Super Savant: Carmen Mae

by Erica Anderson

We're back for another installment of Super Savants. This one is special because our Savant, Carmen, brings her passion and positive energy to a place I love: my home town.

A creative spirit, Carmen (she/her/hers) was looking for a hobby when she discovered she enjoyed making tiny, hand sculpted, food-themed magnets out of clay. When she put some of her creations up on Etsy, she found an audience right away. I'm not surprised –– her creations are delightfully whimsical –– plus, things that are tiny (and functional!) are just plain cute. 

In this Q&A with Carmen, you'll find out how she came into her creative practice, how she nourishes her creative energy and how you can support her. (Spoiler: get yourself some tiny magnets. Keep reading for links. 🤩)

THE NEW SAVANT: Name/pronouns?

CARMEN: She/her/hers

TNS: What’s your connection to TNS… and what’s your favorite scent? 

CARMEN: My connection to TNS goes way back and is so, so serendipitous! It’s one of my favorite anecdotes to tell. 

Growing up, I was a huge MissGlamorazzi fan (still am, for the record!). I would spend hours watching Ingrid’s YouTube videos after school. I think I speak for a whole generation when I say that her videos kept me company through some lonely times. Not only that, but I really looked up to Ingrid because she was one of the first content creators on the platform that was doing the unconventional and making waves beyond the world of YouTube. She was out there advocating for women’s rights, discussing LGBTQ+ issues, and even interviewing the President of the United States.

You can only imagine how ecstatic I was when I found out that the owners of The New Savant would be stopping by to visit the boutique that I worked at in downtown Valparaiso! I knew who Ingrid and Erica were and I had been following their Brooklyn-based candle company for a while. I felt like I had hit some kind of lottery because I got the chance to, very excitedly, tell Ingrid how awesome I think she truly is in person. It’s rare that you get to do that. To this day, meeting Ingrid and Erica is one of my favorite memories! (:

My favorite TNS candle is The Dropout! I bought one last year and it was love at first sniff. I tend to gravitate towards scents that are bright, fresh, earthy, and just a little sweet. It burns forever and has everything I look for in a candle. The next candle I’d love to try is Androgyne!

TNS: Tell us about what you do, creatively, and how you got started.

CARMEN: I consider myself a magnet maker by trade. I own a small business called The Magnet Maiden that sells hand-sculpted, food-themed magnets and illustrated goods. I started making magnets in 2018 because I was looking for a creative outlet and something that I could do in my free time. I began listing my tiny magnet sculptures on Etsy and to my surprise and delight, people really enjoyed them! I’ve been making magnets ever since.

TNS: What led you to start your own small business?

CARMEN: After graduating from Indiana University, I moved to NYC for my dream internship and somehow managed to land a full-time job. It was an amazing opportunity but I didn’t anticipate how challenging it would be to manage my mental health and work-life balance in a city like New York. I found myself feeling really isolated and after trying to make it work for a while, I decided to move back home to Valparaiso, IN to recover and regroup.
I started creating magnets out of clay to pass the time while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do next. I ended up falling in love with the process of creating and began experimenting with different clay techniques, themes, and styles. That, in a nutshell, is how The Magnet Maiden was born.

TNS: What do you find most rewarding from the experience?

CARMEN: Making tiny food magnets is very creatively fulfilling for me but the most rewarding part about it is that my customers choose to gift my work to others. I’ve made wedding favor magnets, memorial magnets, and everything in between. The fact that real people purchase my work with their hard-earned money and include my creations in some of the most important events in their lives is priceless. It’s a gift I’ll never take for granted!

TNS: How do you replenish your creativity?

CARMEN: I’ve learned that for me, creativity is like a muscle that thrives only when there are periods of nourishment, exercise, and rest. When I find that I’m running low on creativity I take a break and spend time recharging. Sometimes that means taking a trip to the dunes with my mom, going out for a coffee with friends, or just sleeping in with my cats Mochi and Flan.

TNS: Tell us about your latest project or sale!

CARMEN: I’m so beyond excited that in 2023 I will be dedicating myself fully to The Magnet Maiden. That means that I’ll be participating in local markets and working on new creative projects! I cannot wait. I also have a new collection and website launching at the end of December!

TNS: How can members of the TNS community support you?

CARMEN: I love creating fun content where I show my magnet-making process! It would mean a lot if you checked it out on Instagram and TikTok.

TNS: If you could do one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

CARMEN: If I could do one thing for the rest of my life it would be to eat amazingly delicious food! Food holds a very special place in my heart. I think that’s why I currently devote my life to making tiny food magnets <3