A Q&A with artist Paige Gemmel

While she has been creating art and drawing since she was a child, self-taught artist Paige Gemmel took it to another level after her fourth child was born, wanting to both get back into it after a long break and also make a living from it. After a shop bought her first box of ceramic trays, which she handpainted in her garage, she was off. Known for her bold colors and detailed animals, Gemmel sells on Etsy and has had collaborations with such brands as Anthropologie and Spanx.—Andrea Lillo

What mediums do you work in? Do you paint every day?

“I paint in acrylic and interior latex paint. Right now I paint almost every day if possible. It’s the only way I can get enough done with four children on my own.”

You clearly love animals and color. How do you choose your subjects?

“In the beginning I wanted to put a quirky more current spin on the Staffordshire dogs because they are loved by so many and are a classic. They became very popular and I just went with it. I love the symmetry as well, it draws the eye in. I started painting monkeys because I love the mood they convey. I also hate a lot of the monkey art I see so I decided to create my own type of monkeys surrounded by the aesthetic I was drawn to.”

What is your spirit animal?

“I used to say the dolphin and it was very fitting. My life has changed a lot in the past few years and I’ve been through a lot of hard things. When I painted my white stag on orange, my children said that it reminded them of me and that it was my spirit animal. So now it hangs in my bedroom and it is a sign of strength, spirituality and rebirth for me.”

Gemmel’s Sunset Stroll

Do you sell exclusively on Etsy? How do you reach interior designers?

“I sell art prints on Etsy and my pillows and cocktail coasters wholesale to boutiques and home décor shops; originals and commissions I handle directly. My main source of marketing is through Instagram, and it has been a game changer. I also had a booth for two summers at the Atlanta market and reached a ton of new customers there. I’m hoping to do that again.”

Your collaborations have included one with Spanx — not something one associates with art. How did that come about?

A Q&A with artist Paige Gemmel

“Spanx had the idea to combine artists’ work on products while also helping charities. They approached me as its second chosen artist, which was an honor. I loved how the products turned out. I have a lot of respect for [founder Sara Blakely].”

Tell us about your other collaborations/licensed collections and anything on the horizon?

“I did two collections with Anthropologie, one of chairs and rugs and another of tabletop. I’ve been inspired by Anthropologie forever and it was so exciting to work with them. I also did collaborations with luxury handbag maker Mehry Mu and interior designer Michelle Nussbaumer. Currently I have collaborations with Jayes Studio, which does beautiful toleware, cachepots and enameled trays, and [paper product company] Caspari.”

Are there brands you’d like to work with on a collection?

“I’d love to work with some larger big name luxury brands and I’ve wanted to do wallpaper forever.”

What is your personal design aesthetic like at home? Is it as colorful as your artwork?

“I like oversized white or neutral furniture and lots of mixed textures. I am obsessed with great throw blankets and I like pops of color everywhere and bold artwork. I love unusual objects place everywhere or styled on shelves or trays. I collect natural oddities and dog statues. Foo dogs, Staffordshire dogs, etc. I like a mix of chinoiserie, Indian fabric, gold bamboo, wood, antiques. I have a weakness for console tables and Turkish, Persian, Moroccan and Asian rugs, especially the ones with pink in the design. I guess my personal design aesthetic is eclectic as well!”

You have a family. What’s been your experience balancing your career with family life?

“It was hard to fit in enough time for work before I was separated, but now it’s even harder. I fit it in wherever I can day and night and do a lot of replying to messages, etc., from my phone. I have four children and at the moment, because of the pandemic, they are all at home doing college, high school and elementary school virtually. The hardest part is wanting to do the creative part – the painting, coming up with new ideas all of the time – but needing to also handle the business side, the marketing etc.”

Do you own any pets?

“Yes, a huge Harlequin Piebald Great Dane, who is living with my husband at the moment, a black-and-white spotted chihuahau, a black-and-white rabbit and two cats.”

What is your favorite place in the world? Where would you like to go?

“San Francisco and Cashiers, N.C., are two of my happy places and I’m always itching to get back. I’m dying to go back to Europe. Paris, Italy, Greece, Switzerland…..so many places. I have a dream to take a trip to Europe just to go antiquing, visiting markets and abandoned castles and estates.”

An abbreviated version of this interview appeared in the April 2021 issue of Designers Today.