We had the good fortune of connecting with Cat Serna and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cat, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
A couple mantras come to mind thinking of my most important parenting contribution: “Mistakes are ok, it’s being honest afterwards that matters most.” Or, “You don’t always have to be nice, but you should always be kind.” I espouse these principles constantly and while I do hope they form into my kids’ values, I suppose the actual most important thing has been embracing the kids I have (quirks and all) instead of being rigid to how I imagined parenting would be.
I’d envisioned myself as a working parent and postpartum went back work in a career I loved. But then we nearly lost our first born and he faced substantial delays due to prematurity and autism spectrum disorder… My heart began to change.
I was a full-time working mom then, but when I missed one of my son’s therapy appointments, I decided to shift my daily priorities and stay home with him instead. It was a big (and ongoing) lesson for my pride, identity, and developing new dynamics- But it was the right choice in that season of life. Because of having the immense privilege to chose to be a stay-at-home-parent, my son was best set up for success. By being flexible in my expectations versus reality, there was more space for him to learn to cope with the challenges of autism, embrace the attributes of it, and it set us up to care for another special needs baby down the line with more empathy and experience. Seven years later now, a new life season is approaching and having Mama home 24/7 will not be their normal anymore. A new shift in family dynamic will take root and we will adjust- with honesty, kindness, and flexibility. That’s what I most hope our kids have learned from me so far!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I create modern needle art with a fresh spin on traditional hand embroidery and cross-stitch. My use of multiple techniques and mediums in each piece adds unique textures and detail. You’ll see cross-stitched family portraits with layers of hand embroidered elements, hand-painted fabric backgrounds, natural elements attached like dried botanicals, or stitching on non-traditional materials like vintage postcards or shoes. If I can get a needle through it, I’ll likely try to make a canvas out of it! I create my own designs instead of following others’ patterns, allowing everything I create to be authentically “me” and customized to each customer.
I’m self-taught and in a way that leaves me uninhibited by pressure of what I “should” be doing. With my perfectionist nature, being able to stitch unencumbered by “rules” has kept the creating process joyful and therapeutic instead of stifling. My process for original art pieces (not family portraits), is having a vision in my head and trying various strategies to get that vision onto fabric. Sometimes that goes seamlessly from the jump, and other times it means a trail-and-error to see which medium/textures best fit my vision. I value keeping my process flexible and ever-evolving.
My biggest challenge so far was not related to the stitching itself- I crave continual growth so learning new techniques is a sweet spot. Rather, it was transitioning to an independent website. I am an avid Etsy shopper (support small businesses, y’all!) and use social media regularly. But, the need to increase my prices to offset associated listing fees didn’t sit well with me. So I set out to create my own website to have a single cohesive space for my creativity & shop. It’s likely not shocking that I’m more creative minded than technically inclined, and creating a site myself proved to be a huge challenge. Many tears were shed and my self-efficacy was damaged. But after months of learning the how-tos and trying to navigate the new challenge, I succeeded. While those months were not the enjoyable part of establishing my shop, successfully getting it up and running left me feeling victorious and energized! How did I overcome the challenge? Grit and grace.
Something different about my business strategy is that I mostly ignore the things you’d find on “how to grow an online business” lists. My Instagram shows my work sure, but you’ll see my dog just as often. I’m intentionally underpriced (and intend to stay as such) because I value more people having access to original art over a profit margin. Two years ago I re-prioritized my own artistic whims over orders by deciding to create one of my own visions between every customer order or family portrait. Those choices should have decreased my business, but I’ve had the opposite experience- and I’m grateful for it! Customers connect with my process personally and we communicate throughout creation all while they’re seeing the “real life” me instead of a carefully curated portfolio. Making genuine connections instead of only customers is what fits with my core values, and I believe this authenticity is what has grown my business rapidly.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Great museums are always a must-see when traveling to a new place, so I feel visiting ours go without saying. After those, if I were your tour-guide, I’d focus on the local treasure and smaller spots DFW has to offer. To set the Texan tone, we’d first spend a day in Fort Worth. We’d pack a picnic breakfast to have a relaxing bite & yoga session in the Fort Worth Water Gardens before heading over to Montgomery Antique Mall to wander through rows upon rows of Texas history. We’d be sure to wrap up in time to make it to the Stockyards Cattle Drive before heading over to the Flying Saucer for dinner/drinks downtown. If you’re a plant-lover like myself, we’d stop by Archie’s GardenLand to pick up a thriving tropical to take home. Back in my hometown of Arlington the next day, we’d enjoy an authentic Mexican meal at Marquez Bakery on Division St. then head over to the stadiums. An afternoon Rangers game at Globe Life Park is a must but not before taking in the beauty of the former Ballpark In Arlington. We’d wrap up the evening with patio sitting listening to Live Music at the Tipsy Oak in Arlington’s downtown. Our Dallas day would be spent taking in the artistic vibe and quirkiness abundant in the Bishop Arts District. From appetizers to ZZ plants, in Bishop Arts you’re bound to find a space that fits your special interest.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have been blessed with invaluable mentorship over the years (looking at you Dad, Paul, Bob, & Norma), but my kids drive the learning-mothering-creating self I am today. I am forever humbled and challenged by their strengths & areas for growth and they are why I strive to do better every day. My desire to continuously learn & create is as much to satisfy my own internal cravings as it is to be able to pour more into them. Our kids are not the only important part of me, but they sure are my best part.