November 11, 2011

Initial Impressions

Monograms. When I was growing up my grandparents had monogrammed everything. Napkins, silverware... even the glasses had the engraved KFA (my mother's parents Kenneth and Freda Adams)... and when you went to the cabinet for a drink (back then it was milk) I wanted one of those glasses and one of those linen napkins that matched, just like the adults. My other grandparents opted for the single letter T on antique linen from 100 years ago and the single letter on the silverware. Although you see the single initials popular today on napkins or on doormats (easy automation of non-custom details) you don't see elaborate, custom monograms very often... or if you do, they're pretty standard and not very wonderful.

I was tooling around online a few years ago and I located and met Caroline Brackenridge of Monogram Inc.... she does amazing work. I reconnected with her recently and we talked about her creativity, her business and about Phoebe...her dog.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Long Island, Vermont and Bermuda. I moved into NYC and worked various jobs: Town & Country Magazine, Grey Advertising, as a studio manager/assistant to a fashion photographer, and eventually for the largest commercial film production company in NY as a production manager for many years. I currently live in NYC with my Bernese Mountain dog, Phoebe.


How did decide to start your monogram business?
I was on vacation in the Caribbean. We were staying in a house where they had the most beautiful hand embroidered antique linens. It occurred to me that no one was doing this anymore and it might be time to take advantage of bringing this beautiful craft back to life again in a more modern way. When I returned home I did some research to find that there actually wasn't anyone out there that did this anymore. So I collaborated with some embroidery companies, found linen suppliers and taught myself how to draw in this very strange and precise kind of way. I quit the film business eventually and devoted myself to creating beautiful monograms that were representative of the heirlooms that I have always admired. Hand embroidery, or hand-guided embroidery were the only methods back in the day, but modern technology has given us the opportunity to digitize the monogram for the embroidery machine. This enables us to re-size according to the project and it comes out the same every time. We can change colors for different environments, etc.

Click on photo above to enlarge.

You just don't do monograms, you also do heraldic crests and create other art… what are some of your favorite examples.
I like to take a client's crest and combine it with their initials underneath. There is a great deal of elegance in this and the combination creates a nice balance. Sometimes a client will have an obsession with their dog or something else in their life that is important. I love the challenge of developing the something that represents their love of life.

Click on photo above to enlarge.

Say that I would want a personal monogram, what would be some questions you'd ask me as part of the interview to draw up the design?
I ask my clients to go onto my website. If there is anything there that appeals to them, this will give me a place to start. If a client wants to incorporate another element whether it be their favorite flower or something else then I try to accomodate that request. I draw up some preliminary drawings. We discuss these and I make the necessary revisions. The customer then decides to move on to embroidery on linens or camera ready artwork for stationery. All jobs are a new challenge and love creating a design that is very personal to the customer.

Click on photo above to enlarge.

What haven't you done that you'd love to do?
To spend hours and hours in bookstores in Europe looking for inspiration. Everything inspires me, but I am always hungry for more and usually have a camera with me.

Knowing that you have your monograms applied expertly to everything from linen to crystal ( I heard your engraver is retired from Tiffany&Co.), what would you say is the most unusual application of your monograms to date?
Most of my clients are traditional. They prefer beautiful linens, stationery and sometimes engraving on silver or etching on glass. I continue to work with the best artisans in the business and we are all proud of our work. If I don't do the actual work for them, then I really don't know how the client intends on using it. Hopefully the monogram will not be over-used and always in good taste.

Click on photos to enlarge.

What are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving?
I am thankful everyday. When my feet hit the ground every morning I consider it a great day! I'm also thankful for my friends & family and especially my 94-year-old mother who is in good health.