Brand Friend Spotlight: Brett Braley-Palko

With the launch of our Brand Friend program, we’ve been able to connect with others who love the art of the handwritten note, our products, and our brand. If this sounds interesting to you, learn more about how to be a Dempsey & Carroll Brand Friend on our website!

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We are delighted to introduce you to Brett Braley-Palko as part of our Brand Friend Spotlight Series. Based in Pennsylvania, Brett works as a marketing manager while writing, baking, and tending to his farm and animals.

How did you learn about Dempsey & Carroll?

Actually, it was through an Instagram rabbit hole. I have always been a huge fan of stationery, but living in in a more rural setting, I rarely get exposed to brands outside of big box stores! Now that brands are more readily accessible online, I’m able to find ones I love and stick with them, including Dempsey & Carroll. It was love at first sight! The crisp designs, the craftsmanship that’s evident, the little bit of irreverence in some of the marketing. I really loved it all.

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Do you have any favorite Dempsey & Carroll collections that helped to draw you in?

I think the collection that I first liked was the John Derian collaboration, particularly the Fly Fisher set. Derian has been a favorite store of mine (particularly the Papier-mâché animal heads and the collection of vintage Christmas ornaments they stock), and the collection was just right up my alley in classic and whimsical style. I also liked the mixed-media usage in the Lingua Franca Collection. So cute and innovative!

 

How do you make traditions modern?

I think about this a lot and I think, for me, it’s about injecting tradition into the small moments of the day. Whether it is writing a thank-you note to an old friend or taking a few hours to bake some bread instead of buying a loaf, I try to step back and appreciate what brings me joy in slow, intentional ways. I think that’s what tradition means to me these days.

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Can you recall the most memorable letter that you’ve received (or sent)?

To be honest, I don’t receive as much exciting mail as I’d like (poor me). Hardly any of my family writes, and I notice that letters tend to not act like boomerangs in that they’re almost never returned automatically. I’m going to turn this question on its nose a bit and say the most memorable letter(s) I’ve received actually came by request. I’m currently working on a project of collecting letters from literary and aristocratic figures of Early 20th Century Britain — think Nancy Mitford, Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, Heywood Hill, James Lees-Milne. As it turns out, the most exciting letters being sent my way are archival scans from Yale, Oxford, and Princeton these days.

We’d love to hear more about how got involved with this interesting project! What inspired you to start collecting these letters?

It kind of came out of nowhere! For the last couple of years, I have read quite a few books regarding the Bright Young Things and aristocracy in early/mid-20th Century Britain. I just really love that time period. When I strayed away from biographies and started reading more letter compilations, many of the prefaces would thank specific archives.

Being a lover of stationery, I was extremely curious about what their stationery was like; the paper colors, fonts, sizes. I was especially curious about the heading conventions for aristocratic figures (do they have their official title on the top? Their birth names? Just a location?). My hope now is to work with a stationer to design my own stationery in this same vein – simple, but not performatively “retro” – just to the bare bones of quality and design. Further, I’ll be pitching some ideas I have brewing of how these design elements have changed and what has stayed the same, such as the beautiful collections Dempsey & Carroll has maintained for 140 years!

 

 Where is your favorite place to write and catch up on correspondence?

Working from home means I’ve really carved a space for myself in our little house. My desk is an ancient and comically large work desk. It was my husband’s college desk and it kind of floated into our spare bedroom. It houses a scattering of iPhone cords, a typewriter, a thousand little notes to myself, and a few dozen library books that are surely overdue as I type this sentence. But it’s mine and once the door is shut, I’m able to get to get right to work while nursing my morning tea.

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 What are a few of your favorite things to do in your spare time?

Reading is a big pastime for me, so I aim to read at least a half hour before bed each night. I’m also trying to be fluent in French, so you’ll often hear Duolingo from my office. I live on a 5-acre farm in Pennsylvania, so much of my spare time goes to cleaning the house or taking care of our animals. We have 27 chickens and 3 spoiled dogs, so you can imagine most of my time goes to them. I’m also an avid baker, but just easing myself back into baking after a year hiatus (we got married in November, so most of 2018 was spent planning and staying busy with “life” things).

Tell us more about living on a farm! Is farming a main profession or just a hobby?

It’s just a hobby for now! After living in California for about five years, we were happy to move back and claim a piece of land for ourselves. My husband and I are both from this area of Pennsylvania, so once we maxed out a few credit cards and had a couple of nieces and nephews to meet, we decided it was time to return. A farm just seemed like the next step, being able to stretch ourselves out over the land versus being stuffed into another apartment (our landlord lived in our backyard at our last house).

With three dogs, I wanted them to have the freedom to run and play and exhaust themselves on the little plot that’s theirs as much as ours. I work full-time as a Marketing Manager from home, so my days are flexible enough I get to punctuate my breaks from conference calls between the barn and the yard with the dogs.

While farming for me will never be a large-scale operation, I’d love to transition into a more professional role with the farm. I’d like to write on the subject in more freelance work, and some of my work is actually being published this month in the Greenhorns Almanac. My goal is to carve out a space for myself in the farming community to speak of my experience and my philosophy behind animal rearing and stewardship.

But, alas, for now, the eggs we get are sold to librarians, my in-laws, and a select few neighbors!

 Thank you so much for sharing with us, Brett! Keep up with Brett on Instagram @brettfbraley, Twitter @brettfbraley, and brettfbraley.com!

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Learn more about being a Dempsey & Carroll Brand Friend!

Spotlight on Caitlin McGauley

In celebration of our brand new collaboration, we sat down with Watercolor Artist and Illustrator Caitlin McGauley to learn more about her work and how she gets inspired. We first met McGauley through our friend Michelle Adams, founder of The Maryn. In fact, the artwork from our collection in partnership with The Maryn was also designed by McGauley!

We are excited to launch the whimsical Caitlin McGauley Animal Collection featuring the Cheetah and Fox motifs and envelope finishings customized by McGauley. We hope that you are as charmed by this collaboration as much as we are! #caitlinmcgauleyxdempsey

 

How did you get started with watercolor?

I was constantly drawing as a kid, so my parents signed me up for group watercolor lessons at 9 years old. I had a great teacher who was in her mid-eighties, and we would sit at card tables in her dining room and copy pictures of landscapes that she tore out of magazines. My next painting teacher was a friendly hippie who taught in a 70’s A frame cottage on a lake. I really loved watercolor and I never pursued any other medium.

 

What are some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on recently?

Custom projects with interior designers are always fun and diverse, and it’s nice to collaborate with fellow artists. Currently, I am designing a wallpaper with repeating feathers for the ceiling of a restaurant, and I’m in the sketch phase for an animal-themed wallpaper mural that will span a massive playroom without repeating itself.

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What inspires you the most?

Spending time at book stores and antique/secondhand shops! My daughter and I like to go and ‘look for treasures,’ and I keep my eyes peeled for weird or beautiful objects and vases that can be incorporated into my paintings. If I have an hour or so to kill, I would probably spend it at Books of Wonder on 18th street looking at children’s books. I am a picture book fanatic and I always attend the Children’s Book show at the Society of Illustrators, where they show the original work from all of the best picture books from the previous year.

 

Your two young children must have so much fun when they get to visit you in the studio! Do they share your creativity?

Yes, they definitely have the art bug! My six-year-old daughter stays up later at night than I do I presume, since in the morning she has all kinds of new ideas and drawings in the sketchbook that she keeps on her bedside table. My son is a perfectionist and asks me to put white-out on any of his coloring pages where he’s gone outside of the lines.

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Are there any places that you’ve traveled that have had the most influence on your work?

I worked at a small textiles company in my 20’s and was lucky to travel to Asia several times to source fabrics and visit factories. India and China have such a rich textile history and I am so grateful that I got to soak it all up in person. I still reference fabrics and pictures from my trips for inspiration. Time to go back, I think!

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What inspired this collaboration? We’d love to hear a bit more about the colorful prints that are featured!

I love to paint animals, so I started with the pink cheetah and orange fox, and the prints evolved from there. The fox felt masculine and preppy so I looked at vintage ties on eBay, which resulted in stripes and an abstract collegiate-feeling crest print in primary colors. For the cheetah, I drew from animal prints and foliage, but I used colors not necessarily found in nature.

 

Where is your ideal place to sit down and write a letter?

In the peace and quiet of my studio. I always send a hand-written note with paintings– it shows a kind of appreciation that cannot be conveyed over email!

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Where else can people find your work (aside from our stationery, of course!)?

I have a collection of wallpapers available through the showrooms Studio Four in New York, James in Austin and Dallas Texas, and Nicky Rising in Los Angeles. I also have a shop on my website which I consistently update with original paintings, mostly florals and animals.

Shop the Caitlin McGauley x Dempsey & Carroll on our site here!

 

A Spotlight on Colin Cowie

Dempsey & Carroll event curator, Remo Nuzzolese, sat down with Colin to discuss his South African background and his inspirations.

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RN: You have an amazing backstory. How does that experience affect your work?

CC: I was born in central Africa Zambia and we had one bad hotel, a couple of restaurants and a country club to which we belonged.   That said we entertained in our homes and making people welcome and happy was something that was instilled in me from a very early age.   Not to mention, I love creating environments where I get to make people happy.

 

RN: What is your relationship with your home-country? Do you still have ties with Southern Africa?

CC: South Africa is a country rich with history and culture. From the sunny coast to national parks brimming with incredible wildlife, it was a wonderful place to grow up and fortunately I get to visit my family there often. An important part of my collaboration with Dempsey & Carroll, is that it gives back to the youth of South Africa. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to Lalela Project, a charity that provides educational arts to children in extreme poverty.

 

RN: Dempsey & Carroll and Colin Cowie have collaborated on a new collection of fine papers. What was the inspiration for these new designs?

CC: When most people think of a trip to South Africa, their thoughts go immediately to safaris, game drives and the iconic Big Five – the African elephant, rhino, Cape Buffalo, lion, and leopard- which is where I drew my inspiration for my collection with Dempsey & Carroll. These animals are the embodiment of both strength and beauty. Handwritten notes are a lost art and nothing is more special then getting a letter written on an elegant card. A handwritten note only takes a few minutes and it makes the receiver feel incredibly appreciated.

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RN: In business you are known for being an incredible idea generator. What is the secret to contribute and play with such energy all the time?

CC: I love any event that includes people, food, cocktails and music! Every client and every party is different and I never do the same thing twice. When people ask me which event is my all time favorite, I always say it’s the next one I’m planning. I love to find new ways to push the envelope and create something extraordinary.

 

RN: You are clearly living the dream, but if for some crazy reason you had to choose another profession, what would it be?

CC: I would be a rock star, James Bond or a doctor!

 

RN: Is there a passion that you would like to cultivate in 2015?

CC: I travel a great deal and would love to discover new cultures and learn how other people live and celebrate life.