Long before Carmen King moved into her neighborhood, she would stop her car, set up easel and canvas and paint the grazing cattle and scenic landscape where her house now stands.
Her artist’s eye craved the opportunity to reproduce the area’s natural beauty.
Originally from Minneapolis, Carmen spent over 35 years in the professional beauty industry before relocating to South Florida in 1992 and becoming a beauty supply distributor. She moved to Sumter County in 2002 and now lives in The Villages®.
Her shop, Artporium, opened in the old post office at Coleman Crossing in July 2021.
Carmen makes stunning jewelry and décor pieces out of rocks collected by her brother-in-law John Satterstrom. These lapidary pieces account for about half of her creative projects.
“It takes 120 days from cutting the stone to whatever I’m creating,” she says, adding that she launched the business during the pandemic to keep busy.
In addition to her stone creations, she’s an interior designer, painter and “upcycler.”
“I’m the queen of thrifting. If I’m not creating, I’m out scrounging up interesting things to turn into something,” she laughs.
She loves upcycling items into something new — a process she refers to as “Carmenizing.”
Her customers can’t get enough. They’re crazy about her unconventional, playful lamps created from “hooker shoes” and teacups. “I can’t keep them in stock. As soon as I make them, they’re gone,” she says.
Carmen upcycles denim jean jackets and makes “cufflets” from the remnants, embellishing these unique bracelets with real pearls and rhinestones.
“I’m not a ‘normal’ artist. I always do something quirky,” she says.
That includes adding kids’ tennis shoes to the feet of end tables, turning old kitchen drawers into dog beds, and making asymmetrical earrings.
Carmen’s artistic creations are highlighted in her colorful, cozy shop, where she is assisted by Rosie, her adorable Yorkie, who happily greets customers. All sales from the handmade dog items in “Rosie’s Closet” benefit a local charity Carmen selects each year.
“She’s got personality plus. Sometimes when I look at her, I swear she’s going to talk,” says Carmen of her pint-sized companion.
As a child, Carmen struggled with dyslexia. “I’ve always been creative, but I had a huge learning disability and couldn’t read or write until I was almost in the eighth grade.”
That likely inspired her motto: “Learn, unlearn and relearn.”