Will you share with me your journey into entrepreneurship and how Saint Signora came to be?
It's been a long road. My journey has taken me down several paths...first it was art school, then photography and finally calligraphy. The wedding world of stationary is what ultimately led to antiques. But, first, let me back up. I've always loved old things. When I was a little girl I grew up dreaming of living in an old historic home. I fell in love with the romantic notion of knowing other souls had graced a home with their lives. One could say antiquing or "junking" runs in the blood...my grandfather was a big flea (and junk) market attendee...I'm not sure he ever really found anything of note, but I'm told my passion for antiques lies with him.
When I became a wedding stationer, I found myself in a world of constant beauty. I have been blessed to work with some of the best photographers and stylists in the industry and from them I've picked up wonderful jewels of knowledge that that has led to the creation of my product imagery. It was during one of these meeting of the creative minds, I decided to add in a few antique pieces to my Signora e Mare brand. I was teaching calligraphy at a workshop in France and my friend and I were in a Parisian antique market, when the idea to sell antiques struck. I packed my suitcase with little French pharmacy bags, pencils, boxes and books. When I returned home, I put the pieces on my website and they all sold out in a day. I realized I'd landed on something truly special. No one was marketing small antiques like this and there was a demand for it. The feedback was so wonderful and positive - I couldn't believe it. What started as a little idea, blossomed. From that point on, I was hooked. I sold antique pieces with my calligraphy name for a few years while simultaneously working on wedding stationary...ultimately, graduating to "Saint Signora". The Saint of Heirlooms is what I like to call her.
Your shop is so well curated and your styling is so impactful. I find myself craving to be transported into your images. What does your creative process look like?
Wow, thank you so much. What a compliment! Because I am selling in an online presence rather than a physical, I attempt to evoke the same sort of feeling one would experience if they walked into a brick and mortar shop with my photography. Each time I take a photograph, I'm attempting to encapsulate a feeling and an environment in which a client would see themselves possessing the piece/product within the image. To create the images, I typically start with a concept and elaborate from there. I'm influenced by many factors, but most important is the "mood". What do I want the buyer/client to feel when they look at the images? If a buyer/client can visualize themselves with the piece in question by looking at the image, then I've done my job. I think many times, the world of antiques (and entrepreneurship) is completely romanticized. People don't see the pure grit and time it takes to not only discover unique pieces, but to locate the provenance, concept, style and photograph it. Someone once told me, if you're in the antique business, you do it for love, not money.
Did you have any formal training or education in the areas that encompass your business or are you self taught?
Overall, I'm completely self taught. I studied advertising and graphic design in undergrad and went on to learn graphic design in grad school. I taught myself film and digital photography. This skillset has allowed me to be a sort of one- woman show when working on my branding or creating and promoting my imagery and products.
You have taken your love for preserving antiquities full circle into the renovation and stewardship of a historic home. How do you approach living a modern lifestyle while respecting the past?
Balance. Balance is key when using antiques in today's home. Too many antiques and you feel like you're in a museum, too few and a space can appear too contrived or sterile. I'm constantly after my husband (who incidentally has a habit of bringing in and hiding pieces through our home so I won't remove or sell, haha!) to make sure we don't override our home with too many. If you balance antiques with modern furnishings, linens and lighting a space will have layers of interest, meaning and a sincere feel within its environment..it becomes a space you want to LIVE in.
What is your favorite way to feast?
I love the pomp and circumstance of large dinner parties; however, my favorite way to entertain is with a few friends and in our kitchen. We have the most lovely 19th century live-edge European Trestle table- its colors vary throughout. I love to swathe it in antique linens and adorn with Victorian pitchers of David Austin roses from the garden when in season. Serving ware is usually a medley of antique and vintage pieces we have collected and found through travels. Nothing matches, which I find gives a more casual and layered effect. And just as important as the table embellishments? The atmosphere. Music and light are the two main contributing factors and those vary depending on what I am preparing for the table, but mostly it's a medley of favorites such as Etta James, Ryan Bingham, Future Birds or Leon Bridges.
all photos courtesy of Katie Hyatt @saintsignora