After making her own sailboat, German-born Serena Israel settled in Curacao in 2001, deciding to go with the flow...literally.
This is also where she met her husband, after deciding to stay and see what the culture had to offer.
Israel chose to pursue a career in art because of her artistic roots in Germany as a designer and artist.
Her art gallery, Chichi Curacao, focuses on the history and the meaning behind chichi and the symbolism it holds.
One of Israel's staff, Idyolina, explained that a chichi – in the Dutch Antillean language of Papiamento – is the eldest sister in a family, who is often tasked with many responsibilities, including taking care of her siblings and the household.
Israel's first piece was made of paper mache and chicken wire, and from there her business took off. She continued making chichi sculptures which earned her fame among the locals, but her work now is internationally known, especially because of the short daily workshops she offers.
Israel now has over 70 active painters for her chichis, which are for sale at her Willemstad gallery and online at the chichicuracao website.
The pieces range between US$28 and US$2,507.
To make the sculpture, a plaster and water mixture is poured into various-sized moulds and then placed on the first two shelves of Israel's workstation for drying
–it faces outwards when wet and inwards when completely dried.
In her workshops, Israel offers participants a chance to paint their own chichis and they can choose whichever design they want – simple, with wings, on her stomach or with curlers in her hair.
Her only warning to participants is, "Don't make her sexy."
This is because a big sister is meant to represent a sense of comfort to a family or sibling, and not be sexualised.
Chichis are large and voluptuous – hence the warning – but the reason for that is because of their physique represents good health and
beauty, with the goal being to empower women.
As for chichis being black, this is not to show skin colour, but rather to showcase chichis' clothes, as they often have vibrant colours and designs.
Chichis also possess characteristics of the famous Austrian Venus of Willendorf sculpture, and the women sculpture created by artistes Fernando Botero and Niki de Saint Phalle, such as the rounded figure. However, the chichis still hold their own authenticity and unique design.
As for the lack of faces, fingers and toes, in order to save time when it was a one-man gallery, Israel needed a mould that could be reproduced quickly. Chichi also has no eyes, because Israel admits to not being good at painting eyes.
Israel also makes Bubus, which represents the eldest brother in a family, who often helps out financially in the home or goes out fishing with his father.
The cost of her workshops is between US$12 and US$285, depending on the number of participants in a group.