You may be wondering what I do in my spare time. You know, when I’m not galavanting around Southern California dancing in a MiTu Abuela video with Elvis Crespo or seeing the latest Disney movies or throwing parties.
I cook, of course. And eat. I even do some laundry.
And as any foodie worth their salt (see what I did there? SALT!) I try new recipes and food combos. Is there anything better than trying a new food or recipe and declaring it your new favorite?
Okay, so I cook. And eat. And read. And write. And promote Cuban Heritage Day. Look at me go!
But also, I create.
I have always had a fascination with words. In pretty much every room in my house there’s art with words on it. A few years ago I was contemplating this fact when I came up with a design for a poster. With the names of all my favorite Cuban foods on it. Because food. And art.
I had it printed and adhered to a plaque and mounted on my kitchen wall and it made me totally happy and I got nothing but compliments on the piece, so I decided to sell it to like-minded Cubans who liked the idea of a list of familiar foods in a pleasing configuration to hang on their kitchen walls.
So thanks to the internet, Marta Darby Designs was born.
Hey! I’m in business! Look at me!
Because Cuban Food, people! Also, thanks to the internet, people were finding my little Etsy shop.
But then, I started getting mail. And requests. From everywhere.
And I’ll be completely honest here: there’s a lot of foods from a lot of different countries that I didn’t even know existed and didn’t recognize. And that is how my Food From Around the World education began.
I have had food from Spain before, of course, but I didn’t know there was such a fabulously diverse menu to choose from. Not that I’m likely to run out and actually try Pulpo a la Gallega, but that’s not important right now.
Don’t even get me started on Mexican Food! I live in So Cal where there are Mexican restaurants pretty much on every corner, but I honestly didn’t know there was such an amazing array of choices. (Shut up. I know. Hangs head in shame.)
People would write in: “Marta, can you create a Puerto Rican poster?” My standard reply: “Send me a list of foods and I’ll get right on it.”
And so it went. Even with American Food. It had never occurred to me to showcase good old-fashioned American food! I know I’m sounding a little ignorant here, but please understand that I couldn’t predict what people might choose as their favorites.
Almost every day I get a request for another food poster from another country whose food I am not familiar with and so I go about turning the words into puzzle pieces and fitting them together to create a cool looking piece of food art to hang in the kitchen.
Even when I thought I was familiar with a type of food, my customers still schooled me on the nuances of their favorite foods. I started looking forward to receiving the requests. My education was growing. And I was swooning as customers sent me photos of my cute food posters hanging in their kitchens.
I started shipping them all across the country. In sturdy mailing tubes. And keeping an inventory. Like a real business.
Inspiration would come from customers or even from from my morning cafecito.
I opened a second online shop through Shopify – also cleverly called Marta Darby Designs – because they were integrated with Facebook. And most of my fans connect with me through Facebook. (Are you following My Big Fat Cuban Family on Facebook?)
My family got involved (of course) and we came up with a tag line: Custom Word Art to Make You Happy. And that made me totally happy.
Because I also do Custom Posters. I know. Crazy, right? I take your words, or dates, or addresses and create a one-of-a-kind poster. Fit for displaying or gift giving. (I’m super proud of this.)
Wait. Is it too soon to talk about Christmas gifts? I designed a very Cuban NocheBuena poster that we had framed and that we display on our mantel as part of our Christmas decorations. How cool is this? (You totally need this. You know you do.)
So now you know. I now run a full-time business where I am having all the fun designing posters and shipping them to homes everywhere in the country. I’m quite proud of the business I’ve built (almost by accident) and am continuing to add new products every day. (takes bow)
My Food From Around the World Education has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, I may need to take a well-deserved break from my labors.
I know just the thing. (Get the sandpaper. Pa’ darme lija.)