By Barbara Bonner

Maker Feature: Ciara Sana

Ciara is a Guam-raised, Bellingham, WA-based illustrator whose mission is to empower women and people of color through her art.

You've probably seen Ciara's art on our social profiles or in our shop, so it's no surprise we're big fans. We recently connected with Ciara so she could share with all of you the inspiration behind her work, what she hopes to achieve by sharing her talents with the world, and the importance of representation.

What inspires you to create and share your art?

Growing up in Guam and telling stories was such an important part of my life. Art has always been my best form of communication, and I am continually inspired by my island, my culture, and stories of strength and love when I create my work. If there was one thing I want people to know about me as an artist, it would be that I come from Guam, and I am Chamoru. My island and my culture is very important to me, and it's not easy being so far away from my family and my island. I want people to know about Guam and the people, because a lot of who I am today and how I see the world is because of my island upbringing. I love meeting people and gifting things to others, and I guess that is part of the "hafa adai" spirit. I hope that my art inspires others like me (and not like me) to be brave and to pursue their dreams. I hope my art encourages others to celebrate the things that are uniquely them and to share it with the world.

Representation of all sorts of different women is a recurring theme in your work. Are these pieces based on women you know in real life?

My work is inspired and motivated by my grandmothers, my mom, and all the other women of my family. I come from a long line of strong and loving women, and they have inspired me to put myself and my work out there, and to continue to share my work with others.

A lot of your work is made digitally. Do you dabble in other media?

When I'm not working with my iPad I actually LOVE painting with gouache and most recently, I found that I love making linocut prints.

Is there a special meaning behind all the people in your art having two dots on their cheeks?

Some may think they are blush marks, but those who have known me for a while or who have actually seen me in real life know it's my psoriasis. I have had psoriasis my entire life, but have had bigger flare ups with in the past 6 years. My psoriasis was at its worst when it started breaking out on my face and cheeks. When I first broke out, it was in two symmetrical dots on my cheeks. People would comment on how they liked how I did my make up, and I would awkwardly thank them and tell them it was psoriasis.

I started to change the way I felt about my skin when I decided to include my psoriasis in my art. I wanted a way to challenge my insecurities and move towards loving myself, so I started to create work with strong beautiful women and give them bright cheeks like me. Slowly I started to feel better about who I was and the skin I am in. I now feel excited about telling people about my psoriasis and sharing my stories and my empathy with them. Psoriasis can be painful, but I've learned to manage it and to make peace with it because it is a part of me. The thing I spent most of my life covering up is now the thing that people notice and recognize as a trademark of my work. It's beautiful.

Interested in owning some of Ciara's art? Click the images below to shop.