Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Kimberly Senn of Senn & Sons
When advertising exec Kimberly Senn couldn’t find art she loved for her son’s nursery, she pulled out her paintbrushes and drew a happy whale spouting water that extended onto three brightly colored canvases. Then she did what any excited mother-to-be would do—she posted it on Facebook, and got more than “likes.” She got commissions. So at 39 weeks pregnant, Senn found herself in the unexpected position of painting nursery art for friends.
It took another year of steady orders for Senn to believe art could be a second career. She had decided not to return to her account director position at Cutwater in San Francisco and was feeling like she had the hang of the mommy thing to son Hugo. So she incorporated as Senn & Sons (fortuitous, since her second son, Freddie, had yet to be born), set up an Etsy shop, and started posting her nursery art on Pinterest. She painted that whale triptych about 100 times before accepting that she wasn’t going to be able to keep up with demand by hand. So she hired a printing company, and Sprout San Francisco became her first retailer.
Now that Senn and her husband Marty, who is also in advertising, have returned to the Midwest—she grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin—and settled into a home and routine in her husband’s native Edina, she’s ready to “hit the gas” on her business. “I’m in the process of saying yes to everything,” Senn says, only half kidding. She provided the graphics on a collection of accessories and wall hangings called Live & Love MN (available online and at local boutiques). She also collaborated with California-based organizational products company Blue Sky—after meeting the head of licensing and partnerships at a friend’s wedding—on a collection of notebooks and planners that launch this month at Target. The triangles and polka dots in mint green and orange are Senn’s way of staying true to bright, optimistic design—beyond the nursery.
Meanwhile, Senn is turning her nursery drawings into characters—Hugo the Hippo and Freddie the Fox—that will be central to educational products she’s developing for kids. And her nursery art, which starts at $40 for a set of three prints, continues to be popular—especially after making the Wall Street Journal’s gift list last December. Says Senn, “I really love doing it all.”