I fell in love with color at the very young age of seven. It was my birthday and my uncle Howard gave me my first set of paints. I remember staying up all night, completely ruining my parents' red carpet in the family room and everything else that got in the way, but I had a beautiful painting to show in the morning. I felt so proud of myself. My mother was a little upset, as everything around was ruined by paint, by my father gleamed from ear to ear, "Look at what our daughter made, a beautiful piece of art." That was the beginning of it all.
There was something about getting lost in the paint, something I would love for years to come. Hours would go by and I would get lost in space and time. I had found my passion.
Years later I majored in painting at Syracuse University and studied abroad during my junior year in Florence, Italy. In that time, I lived with an amazing Italian family for 6 months. I fell in love with the European way of life - how they enjoy food, their love of art, and their practice of taking time to appreciate the pleasures of life. I remember my Italian mother at the time, Francesca, telling me that I wasn't allowed to come home from school from 12 to 2 in the afternoon. That was the time she was with her lover. Just think how much happier Americans would be if we lived more like Europeans.
Italy was filled with color. I was fascinated by the colors of the foods in the markets, the colors of the tiles in the Piazza, the colors of the fabrics and all the beautiful shops on the Ponta Vecchio. This began my love of color, textiles, and ignited an appreciation of the pleasures and essence of life.
I painted for a while after school and was exhibited in galleries. I did private commissions for law and doctor's offices. My parents and their friends were among my biggest supporters. I enjoyed painting many different things - landscapes, still-life pieces - but painting women was my favorite. The essence of women and their sensuality evokes so much emotion.
After some success with my painting, I found myself very lonely. I wanted to be around people. I wanted to be part of the world. The art of textiles was the next thing I explored. I started to design and create fabrics for different companies and my love of art and color was in perfect harmony with what they needed. It was wonderful to see designs become three-dimensional art. I was traveling all over the world; Hong Kong, Seoul, Korea, Taipai, China, Instanbul, Italy, France, Germany, and London.
I was experiencing life on every level, international travel, creating, working with foreign cultures, experiencing art and delicious, colorful foods from all exotic places. The first 10 trips were incredible, I was in heaven and I loved every minute of them, but just like anything in life, too much of something becomes overwhelming, and I was yearning for my bed at home, and a home cooked meal in my own kitchen.
I then began to design scarf collections for many different designers - the likes of Echo, Kenneth Cole, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de La Renta, and Bill Blass. I loved how the textiles became a three-dimensional garment that not only I could wear, but that others could as well. It was such a thrill when I would be walking down the street and someone would be wearing one of my designs.
I went on to create my own private label line called Betsy Karp. I designed the textiles as well as the garments. I had fabrics imported from Japan and Italy as well as other countries. They were designed with love and my passion for color. They were bright, classic, and timeless. I still wear the designs to this day.
I was in 75 stores at the height of my business, all very high end boutiques all over the United States and Canada. It was thrilling to see women walking in a Betsy Karp. Before my business had the chance to really grow, I had to close it down. After September 11th, a devastating day for the country, close to 80% of my orders were cancelled and I did not have the capital to keep it going. I felt lost and alone for months. I had no idea what to do or how to pick up the pieces.
I was immersed in black, I had gained a lot of weight, my head was down, and so was my spirit. It wasn't until one morning my doorman, Mickey, told me that he had enough of my negative, self-defeating energy. It was not only depressing me, but it was also depressing him. He helped shift my mindset and see that I was feeling sorry for myself and I needed to get out of my own misery. I needed to start doing something about what had happened. I woke up the next morning and my immediate solution was what I knew.
The thing that I knew was color.
So I started using color to empower me again and to bring me out of my funk. I chose orange as the color I would use to heal and uplift myself. As I studied orange and its color theory energy, I found that it is the color of your second chakra, your sacral chakra, which is the energy center to open and bring creativity, hope, and pleasure back into your life. I also learned that orange and its energy is blocked by guilt, which is something I was facing a lot of. It was now time to dig deep inside and find the pleasures of life that I once enjoyed so much. But it's not just having the color around you, it's believing that you are worthy of having and enjoying life in its truth and having the courage within yourself to feel beautiful and enjoy the essence of sensuality.
I surrounded myself with orange - orange sheets, orange towels, orange nightshirts, food, panties, and even dishware. Orange became my color. I had orange flowers everywhere. I started exercising and listening to music again. I was looking at myself and my life in a whole new way.
Within a few weeks I had lost the weight that I had gained, I was walking with my head held high, and I was embracing life and all its challenges ahead. I enrolled myself in the Institute of Integrative Nutrition - also known as IIN - in conjunction with Columbia's Teacher's College, to receive a certificate in health counseling.
I started to really appreciate how color was affecting my inner radiance, and I wanted to help others bring out their true authentic self as well. I knew it was time to start using my love of color to heal and help others, as I had started to heal and help myself. I was so excited to start learning about how color and foods affect our beings, our emotions, and our lives.
I became obsessed with learning everything I could about color, emotions, color theory, and essential oils. I immersed myself in all of it.
I began working with private clients, and starting using my knowledge of color to help them break through the emotional blocks they were having in their lives. The seven energy centers in our body, also known as the chakra system, is an integral part of our being, energetically, spiritually, and emotionally. Color relates to an emotion, and once we understand what emotion is blocked, we can use the corresponding color to heal the energy, the issue, and the root cause of what is holding us back.
I found I had a love and a gift for working with others, especially women. There was something about my energy and how I relate to women. I wanted to help women bring out their true beauty and to tap into areas and energy that they suppress or withdraw from.
It truly made me happy inside and out. As I was helping them, they were helping me to feel connected to something bigger than myself. It is beautiful to hear people share their stories, their pain, their personal issues, and help them, educate them, on the benefits and the magic of color. It not only can heal your body and your mind, but your true inner spirit too.
And my love of color continues...