[Click link to see the rest of the Cuteville County Fair line.]
Cathy Heck Studio is a mother-daughter design team with studios in Austin, Texas and Berkeley, California. Cathy began licensing her designs twenty-eight years ago and has become well-known for her classic illustrations for children and babies. Many of Cathy's iconic collections can be found online at Cathy Heck Nursery Art, a site where you can custom-select illustrated monograms and letters to spell you children's names in art.
Ellen grew up around the studio and even had her own little desk next to Cathy's from the time she was two years old. She now loves printmaking of all kinds, and when she's not printing on an etching press, she's making patterns on the computer. Ellen officially joined the design team at Cathy Heck Studio in 2006 and since then, she and Cathy have had a blast creating new designs and collections.
She and Ellen love to post on their mother-artist/daughter-artist blog and are often sharing new project ideas, news from the studios, and fun best bets from around Texas and California.
hg: Where do you live? Where is your studio and can you tell us a little about the studio?
Cathy: The Texas studio is perched right on top of our home in central Austin. We actually live on one of the highest "mountains" in the area, but to people from other parts of the country, it might be considered more of a hill. However, we can see for miles, and do have to remind ourselves to look up from our drawing tables every now and then and drink it all in!
Ellen: The California studio is just four blocks from the enticing Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley. It's very handy to be able to take a break from drawing to choose the pizza flavor of the day at The Cheese Board, or walk by the delectable scents emanating from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse.
hg: Did you go to art school?
Cathy: I graduated with a fine arts degree from the University of Texas, with an emphasis in advertising design. I actually began my career as an art director at the advertising agency, Young & Rubicam in New York. I began illustrating full-time after an agent approached me while I was working at Y&R. I have been illustrating ever since.
Ellen: I first graduated with a philosophy degree, but then decided to return to my love of art, and received a degree in Printmaking from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During my time there, I began working part-time for the studio from afar, and it worked very well. After graduating, I was able to continue to work with my mom, just like I did as a toddler!
hg: How do you design? By hand, computer?
Cathy and Ellen: We begin the process brainstorming with each other. Then we decide who will draw what and start most of our projects with original artwork created with either watercolor, gouache, pencil or pen. Sometimes we even finish one another's artwork, which is always a fun surprise for each of us. No matter how we start, we finish our files digitally, both of us comfortable with Photoshop and Illustrator.
We thought you might like to see a little bit of the process that takes place when we create our collections. Here is the evolution of a little goat, one of our favorite Cuteville critters.
hg: What is it like to work as a family-run business?
Cathy: I adore it. Jim, my husband of 34 years, has negotiated our contracts and taken care of the business-y side of things for the entire life of Cathy Heck Studio. And we were so happy when Ellen came on board. She is very prolific and brings a fresh new look to our offerings, and, since she has watched the way collections have been made through the years, she truly understands the importance of meeting a deadline. In fact, all of our daughters (we have three) have helped with the many tasks that go along with having an art studio, some of which are not quite as exciting as creating a new drawing. Just ask Jules, who has created many a mock-up and Margaret, who has cut and folded miles of fat-quarters.
Ellen: I love being able to work with my family. I am thankful every day that even though we live far apart, we can be so connected. We have a lot of quality time together working on creative projects, brainstorming, and celebrating and it's great to get to see each other not only for major holidays, but also at trade shows in different cities around the country.
hg: Where else have you licensed your art?
Cathy and Ellen: Our collections have been licensed for paper products through C.R. Gibson for about 28 years ... they were one of our first clients. And for many years, we created vast numbers of stickers and scrapbooking supplies for Frances Meyer, one of the first companies to embrace the scrapbooking world. Our collections have also been licensed for kitchen textiles, beach towels, needlework kits, blankets, giftware, gift wrap, infant bedding, board books and dinnerware.
hg: Do you like any other crafts? Do you sew?
Cathy: YES! I love all crafts. But oddly, although we have been creating fabrics for years, I had not learned to sew, except for a brief time in 7th grade Home Ec when I made a wrap-around skirt that never really wrapped around correctly. HOWEVER, for Christmas this year, Santa surprised me with a sewing machine, and I am taking Beginning Quilting classes as we speak. I LOVE it. Happily, Ellen learned to sew despite her sewing-challenged mom, and has been making all of our mock-ups, but I will be joining her soon!
Ellen: I'm a huge fan of modern, scrappy quilts. We have a great modern quilt guild here in Berkeley (several in the Bay Area) and it's fun to meet new people there, see their amazing work, be inspired, and also find out what kinds of fabrics they like most. It's so much fun and really informs some of our choices when we are designing a new fabric group. Also, I love shopping for fabric - does that count as a craft? I think it should!
hg: Tell us about yourself. Family? Pets?
Cathy: Well, you already know about our family, since we are all so much a part of the studio. But, I haven't mentioned one family member that we all love and adore: our handsome mutt, Neville. He looks a little bit like a scary wolf, but he has a heart of gold, and is very patient as we dress him up when needed for a blog post or holiday cheer.
Ellen: We can't have any animal pets (our apartment building won't allow them), but my sweet husband of almost five years and I have a collection of rare succulents that we started when we came to Berkeley. When we need the companionship of four legged friends, we go to the local dog park and admire other people's amazing animals. Maybe one day!
hg: Anything else you can share with us?
Cathy and Ellen: We would like to add that we love working with everyone at Henry Glass. We are very excited about the many DIY projects that they are able to offer using our new collection, Cuteville County Fair, including an entire baby nursery! We look forward to creating even more. And, we can't wait to see the fun projects that Henry Glass fans create with the new designs.
hg: Thank you for the amazing interview! We will see you at Quilt Market. For those of you going to Quilt Market, Cathy Heck Studio will be doing a demo at our booth. Details to follow. In the meanwhile, you can find more of their work and inspiration below.
For licensing, please visit:
For daily life in the studio, please visit our blog:
Create personalized nursery art from our new interactive site: