve made so many connections with other makers in my field and outside my field, as well as with retailers and museums. I’m telling you, social media is great small businesses! You just have to make sure you are on top of everything, and keep in check that what you’re bringing to the table is refreshing and unique.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOUR DESIGNS
My jewelry line was inspired by my Tiny Monsters sculptures. I was developing that body of work and started getting a lot of requests to transfer the sculptures to jewelry. Another question I get constantly asked is how I pick my colors and how I can combine so many different ones together. I always tell them not to be afraid of pairing colors that you wouldn’t traditionally think they would work well together. You can’t just focus on the colors that are right next to each other. They all have to work together as a whole.
what other artists have you loved collaborating with
I’ve yet to make any big collaborations with other makers, but anyone interested in getting together and sharing ideas over a cup of coffee should definitely reach out to me through email@example.com.
how important is shopping local to you
SHOP LOCAL! EVERYONE, SHOP LOCAL! As a small business, I know how tough it is out there and the competitive environment that surrounds us. So it is important to support all small businesses around you. We’re all trying to provide you with the best services or products through our talent, so it’s important to shop local.
go to mid-day snack or routine for creative fuel
I’m definitely part of the La Croix Lovers team, so I’ll grab one of those babies whenever I need to stand up and walk away from my work for a bit. My go to splurge mid-day snack has to be the Voltron smoothie from The Soup Peddler.
FAVORITE SONG/ARTIST/ALBUM FOR A SPARK OF CREATIVITY
I’m currently switching between Marc Anthony, Childish Gambino, Aterciopelados, Fleetwood Mac, Jens Lekman, and the Hamilton Soundtrack. It’s definitely a different attitude everyday I walk into the studio.
BiGGEST DEBATE OF ALL: COFFEE or TEA, BE SPECIFIC
Coffee all the way! Whenever I need to sit down and write something out, I can only do so in a coffeehouse. Maybe it’s the smell of the coffee and the business of the machines that help me concentrate. Either way, definitely coffee.
FAVORITE LOCAL FOOD TRUCK
I’m currently obssessed with Sundaze on South Lamar. Those vegan lil’ nuggs are just everything I’ve ever wanted!
FAVORITE LOCAL CURATED BOUTIQUE
I have to give a shoutout to Melissa and Carol Hargus who have opened up an incredible handmade goods store, Art and Soul Design on South Lamar. They’ll be stop #265 on the 2017 West Austin Studio Tour. I’ll be exhibiting a collection of my homegoods and jewelry for the Tour, so make sure to stop on by and say hi, and come see the beautifully curated selections these ladies have for you.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EXCITING MOMENT SO FAR OF YOUR CRAFT
Last Holiday Season was so thrilling! Since I had opened up Sunfern Studio during the summer, it was my first time around working markets and fairs. I’m a researcher by heart. I love reading and analyzing what would be best for my business, and so I spent a good chunk of time planning out my booth display. I’m so happy I gave it the time it deserved, getting it just right, because I got so many compliments on it.. The markets themselves were so exciting since it was the first time I saw people interacting with my work and got invaluable feedback straight from the source!
AS A SMALL BUSINESS, HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOUR BRAND STANDS OUT
It’s always going to be a constant check-in to make sure everything’s keeping in line with my goals. My brand definitely focuses on vibrant color palettes and a lot of my work is wrapped which is a refreshing take on from traditional Spring/Summer jewelry. I believe I’m bringing my latin influence and culture to a wider audience and steadily reaching my goal of people recognizing a Sunfern Studio piece.
MUST-SEE RECOMMENDATION FOR THOSE TRAVELING TO AUSTIN
Definitely go to Blue Star Drive-In! For those Spring and Summer nights I love their movie selections and the under the stars atmosphere.
WHERE CAN SUPPORTERS FIND YOUR CREATIONS
Currently, I’m starting to branch out into wholesale so I’m not in any local stores at the moment. I hope this will change by end of summer, but in the meantime you can find my jewelry, sculptures and home goods at thesunfernstudio.com and follow me on instagram @sunfern_studio for more daily updates of what’s happening in the studio.
how has the austin community supported you
I’ve seen the most Austin support from attending and being a part of craft fairs. Having the opportunity of talking with people about my products and finding out what they’re most attracted to has been an influential part of my creative process. In a way, the Austin community has helped shaped my line because I truly take their feedback to heart, and back to the studio.