From her home workshop, a local artisan is creating unique and specialized decor inspired by the nature in her community. Carolyn DeCastri is a designer and craftswoman from Glen Head, specializing in interior design and redesign, who is currently creating decoupage shells decorated with flowers, geometric patterns and gold edges.
DeCastri, 71, intricately cuts out each piece of paper to make the designs that adorn her shells, each different from the last. She said her inspiration for the shells comes from her “deep appreciation for all creation, especially the vast diversity of flowers.”
Decoupage is the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cutouts onto it in combination with special paint effects, gold leaf and other decorative elements. DeCastri collages patterns directly onto oyster and scallop shells bought online, and then seals the edges with gold gilding paint.
“I’ve been making decoupage shells that have very intricate patterns that take quite a long time,” she said. “There’s a lot of different decoupage shells available right now that people are creating, but I haven’t seen any that are anything like mine; they typically just put the paper on the shell and that’s it. Me, I sit down and can be working on them for hours.”
DeCastri sells her creations individually, through her Instagram @designthroughredesign and word of mouth.
“I only started doing this in August, but I’ve refined [my craft] and want each piece to be very different and unique, and I absolutely love doing it as well,” DeCastri said. “I’m not looking to be a big, big thing here; I have to keep my creative juices running all the time, which is very important to me, so this is a good way for me to do that now.”
Before the pandemic, DeCastri specialized in furniture design, with a focus on restyling vintage pieces. She taught her community how to restyle furniture through programs at a number of Nassau libraries.
When the pandemic broke out, DeCastri started working from home, eventually using her skills and creativity to sew 500 masks, many of which she gave away to people in her community.
“I’ve been creative my whole life. Making art is my passion,” DeCastri said. “I can’t not find an outlet to constantly be involved with.”
DeCastri hails from a family of artists: her mother an award-winning water colorist, and her sister, a multi-dimensional artist for over 60 years, specializing in media like oil paints and watercolor.
“I don’t consider myself an artist,” she said. “I consider myself an artisan. Because I have family members that are fine artists, I wouldn’t put myself in the same category as them, because what I do is so different.”
DeCastri grew up in New Hyde Park, where, in high school, she took many art classes like fashion illustration, pattern making and more. To continue her education, she first attended Nassau County Community College, taking liberal arts classes before transferring to SUNY New Paltz, where she studied sociology. Because of family issues, DeCastri returned to Long Island before she could earn her degree. It wasn’t until she was in her 50s that she decided to go back to school to pursue a career in interior design and redesign.
“I love redesigning anything, and in particular I really enjoyed redesigning rooms and living spaces,” DeCastri said. “I’m able to look at anything and re-imagine it in my mind as something totally different.”
She has lived in Glen Head for nearly 50 years, in a 1903 “money-pit” home (that she says she loves regardless), where she works on her craft and is an avid gardener. She has two children, Justin, 44, who is the head of cloud engineering at Google Cloud Financial Services, and Carina, 41, a special-education teacher in Queens.
In sharing her story, DeCastri said she hopes to encourage others not to be afraid of changing course and let them know it’s not too late to live your dream.
“You can always reinvent yourself,” she said. “One door might closed for you, but there’s so many other doors if you allow them to open,”