Artist & Textile Designer Serena Dugan Sets Up Shop With an Inspiration-rich Atelier on the Sausalito Waterfront
Serena Dugan is of two minds—curious and creative. The onetime psychology student turned co-founder of beloved lifestyle brand Serena & Lily expresses her near innate understanding of the power of one’s atmosphere to alter perspective, shape mood and stimulate through her eponymous solo practice, Serena Dugan Studio, a space created in the spirit of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.”
Serena Dugan launched the studio two years ago to primarily paint works of rich gestural depth. With the bay right outside her window, inspiration is never far, but Serena Dugan has a fondness for faraway places and draws on these references to inform her work. From South Africa (“all spirit and richness of craft”) and Copenhagen (“a visual palette cleanser and a shock of retail ingenuity) to Morocco (“a cacophony of sensory dazzle”) and Paris (“refinement but with a strong pulse”), her designs may have a global vibe, but her studio is a product of its environment, aesthetically quirky and housed in a building out on a pier.
It is, she says, “surrounded by a cast of salty characters and local flavor. My floor is the wood of the pier. Ceilings are high, light is plentiful, I hear seagulls all day and I have a garage door that opens up to the docks.” The space was more than she needed to paint. Still, she says, expressing her psychology-primed mind, “My feeling about space is that if the vibe is good, you take it and let it tell you how it should be used.” In so doing she discovered the need to “execute on a big vision.”
Big vision is her thing. After segueing from advanced studies in psychology to study fine art with a focus on painting, Serena Dugan began her career in the decorative arts, broadened her scope to interiors and painting commissions, and went on to start a fabric line, which she largely rolled into Serena & Lily.
“Building that product line, brand and business from scratch is its own creative adventure and called on much the same spirit,” she says. “Now I find myself coming full circle, still fully engaged and enthralled with everything that first piqued my interest, but with a bit more experience behind me this time around.”
With a studio to “put shape around my creative interests and create a platform for expressing what I had to say,” says Serena Dugan, she is now designing textiles and wall coverings as an extension of her work as an artist.
The Serena Dugan Studio Collection includes 13 distinct patterns in fabrics, each available in multiple colorways for a total of 58 fabrics, along with seven wallcovering motifs, each also available in multiple colorways for a total of 32. She’s also branched out into creating one-of-a-kind decorative objects, from hand-painted leather pillows to hand-glazed ceramic stools, all with a wanderlust feel. Her paintings are vibrant and ethereal, offering a porthole into how making art influences her other creations.
“I more or less accepted that my form of art blended these three categories, and my studio should reflect that,” she says. It reflects something else too—big artistic vision.
Photographs: courtesy of Laurie Frankel