Expat Woman Entrepreneur of the Month - Anabelle Colon

Creativity is a very familiar term to this savvy Dominican artist. After  calling New York her home for 10 years and then moving to the Middle East, Anabelle shares the fascinating life and professional lessons she has learned along the way.

 

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Anabelle Colon has had various jobs. It is not surprising given her many talents. Her sense of humor, her friendliness and easy-to-talk-to attitude have opened many doors for Anabelle throughout her life’s journey. But it has been her passion for art and handmade designs that have lead her to pursue a profession faraway from her native Dominican Republic.

Handmade and handpainted olive wood designs by Anabelle Colon from Anabelle Colon Jewelry.

Handmade and handpainted olive wood designs by Anabelle Colon from Anabelle Colon Jewelry.

Before moving overseas, Anabelle was studying Interior Design in Santo Domingo. She was also doing volunteer work at the high school she attended and was in charge of organizing summer camps for kids in the countryside. Some of her responsibilities included helping in the coordination and training of the group of volunteers.

After being involved in that for some time, she moved to New York City to continue her university studies in Interior and then Jewelry Design. “New York City, quickly became “home”, Anabelle shared.

As expats, many of us have fantasized with the idea of moving overseas. For some, that has meant changing permanent location. But what about those of us with a nomadic lifestyle who need to start anew every few years?

This is one of Anabelle's unique designs. She has carefully chosen them to create necklaces and earrings.

This is one of Anabelle's unique designs. She has carefully chosen them to create necklaces and earrings.

When I asked Anabelle if she had always wanted to live in a different country, she stated: I remember always wanting to travel, to visit new places, meet new people, learn about new cultures. Relocating to New York City was an opportunity that I felt obliged to take, to open other, larger, doors and experiences; but that was it. I had two places that I called home, both very near to my heart, each with their friendships, their streets, their routines, their memories. Other than Santo Domingo and New York, the rest of the world was there for me to explore; not necessarily to live in.”

While living in NYC, Anabelle met her husband, whose career would take them to faraway lands: Nigeria, Palestine and now Jordan.

Being able to live as an expat in these destinations has been a rewarding and insightful life experience for Anabelle. She shares: “Growing, immensely. When life becomes a journey, a literal one, one has to be ready for all the uncertainty that comes with this journey. Yes, I have definitely seen a lot, learned a lot and met many loving, interesting people along the way. I have also had to leave my ego behind, unlearn certain behaviors, and grow in humility. Acknowledging to ‘not know’, having the strengths to start over every time, and travelling light —both physically and emotionally— have been great lessons learned. “

One of her best-sellers, this metal double-layered bracelet is a must have. Designed and made by Anabelle Colon from Anabelle Colon Jewelry.

One of her best-sellers, this metal double-layered bracelet is a must have. Designed and made by Anabelle Colon from Anabelle Colon Jewelry.

Just as living overseas is rewarding and very enriching, there are challenges that we encounter throughout the various stages and countries we find ourselves in. For Anabelle, being able to maintain long lasting bonds whether it is back home or overseas has been difficult.

“On the one hand, there is home, with the friends and connections that I am not always able to keep up with: events missed, difficult time differences, unavoidable changes of interests… you name it. Everyone goes on with their lives and at some point you realize that very little pieces from the puzzle fit back together. On the other hand, there is the place where you are living now, and the eternal introductions, trying hard to find ‘a tribe’, at the same time, being aware that it will take a lot of love and dedication to keep and grow these new relationships after we all have left in a couple of months, or a year.” Anabelle explained.

And there is also the professional challenge every expat artist encounters. For her, as a jewelry designer, the main challenge has been the logistics. “Carrying around tools and materials, re-establishing networks of suppliers, adapting the product to the needs of the new place... growing a new customer base. While creativity normally spurs with all the newness, making a creative business work in every new location is not always easy.” Anabelle explained.

In spite of the obstacles, Anabelle thoroughly enjoys making beautiful pieces with her hands. For the longest time, she has used creativity to build, design and come up with new uses for old things. Her upcycled designs are exquisite. To Anabelle, jewelry is a medium and an outlet of self-expression.

The wide array of materials she uses to create her artwork includes: recycled light bulbs, olive wood, brass, silver, copper, Swarowski crystals, glass and pearls.  Some of Anabelle’s inventive techniques are: 3D printing, knotting, torching, entwining and hand painting.

Non-toxic wood paints are used in Anabelle's newest olive wood collection.

Non-toxic wood paints are used in Anabelle's newest olive wood collection.

One would think that it is not easy to pursue a passion when you move so often, but for Anabelle this has brought a creative alternative: “With the semi-nomadic life I am living, jewelry design and making has become my constant. It comes with me in every re-location, where the practice is twisted, turned and enriched with every new inspiration, with every challenge and change.” She shared.

And what is her advice to those creative entrepreneurs living the nomadic lifestyle on how to pursue their passions? “I would say, be flexible. The same time that you give to yourselves personally to adapt, learn the new geography and re-start, give also to your creative process and your business. Dare to get out of your ‘creative comfort zone’ and allow the new place, and the new people to make their mark, both on you and your work. Reinvent yourself, you can only grow.”

Some of the spiritual practices she has incorporated into her daily routine is practicing mindfulness and appreciating and welcoming every experience –positive or negative– with gratitude and full awareness. Keeping her attention in the 'now' help her connect to herself and to commune with the environment.   

During her time in Amman, Anabelle has participated in several local events with her one-of-a-kind designs. She has also established a group of followers, both in Jordan and in Dominican Republic, who are loyal to her distinctive, awe-inspiring brand. To see her unique styles, visit her on Instagram, Facebook and her website.

 Acknowledging to ‘not know’, having the strengths to start over every time, and travelling light —both physically and emotionally— have been great lessons learned. - Anabelle Colon

Mindful habits, such as focusing on her breath or trying to isolate and concentrate on specific sounds from her surroundings, help Anabelle stay in the 'now'.

Mindful habits, such as focusing on her breath or trying to isolate and concentrate on specific sounds from her surroundings, help Anabelle stay in the 'now'.

When Anabelle is not busy creating she loves capturing and collecting visually appealing patterns and textures while drinking matcha green tea with a dash of milk and vanilla, next to her very handsome cat Don Pablito. 

Anabelle also holds a master’s degree in Cultural Heritage Management and has written an interesting thesis project on local women’s economic empowerment through crafts in the Dominican Republic.