When Joey and Lisa Eicher first adopted Sevy Marie from Bulgaria, she had difficulty expressing herself. As a nonverbal child with Down syndrome, she had been neglected and moved from institution to institution. But when the Eichers gave Sevy art supplies, she blossomed.
When we first brought her home, she was very reserved and didn’t trust us and neither of us really knew how to communicate. Sevy is almost completely non-verbal. Being in institutions for 12 years, of course it’s going to be hard to trust anyone. Especially with me, being her primary caretaker, it was really difficult to bond with her because she wanted nothing to do with me.
We knew she enjoyed art because she was always drawing — even when we first met her in the orphanage. We didn’t think much of it at the time. I’m a writer and I like to write at night so Sevy would sit down next to me with a stack of paper and just draw all night.
About a year ago, I started paying a little more attention to her while she drew and realized she knew what she was doing and was a really good artist… we could tell that she had intention when she drew or painted.
The Eichers gave Sevy other supplies to work with –plywood, old house paint, and paint brushes. Using the house paint and a crowbar to get sharp lines, Sevy created a beautiful painting on the plywood with layers and layers of color. Lisa says:
That’s when we realized, she wasn’t just playing around, she was totally an artist.
Lisa, who is a lifestyle blogger, posted Sevy’s work on Instagram, and the positive response was overwhelming. The Eichers decided to provide Sevy with proper tools so she could fully develop her talent. Eventually, they also created an Instagram just for Sevy’s art – and she got over 10,000 followers overnight.
Now, Sevy has sold out two entire collections of her art- to buyers as far away as France and the Netherlands. Her whole family has come to together to help support her dream. Her dad Joey cuts the plywood and assembles the canvases. Her siblings help prep the canvases and name the paintings. And her mom Lisa takes pictures of Sevy with her finished works and posts them online.
The family is also starting a nonprofit called Sandal Gap Studios, with the goal to foster inclusivity in art by featuring works from artists with Down syndrome.
Lisa is amazed and thankful for the impact that Sevy’s artwork is having:
Sevy has really changed the whole trajectory of our lives which is just really cool and when you think about it — there was this 12-year-old girl with no hope in an institution in Bulgaria and now she’s having an impact on our world. It’s beyond changing our family, hopefully it’s changing a community and the world. It’s beyond just selling her art, that’s such a small part of it, she’s inspiring us to do more and be more.