by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we are interviewing Fresno artist Carren McDaniel. She also writes and illustrates children’s books, and makes t-shirts and masks were a portion of the sales go to help support local animal rescues (100% of the mask sales go to local rescues). I got to know her through her masks, which are wonderful! If you are looking to purchase a mask that is not only cute, but helps make a difference, I highly recommend Carren’s which can be found on her Creative Design by Carren website, along with other items.
KRL: Have you always lived in the Valley? If not, how did you end up here?
Carren: My family moved to Visalia when I was nine months old. I’ve lived in the Valley my whole life.
KRL: When did you first become interested in art?
Carren: I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember. I loved coloring and modeling clay when I was young. In grade school, when I finished my work, I was allowed to make my own art projects.
KRL: What mediums do you work in?
Carren: Many; fabric, paint (murals), colored pencils(illustrations), stained glass, wood, metal, yarn, found objects, screen-printing, clay, stone sculpture, mosaics in glass and tile.
KRL: Do you mostly do art involving animals?
Carren: Most of my art is animal related; the children’s books I write and illustrate are about animals and animal rescue. Most of my murals have animals. The t-shirts I make for animal rescue are animal related. I also make shirts for schools and businesses. I illustrate for other authors, mostly animal-related stories.
KRL: When did you first start selling your art?
Carren: Nineteen-eighty-three. I started my first business, Carren’s Calico Zoo, where I made stuffed animals and sold them around the state at art and craft fairs. Eventually I added porcelain dolls, then went back to college and taught for six years (business and screen-printing). After six years I retired and went back to being self-employed with Creative Design by Carren.
KRL: How and when did you get into making children’s books?
CMcD: In 1999-2002 I worked for a non-profit that educated children and parents about the dangers of secondhand smoke. I created characters as puppets to educate. I then drew the characters and turned the puppet show into a storybook, my first children’s book. After I found animal rescue in 2009, I wrote children’s books to help educate the next generation of animal rescuers.
KRL: How and when did you get involved with animal rescue?
Carren: In 2009 I started volunteering with the SPCA and met Brenda Mitchell. When she left to start ACT(Animal Compassion Team), I found them and have been volunteering ever since. When they were gifted their building on Orange Avenue, I offered to paint a Rainbow Bridge wall and they were so happy with it they allowed me to continue painting on all their walls. I do not charge them for this.
KRL: When did you start making items where a portion of the sale would be donated to animal rescues?
Carren: I have always donated a portion of my sales from my books and murals, then when I started making t-shirts, I continued donating with them. I now have fundraising programs where I work with animal rescues. We come up with designs for shirts. I put them in my online store, they promote them on social media. I print on demand as they are ordered and the rescue receives a check each month or two for a portion of the sales. They can order in bulk, but they don’t have to, to make money selling t-shirts, all they have to do is promote them.
KRL: What items do you make where that is the case?
Carren: The t-shirts generate dollars for animal rescues based on the design. Now that includes the face masks. I also offer to paint pets who have passed on the wall in ACT’s Sophia Center with the pet owner donating to ACT.
KRL: When and how did the selling of masks come about?
Carren: I saw there was a need for masks, and I had fabric and time so my granddaughter suggested I make masks as a new business venture. I decided to sell them to benefit the rescues I work with in my t-shirt fundraising program.
KRL: How did you decide what pattern to use for your masks?
Carren: I went online to look for patterns for face masks. I chose the more fitted design with a filter pocket because I thought they would be most effective. I went with the elastic around the head to save the ear irritation. I do offer both types now as some people ask for them.
KRL: Has a portion of those sales always gone to animal rescue?
Carren: Yes, donating to animal rescue was the reason I started making masks. One-hundred percent of the proceeds go to one of three animal rescues: ACT, ARF, FHAS.
KRL: What is the process for ordering a mask and what type of prints do you have available?
Carren: Most orders come from my online store on my website (http://www.creativecarren.com/). However, I have gotten quite a few phone orders and orders on Facebook. Dog prints are the most popular, but I also have cats, paw prints, some solids, pink pigs, ladybugs, frogs, fish, stars, stripes, flamingos, butterflies. I had a few NFL teams. I only have the LA Rams left.
KRL: What all do you sell on your website?
Carren: T-shirts, masks, children’s books. I also have information on my murals and individual pet portraits of acrylics on canvas.
KRL: Is Creative Design by Carren on social media? If so, where can people follow you?
Carren: I have a Facebook page at Creative Carren, and also Little Yellow Puppy: Benjamin to the Rescue, which is my foster-failure dog Benjamin. He was the inspiration for my first children’s book about animal rescue.
KRL: Anything else that you would like to add?
Carren: This is a bio written for me by my daughter, Jenn Burks:
I have been an artist/crafter all my life and have worked in many mediums. I am a very proud grandmother (‘Nana’) to four awesome grandkids: three boys and one girl. I have been volunteering with local companion animal rescue organizations for 11 years and have fostered over 300 dogs and cats. I also paint murals on the rescue center walls to make it a cheerful place. I’m creative and a life-long learner of information and skills. I’m always willing to learn how to do new things. I’m inventive and a problem solver. My first book on animal rescue is the story of my own rescue dog, who I take with me to schools to read his book and, sometimes, conduct an onsite art class. My hope is to educate the next generation of rescuers.
I enjoy helping my grandchildren with school projects, even when they were living in Germany or across the country. I love having creative projects to do with them. When I watch home improvement shows with my grandkids, they often hear me say, “I could do that!”
Be sure to check out Carren’s website for wonderful pet art, children’s books, t-shirts and masks.