Sally! We are so honored to have you featured on The Block Print - tell us about about your recent launch of The Letter Nest and how your new venture came to be? I'm so excited to be featured, Julia! The idea for The Letter Nest originated around the time my friends and family started to have kids (say 2012), when I started painting original name watercolors as a baby gift. With more and more commissions coming in, I decided to formalize the brand: with four pre-painted themed alphabets—animals, circus, construction and flowers—that could be printed-to-order, and/or mixed and matched to create custom name and monogram art prints. In parallel, I still take a select number of "bespoke" watercolor painting commissions each year: original letters painted to the specifications of the client. My selling points are the educational aspect of my work, since every letter matches its object e.g. A for Alligator, B for Bicycle, C for Crocus, and the elevation of alphabet art to a more refined aesthetic.
Prior to the Letter Nest you were at the Met - what precipitated your career switch? A confluence of factors around my ten-year mark at the Museum...first, I took a part-time position in Partnerships with CultureTech, a start-up focused on image licensing and rights management for the cultural sector. The birth of my second son necessitated a more flexible work schedule; and of course, I'd had the longtime vision to launch The Letter Nest!
I've commissioned several paintings from you for both New York and Southampton which I adore—can you tell us a bit about the process Our common language is textile pattern: a touchstone of the India Amory brand, and a favorite subject for me to paint. It makes it a really fun and natural collaboration! I love the process of aligning a commission with its recipient, and trying to express her aesthetic as much as possible in my own hand. I also adore the larger scale of these works, a perfect antidote to the more tightly detailed alphabets I work on for The Letter Nest.
What interior designers and artists have most inspired your work?
Artists: let's narrow the infinite list down to a few I discovered while working in Modern and Contemporary Art at the Met: Edmund de Waal, Lucy McKenzie, Malcolm Morley, Kerry James Marshall, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Philip Taaffe.
Interior Designers: historically: Dorothy Draper; lately: Ariel Okin, Amy Berry, Prudence Home + Design.
Children's book illustration is a major influence on my work—as well as a direction I hope to take it—so in that vein: Beth Krommes, Chris Van Allsburg, David Wiesner, Mike Curato.
Favorite instagram accounts to follow? In addition to all creators mentioned above? India Amory, Jill Kargman, Cheree Berry Paper, Pastry Schiff, and 841 others.
What is your approach to summer entertaining and setting a table? Summer entertaining always starts with family, so it's about a cheerful and inviting aesthetic that pleases the eye of three generations—the porcelain cow pitcher that delights my sons and the India Amory napkins that delight me. My table is also likely to have some inclusion of my handwriting or painting. At the Met, I was always hand-lettering place cards or name tags for patrons events. At home, it could be a hand-painted place card, or one of my watercolors on a nearby wall. I punctuate this with selections from other makers I admire, yourself included. On this table, the white vase and cup were made by the New Hampshire ceramicist Lulu Fichter.
Do you have a favorite summer ritual? Bike rides with either son in the child's seat. (Beats the car rides getting out of the city!)
Favorite India Amory pattern or product? The Tablecloths! The Yuletide Vine was my Christmas gift to my mother last year; and the gorgeous "Bows" tablecloth just looks like something I'd want to paint.
Do you have a particular go-to summer recipe or cocktail? My blueberry crisp, which has been taste-tested and approved by every neighbor on our street in Quiogue.
What's up next for you and The Letter Nest? I've been actively painting and preparing three new Alphabets, which will drop this Fall: a Dessert-themed Alphabet, a Paris Alphabet, and a Chinoiserie Alphabet originally painted as a bespoke project for the upcoming nursery of designer Ariel Okin. I'm so excited to unveil these new letters...