Kareso Studio takes its name from the traditional folk music of the Virgin Islands. Kareso, or cariso, comes from the Carib word carieto which means joyous song.
Now located at Estate Eden, the neighborhood where owner Karen Samuel grew up, this art studio showcases the culture and traditions of St. John from an insider perspective. Karen’s first clothing line, Artistry of Eden, was a homage to her childhood neighborhood.
Founded in 1990, Karen’s first business, the Coral Bay Folk Art Gallery, was located in Wharfside Village. This gallery featured fine art, sculpture, furniture and traditional crafts like basketry, brooms and dolls.
After Wharfside Village, Karen stayed in Cruz Bay for five more years but relocated to a space across from the Catholic Church.
The latest incarnation is a smaller functioning studio where Karen paints, crafts and exhibits her works including drawings, paintings, clothing, crafts, and quilts.
For Karen, the creative process is physically, emotionally and spiritually satisfying. Karen says, “I would create with or without financial reward.”
Karen encourages positive interaction with native islanders. She seeks to educate and excite visitors with unique, handcrafted objects of art that have lasting value both as collectibles and as keepsakes of St. John.
“I encourage visitors to seek out authentic, “experiential”, encounters with native residents. Visit farmers markets; meet traditional vendors and learn from their stories and skills; go on historical tours and hikes; sample local fruits and foods; or purchase unique, handmade items.”
Under the name Kareso Kitchen, Karen vends traditional goods like breads, fruit drinks, pastries, candies and pates (meat pies) on the weekends. By vending, Karen gets to reach a wider market of tourists, children and immigrants. This outreach allows Karen to educate visitors and new arrivals about the culture of the area.
Kareso Kitchen started out as a hobby for Karen; a way to make extra money, but it has become an integral part of Karen’s identity. Kareso Kitchen received the Food Fair Honoree award at the St. John Festival.
Karen remembers baking with her mother, “As I started to sell I realized that the activity brought back memories and the memories make me feel close to her. She cooked and baked as an expression of love and nurturing. I’ve discovered how satisfying customer appreciation can be.”
The line of bakers goes back to Karen’s great-great grandmother who baked in an outdoor oven for her entire village in Tortola.
Karen is passionate about feminist causes and economic empowerment for women and minorities. She sees post-secondary education as a great equalizer. Karen has been involved with non-profits that promote these causes since her early twenties.