Bold Soul

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IMG_3158-Edit-2Valinda Martin, owner of Art for the Soul, boosts customers’ spirits—and her own—with colorful trinkets and works of art that fill the shelves of her eclectic shop.

By Bria Balliet | Photos by Dondee Quincena

 

Valinda Martin’s life was forever changed 20 years ago when she broke her back in a boating accident off the coast of Catalina Island. Leaving her confined to a wheelchair, the event could also have been emotionally crippling, but Valinda chose to focus on the positivity in her life and move forward. In the process, she uncovered a love of colorful tchotchkes, quirky home decor and whimsical knickknacks that helped her overcome the struggles and frustration that were inevitable during this period of transition. These newfound collectibles also gave her the motivation to pursue her career goal of opening her own store.

In 1998—five years after the accident—Valinda introduced the community to Art for the Soul, a shop that immediately anchored itself as one of the most amusing and inspiring boutiques on Balboa Island (a second location in Laguna Beach opened in 2003). Now on the heels of the shop’s 15th anniversary, Valinda is thriving and happy—and just as enthusiastic about her work as she was the day she opened.

We sat down with the entrepreneur to find out more about her story and how she manages to stay positive and joyful, no matter what comes her way.

 

 

Newport Beach Magazine: How did your previous work experience prepare you to open Art for the Soul?

Valinda Martin: I had been in wholesale—clothing—the last few years before my accident, and before that I was always in some kind of clothing retail. … The creativeness of art and clothing and wearables and color was in me.

 

So does that mean the transition from fashion to art was an easy one to make?

If you have that deep love for fashion, it’s hard to switch into this. I didn’t have a choice. I can’t do clothing—I can’t hang racks and move clothes without it getting dirty on my wheels and things like that. I [wanted] to be involved with the public, which I love. I love selling and I love happy things and I love colorful things, [so] it was just a natural progression.

 

What does the name “Art for the Soul” mean to you?

I think “Art for the Soul” speaks for itself. It really is a soulful place and you get joy out of the things in it. So [naming the shop] Art for the Soul was perfect.

 

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We’ve heard each item in the store has a special meaning behind it. Do you follow a specific set of criteria when selecting pieces?

Every piece needs to “say something” or evoke an emotion somehow, by color, words or [if] I think it will make someone think of someone else or put a smile on someone’s face. I love hearing people giggle when they’re in the store or call someone over to share what they found. If that happens, then I have done my buying job correctly. The store is known for being full of things that are colorful, whimsical and inspirational, so I try to continue with that. I started out that way … and it needs to stay the same.

 

Do you have a favorite item in the store?

Because I do all the buying, I need to love every item. Sometimes I refer to my artwork and merchandise as my babies. But there are always some hot items and certain items that have been popular since I first opened. Hand-painted and one-of-a-kind Lazy Susans and mirrors with special sayings and colorful imagery are always popular. Also … a big trend is the framed wall art with words and famous or happy quotes. And, of course, all the jewelry—a gal can never have enough jewelry.

What’s a common reaction from customers in the shop?

My favorite [reaction] is when people “get” the store. It’s when I can see it and when I hear them giggle and laugh and call somebody over. Sometimes I’ll sit [at my desk] and just hear someone burst out laughing. And I just kind of go, “OK, that’s cute as can be.”

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What has owning the store taught you about yourself?

I didn’t know I would love working as much as I do—that’s probably the biggest lesson. I never thought I had it in me because I wasn’t challenged enough [before my accident] and I hadn’t found my home.

 

How has all this art influenced your outlook on life?

I think being constantly reminded—every day—of inspiration, happy, colorful … is a great thing to have in your face at all times [especially] because it would be very easy to be down based on being in a wheelchair. In everybody’s life you have a lot of downs, you have a lot of ups. … For me, it’s a constant reminder to be happy [and] to be thankful because we live in an unbelievably beautiful place. I have a great store, great family, great friends [and] a great man. … I’m very blessed in a lot of ways.

 

Do you have any advice to help people achieve the kind of success and happiness you’ve found?

Find what you’re meant to be, and then it won’t be work. You’ve got to work really hard—I work all the time, but I’m lucky. You’ve got to love what you do. Find out what you love and then go for it. Jump in. Go with no regrets.

 

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