Meet Kaye Blegvad


Kaye Blegvad is an illustrator and general maker-of-things, born and raised in London and now based in Brooklyn. As well as working as an illustrator, Kaye makes ceramic sculptures and homewares, a line of jewelry under the name Datter Industries, and runs Horizontal Press, a grubby small press. 

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Photography by Maggie Shannon

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Shopping is not my favorite activity. I usually try to get in and out of a store as quickly as possible, and I only really go to stores that happen to be nearby. I like Alter and Wolves Within, both are small boutiques near my studio in Greenpoint. And I go to Aritzia because it’s right by where I get supplies in the diamond district. Otherwise if I realize I need something, I tend to buy several variations online, try them on, and then return almost all of them. Minimal time commitment.
My routine is pretty simple - wake up, immediately throw myself in the shower, feed the cat, make a coffee, leave for the studio.
I only discovered Vivian Gornick’s work this year, and it’s completely blown my mind. This book is non-linear, riveting memoir, focussing mainly on her relationship with her mother. But it also deals with her relationships to men, to other women, femininity in general, work, the world. I love reading her almost stream-of-consciousness writing, and I relate to a lot of it, stronger than I’ve related to much writing before. Now I’ve got to read everything she’s ever written.
My aesthetic I guess is pretty much… comfortable black clothes. I occasionally throw some grey or navy in there if I’m really feeling ostentatious. I wear a lot of shapeless black sacks, black jeans, black or white tshirts. I don’t like to feel conspicuous in what I’m wearing, and I don’t really like having to think about what I’m going to wear on any given day. I end up getting rid of clothes that mean I have to worry if something is too tight to eat a meal in, or I can’t run for the bus in those shoes, or I can’t bend down in that without flashing my underwear. I just want to be unrestricted and only semi-visible.

Kaye's favorite books

I’m a third generation illustrator - my grandfather, my father, and now me. I did toy with the idea of doing fine art or textile design when I was a teenager, but really it’s been a pretty inevitable path. My degree was in illustration, and I’ve been working as an illustrator ever since. I do work in a lot of other ways too - I make 3D work, textiles, products, jewelry - but it all feels related to illustration in the end. It’s all drawing based and all trying to communicate an idea, I guess.
Both my parents are amazing artists. My dad’s work has a more obvious link to mine - he’s an illustrator and his subject matter tends to be a little dark and surreal, which has definitely fed into my work. Aesthetically his work is quite different, but you can see that the connection is there. My mum is a painter, and her work tends toward the joyful and celebratory - something I don’t do enough - but her use of line work, texture, elements of abstraction, color choices - all those have definitely been an influence on me too.
I kind of feel like I must have missed a day in school where they taught everyone about makeup and skin care, and as a result I’m pretty clueless. I’ve had phases where I make a good effort to use a face wash or a fancy moisturizer or something, but usually after a month or two I determine that it’s made no difference and give up. I use a prescription acne wash (so glamorous) and I have an oil cleanser that a friend recommended, which I like, though I don’t really know if it does anything. It makes me feel like I’m being virtuous though, when I remember to use it. I’m equally clueless about make up. All the products I use are things friends told me were good, and I diligently bought them. So occasionally I put on tinted moisturizer and concealer, or mascara if I’m pulling out all the stops. And I wear lipstick when I want to feel tough.

Top, H&M ; Shorts, Vintage

New York feels like it has more opportunities for me, at the moment at least. Most of the freelance work I get is from clients based in New York, and I think it helps to just be present here. It’s also better from a business point of view - I’ve found it easier to find suppliers and manufacturers here than it was in London. There’s a lot of really interesting work happening in Brooklyn, and I feel lucky to know a lot of inspiring people here, making illustration and products and running creative businesses. Of course all that happens in London too, but somehow it feels like there’s a little more variety here. It makes me want to keep working hard and keep moving forward.
Jewelry started very much as a hobby for me, just making things that I wanted to wear for myself. And then somehow it took off and became a real business, kind of without my realizing it. The nice thing about jewelry is that it’s easy to make multiples of the same thing - because all my pieces are cast, once you have a mold, you can make as many as you want. So it was fairly easy for it to grow, in a way that it wouldn’t be easy with ceramics. But I’ve really tried to resist letting it turn into a Real Fashion Brand. I don’t make seasonal collections, and only release new pieces when I’ve made things I’m genuinely excited about. Sometimes that takes a long time, and it definitely isn’t a great business model, but I really don’t want to churn stuff out just for the sake of it. Gotta have some belief in what you’re making.
Ceramics has always been a bit of a side line for me - something I do to try to relax or have fun. I’ve been very reticent to let it turn into Real Work! I don’t wholesale my ceramics, and don’t make any pieces to order - I go to a ceramics studio once a week, and just make what I want to make. It’s nice keeping it kind of personal. It all relates to my other work, of course, but I like not having deadlines or pressure with it, especially because it’s such an unpredictable process. Whenever I did try to make things to order, those would be the pieces that went wrong - too much heartbreak!
I’m really inspired by ancient jewelry, artifacts, talismans - I have a huge archive of images of Ancient Greek, Egyptian, Roman jewelry. I love the simplicity and power in those designs. I hope to make things that channel a little bit of that, and that hopefully can be worn for a long time. At least, that’s my excuse for not making seasonal collections. It’s quite special to hear from customers what a piece of jewelry means to them. I’ve had people purchase jewelry as reminders to themselves of surviving a tough time, or matching pieces for a mother and daughter, or wedding rings, or for sisters to wear to remind them of each other. That feels very valuable. I’m glad to have made things that people find meaningful.

Top, Vintage

I’m working on a lot of new product-type work at the moment. I have a new collection of jewelry about to come out, after a long hiatus. It’s been exciting rediscovering that process and that part of my brain. I’m also working on some metal homewares - coat hooks, incense holders, bottle openers. But figuring out the manufacturing side of those has proven much harder than I expected. So I spend a lot of time emailing with big industrial factories. I’m also working on various personal projects - zines, collections of drawings, a series of sculptures. Oh, and candles. I’m making a lot of impractical, kind of conceptual candles? I’ve trashed my kitchen with pouring wax and storing all the supplies. I hope they might see the light of day one day, but who knows. It’s a steep learning curve and another impractical business model!

Pajamas by Kaye

My best advice is something that was said to me when I was starting out: make the work you wish you were being hired to do. It’s good to hope you’ll get hired to do interesting things, but until those jobs come to you, do it for yourself. I wanted to make jewelry, and it could have been cool if a company had hired me to design jewelry for them, but they didn’t, so I made it myself. Many of my friends had their careers start the same way. Same with self publishing, and textiles, and anything really - you start making it for yourself, and eventually clients will start coming to you for it. Allow me to mis-quote Field of Dreams here: If you build it, they will come.




✓ I like Lover's Rock in Bed Stuy. Good Music and a good backyard.

✓ Turkey's Nest for taking you to a dark place.

✓ Doris for taking you to a lighter place.

✓ Doctor's Cave Cafe on Marcy Av. Such Good homemade food and lovely people.

✓ Paulie Gees for Fancy Pizza.

✓ The dollar pizza place near Nostrand Ave station for actually pretty good pizza, at the right price.