Christen Treat. Recently I traveled back to Southern Italy, rabbits in tow, for the pleasure of swinging by Christen Treat's studio in Pozzuoli/Lago Patria area. In all reality, she lives in Cuma, I know because I walked back from her studio visit (six kilometers). Side note: If you haven't heard of Cuma, look it up so you can have the pleasure of picturing Mrs. Treat looking out her studio window over the first place on the boot ever settled by the Greeks, as she paints. As you can imagine she used to paint a lot of tulips in Holland and now, living in Italy, grapes and poppies are starting to invade...
Sitting across from Christen on her patio overlooking the islands of Ischia and Procida I started to recall our first meeting... I met Christen about a year ago, while living in Naples, Italy. I was lingering in a leather factory to pass some time after school and she was with a group of her friends. I was playfully trying on some deputant gloves and she came over and told me about actually wearing elbow length gloves at events with her husband in Holland. She told the story with such vigor and with such a gentle smile, it made me homesick. She was so supportive of the gloves I had in hand, I ended up buying a pair of those gloves and added blue fur. I am not sure how I knew it, but I could tell that she was an artist. She has piercing blue eyes, tan skin, an elegant, self assured nature and she is one of my favorite americans met abroad. She began telling me about painting ornaments, wooden shoes, pregnant bellies and a list of utilitarian objects. At the time, I wrote this off as crafty. I was wrong. During our recent interview this past week she showed me some of her most recent projects. She really does have a Wandering Paintbrush. My current Christen fav is a poppy adorned stool with a palette that would silence Martha Stewart and belongs in Nieman Marcus Home Store. Do they have one of those?
I was only in Italy for about 6 days but seeing Mrs Christen was at the top of my list. Although she only has 3 pieces of work on KESS, she is a top seller. Her work and fan bases are unprecedented. The reason for her lack of KESS work is because in her words "I hate canvases" She would rather paint on objects that can be moved and held. What I love about Christen is her humility, her humor and her support of other artists. Her home is full of original art and I applaud her participation in what I would call "the slow art movement" She gets just as excited to talk about her collections as her own work. The work KESS has was painted for KESS back in April just before our launch. I wanted Christen to be involved in what we were doing and I put a great deal of pressure on her. Ironically, the Bicycle, which is our best selling piece, was the first canvas she had painted in 10 years. Granted her first painting was a mural so this lady can handle painting pressure.
In Christen's kitchen pantry is an outstanding collection of dishes called Emma Dishes. These beauties are hand painted with funny phrases and as Christen says - they cost a fortune. Her collection was impressive but what was even more impressive was what each dish represented. Every time Christen sold a painted pair of shoes, while living in Holland, she would go and buy a dish. It's funny, this woman has very little work in her home and it's because she sells it all. In other words, she has a lot of dishes!
As we talked Christen fielded calls from Italian neighbors, fed three dogs(she's currently dog sitting one), showed me her expansive herb garden, talked about her recent trip to the states to drop her eldest son off at college, shared her plans to decorate her daughters locker for her sweet 16 and conveyed a peace that only living in Italy can do to a person. If you have the pleasure of owning one of her originals or even a KESS piece, you will have a bit of her peace and that makes me happy. I mention this last because I know that as a supportive Military wife, this part of Christen's life can become her identity to some. We have a few military spouses as part of our contributing KESS artist group, painting or designing away in all corners of the globe and it's my great pleasure to be a small part in helping those supportive, sometimes overshadowed spouses gain a little of their own notoriety, respect and praise. Moving around the world to support your spouse in supporting our country whilst maintaining your family, your friends and your identity is no easy challenge. I have been so impressed with the military wives I encountered in Naples and Christen is at the top of the list. Please take a gander at her work on Kess or take a look at her website. Give her a shout out, she's earned it.