You are strong, you are beautiful, you are you. That’s what Cate Scaglione, artist and owner of Life As Fine Art Studio + Spa in Red Bank, wants her clients to know. Cate is all about empowering women to have a life-changing, confidence-boosting experience at her fine art and boudoir photography studio – more than just your average photo shoot. She told us how one portraiture session at her studio is a “spa day for the soul,” offering an escape for women (especially moms!) in which you will leave feeling like your most positive self. Cate dishes on how a photo shoot in her previous career involving female twins for a romance novel cover sparked her business model, some of her most surprising clients, and her family’s favorite things to do including art classes at Pinot’s Palette in Red Bank.
Artist and Owner of Life As Fine Art Studio + Spa & NJMOMpreneur: Cate Scaglione
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Cate: Life As Fine Art Studio + Spa is a fine art and boudoir photography studio that caters primarily to women. It is a photography studio – but my studio experience is designed to provide so much more than a photo shoot for each of my clients. My goal is to help women see themselves as art. I celebrate and shoot all ages and body types, so many of my clients who are labeled ‘plus-size’ by design standards or are considered seniors come to Life As Fine Art and unleash their sexy, too. Though boudoir photography has become more mainstream throughout the US (and internationally) my studio experience focuses on an artistic collaboration between myself and the client. Her body is the medium, and I help her create art with it. It is one part art – and one part therapy, in a way. While the majority of my clients seek me out for sensual boudoir photography, I also create fine art imaginative fantasy portraiture for clients and have some commercial clients that seek artistically styled photography for lifestyle brands.
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Cate: I am formally educated as both an artist and as a businessperson. For me, my portraiture business is the perfect merger of art and commerce. It’s more than that though – I am helping people by inspiring them to see their most positive selves. When I was previously a creative director in advertising, we were working with a very famous photographer at the time, and I was just in awe of how she composed the assignments so artistically – but also fascinated by how she interacted with the subjects. She was creating such beauty from simplicity. I thought at that moment, “Why am I sitting here watching this? Why can’t I actually be doing this?”
My true epiphany came after I photographed adult female twins for a romance novel cover. They were so different from one another, but yet each walked away with their own unique appreciation of themselves from the photo shoot experience. Observing these twin sisters, I said to myself – wow, I am onto something special.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Cate: I love photographing women and composing the art. But to me, the most rewarding part of what I do is seeing how uplifted and energetic women are at the end of their session. My clients include working mothers from all walks of life – doctors, lawyers, stay at home moms, teachers, school principals, bride-to-be’s, retirees, military personnel, news anchors, athletes, even a few celebrities. They leave Life As Fine Art feeling utterly beautiful, powerful and unstoppable from the experience. It is a day purely dedicated to them and to helping them feel like their best self. I describe it as a “spa day for the soul”. For some it is healing, for others, it is pushing boundaries, and for others, it marks a milestone. When they return to me to see their photos from the session for the first time, they are utterly amazed by how those feelings shine through in the intimate artwork. This is especially true for mothers, who sometimes forget that side of themselves.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Cate: Prior to opening Life As Fine Art, I was the Director of Global Advertising for Fortune 500 brands. It was definitely a career path where art and commerce intersected daily – turning complicated products and commodities into aesthetically beautiful, emotionally-resonant objects of desire for the consumer. I spent a lot of time in boardrooms, in brainstorm sessions, as well as on the sets of TV commercials and print photo shoots. We worked with some of the best photographers and cinematographers in the world on these campaigns. I also learned to strategize from a business perspective. Having both a right brain and left brain orientation to the world has definitely helped me be successful in the business of art.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Cate: I have traveled the world, won awards and accomplished many amazing things in my career. But that’s all superfluous. Success is something you feel inside, despite what hangs on your wall. It wasn’t until my late 30s or 40s that I realized the greatest accomplishment you can ever experience is the ability to bounce back from failures and disappointments with grace and courage. I have made mistakes, I have been taken advantage of, I have faced challenges. Knowing that I have the ability to rebuild, renew, be cumulatively wise and a bit more fearless – that is the most empowering feeling any entrepreneur can have and be proud of.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Cate: My job is to bring out the best in people, and that requires a bit of energy, humor, and personality. My extroverted mode is helpful to draw out and put the spotlight on others – and accomplishing what I need to artistically. Most people assume I am an extrovert and am comfortable with the spotlight. But truthfully? Those who know me best know I am actually pretty introspective and can be quite shy. I am also a mom to three kids and that requires a great deal of energy. At the end of the day, I crave respite and retreat.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you next year – personally and professionally?
Cate: My goal this year is to return a bit more to my creative fine art roots and expanding more of my conceptual artwork. I want to create more unique things just for inspiration. Also, I truly love having a boutique business model; it lets me provide a luxury experience to a small finite number of clients per month. However, I have plans to expand the number of clients I serve per month, with the ultimate goal of expanding the Life As Fine Art experience to reach more women. It’s a luxurious, cathartic experience I encourage all women to try.
NJMOM: What charitable cause are you most passionate about?
Cate: For many years, I have been a volunteer photographer with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. This is a volunteer-based bereavement photography organization offering imagery to parents that have experienced infant loss. I began volunteering in 2009 because I found that so many of my female clients were really struggling with the emotions of infant loss, even some in my own family. Having photos of a deceased child helps them process their grief, and commemorates the short life of a premature or terminally ill infant.
I would get phone calls from the hospital nurses at all hours and would just get in the car and go. As a photographer, it was my way to donate my artistic gifts in a way that serves women. It has me exercising my empathy, resilience, and gives me the occasional break to regroup myself – but it is work that I have been proud to serve.
NJMOM: Who is your role model?
Cate: I can’t say I have one single role model. Really, it is a blend of all the women that walk into Life As Fine Art. There are gorgeous mothers of four who seem to juggle life so impeccably despite whatever hardships they face; there was a client who was an OB/GYN who delivered babies all night long on the night shift at the hospital then transformed into a goddess a few hours later at my studio. There are cancer survivors, survivors of sexual or domestic violence; weight loss champions; women who are starting their lives over from scratch. I want to know everyone’s story! I admire pieces of each one of them – and they inspire me to be a better, stronger, woman, and mother.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice a role model ever gave to you?
Cate: I come from a long line of elegant women; my grandmother Claire was a striking, tall, picture of feminine elegance and grace.
Always take the high road.
That’s something my grandmother always said; it is such a simple statement, but it has served me so well as a business person and as a human being. It reminds me to be diplomatic and find balance in the face of challenges. I find myself sharing that advice with my family, friends, and my children, too.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by?
Cate: “Live and let live” is a favorite quote. It reminds me to be open-minded and non-judgmental of people’s choices or lifestyles. You will never truly know someone else’s journey, history or reasons for doing things the way they do. And unless it affects you personally, we have no right to judge others besides ourselves.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Cate: Life As Fine Art is located in downtown Red Bank, and so it has become a huge centerpiece of my life. Red Bank is truly one of the best towns in NJ – the best restaurants, boutiques, cool shops and lifestyle stores. It is situated right on the river, so we can enjoy the channels to the Jersey shore right at the end of Broad Street (Main street). It is quickly becoming a destination for east-coasters to visit because it’s hip, fun and a beautiful stroll. We also love going to Topgolf in Edison as a family – it’s great for eating and playing.
I also live close to Sandy Hook Gateway National Park. It is a beautiful and varied beach landscape that expands for miles. I love driving through the peninsula or taking a walk in the dunes. It’s the perfect place to watch a sunset and see for miles.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Cate: I have always been a working mom in one job or another, so teaching independence and self-reliance to my children was super important to me. I did not want to hover or helicopter them. I wanted to teach them decision-making and independence skills. As a result, I get to watch them flourish as talented, smart, kind, little creatures that I am amazingly proud of. It astonishes me that their independence helps them become such great little humans.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Cate: I love taking my kids to Toast Restaurant (Red Bank, Montclair, and Asbury locations). It is a fun, delicious 1950’s diner vibe and a creative brunch menu. The owner is a business neighbor and she does a lot for NJ communities. We also love Turning Point and Zoe’s Vintage Kitchen in Atlantic Highlands. Art is an important and enjoyable experience to share with my children so I like bringing them to classes at Pinot’s Palette, we go to the one in Red Bank. It is such a great experience that everyone should try and bring out their inner Van Gogh. We also love A Time to Kiln (Broad Street, Red Bank) and Pirates and Unicorns in Red Bank, a new children’s fashion boutique with funky, unique clothing from California that my kids love. As a sweet treat, I take my daughters to Antoinette Boulangerie in Red Bank. It is very Parisian and girly, and has delicious croissants. I even have out-of-state friends who ask me to ship them baked items. The girls always feel fancy when we go there and there are lots of gluten-free items as well!
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Cate: I live in Middletown and Life As Fine Art is in Red Bank. We spend a lot of time in Red Bank, at Rumson Park, and in Atlantic Highlands. I love taking the kids to the beaches on the Jersey Shore or down the Coast to all our shore towns. We feel so lucky to live on this beautiful coastline. It is so underrated and unknown to the rest of the country.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Cate: I think women’s instincts in business and in life are naturally strong. The problem is, from a young age we are programmed not to trust these instincts, so this is something I try to instill in my daughters. So many people will have opinions about what and how you should do things. What will fail and what will succeed. Make your vision yours and plan it out in steps. No one can see your vision as clearly as you, and your goals will help you know exactly how you need to get there. Have the confidence to trust your instincts.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Cate: You are a mom, but it is just one of your many roles as a woman. The type of experience I provide at Life As Fine Art helps empower you to feel and remember all of them. I wish that kind of liberation and celebration for all busy moms. Do it for you, not just your significant other.