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Yello Interviews: Debbie Chase van der Bol of Pure Art Cayman

by Chantel DaCosta May 17, 2021

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Debbie Chase van der Bol

For over 30 years, Pure Art Cayman and Debbie Chase van der Bol have been staples in the Caymanian arts and crafts community. Having a keen interest in drawing since she was a young girl, it is no wonder that Debbie has made art her career. An artist in her own right, Debbie’s charming Caymanian cottage has been a place for local artists to display their works. Yello chatted with Debbie about her life in the Cayman Islands, what she loves most about being an entrepreneur and how Pure Art Cayman started.

Describe yourself in one sentence.

My 34 years managing Pure Art Gallery & Gifts have inspired me as a Cayman artist.

Tell us a bit about your background.

Originally from Pennsylvania and Ohio (USA), I received my BA and managed an art supplies department which prepared me for Pure Art in Grand Cayman.  I raised my son here and a slew of fur kids, which was fantastic.   Embracing the Cayman culture, my love of my Cayman life certainly had me painting sunny and positive pieces.  

Unique pieces inside Pure Art

Were you always a creative person?

From a young age I loved drawing and attended classes in third grade at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  I was always sketching, and in middle school, I realised art was my passion.   Several teachers encouraged me.

What are your hobbies?

Aside from art, I love reading, swimming and scuba diving (since 1978), gardening, and I love my pets.  My son and his family (including two grandsons I adore) are my joys as well. 

Tell us about Pure Art Cayman. How did you get started, and why?

When our family’s Cayman cottage came up for rent, my mother-in-law Sandra van der Bol encouraged me to open Pure Art.  I opened it with a wing and a prayer, plus support from other artists, craft people and, of course, great customers.

Baskets inside Pure Art

What was the biggest challenge you faced starting Pure Art Cayman? How did you overcome it?

When Pure Art first opened, the challenge was to keep track of consignment sales and payments!  My point of sales system changed everything and has made all we do very organised thanks to the computer.   Very loyal and good coworkers are also key, as is our relationship with artists and customers.

Who are your clients? How do they find you?

Many may be surprised to learn my customers have been 50/50 locals and visitors.  With our current restrictions on travellers/ visitors, this has indeed helped us to continue with local sales for gifts, homes, corporate purchases, and even children‘s or personal items we sell. I am so thankful. 

What is Pure Art’s unique selling point?

Pure Art has always featured original art and prints of The Cayman Islands by local artists. That is our focus, as well as local jewellery, crafts, and collectables.  We work with around 200 artists!  Then I supplement with some very special “island style” home or gift items which make for wonderful shopping. 

Caymanian art inside Pure Art

What do you love about being a small business owner in the Cayman Islands?

I have loved being my own boss as we guided Pure Art over the years.  I love the setting of our charming Cayman cottage.   We are so fortunate having an appreciative local and tourist shopper.   (I have not had cruise shippers as my customers; FYI).  Thus, we certainly miss the “stay-over and return visitors” a lot, but my focus for local shoppers has gone well, albeit a steady effort.  

What advice would you give aspiring Caribbean entrepreneurs?

I would encourage Caribbean entrepreneurs to pursue their passions and dreams.  I started small and slowly reinvested as my business grew, and thus it was not stressful.  Stay honest and true to yourself.

What are three things you love the most about the Cayman Islands?

I love the Cayman people, the sea and the natural beauty, and I love living in a positive, diverse culture…I just fret over the loss of Cayman homes, and historical factors being lost.  The respect for Cayman style is very important, I believe.

What is your philosophy/approach to life?

I strive to be a positive person.

Please tell us something only a few people know about you. 

Very few folks know I am soon to be retiring from my role as Manager of Pure Art!  I look forward to passing Pure Art on to a new owner; I look forward to painting and embracing and discovering myself more as an artist (and as a grandma). I hope to go between my two lifetime homes:  Cayman and Ohio.  I am very excited to continue in a new chapter of my life. Lord willing. 

To find out more about Pure Art Cayman, visit the website or connect on Facebook and Instagram.