A Modern Victorian Surrealist Cabinet of Curiosity
Adding wallpaper to your space is about inviting life, inspiration, and art into your home and, in a way, into your identity. The perfect wallpaper can add a special touch to quench your soul and truly make your space feel impeccably customized just for you.
MUSE wallpapers aim to do exactly that, and we partner with some very special artists to expand our offerings to help you find that perfect wallpaper match. Today our Co-Founder and Design Director, Emily, talks with one of our wallpaper artists, Naomi McCavitt, to learn about her and the inspiration behind her truly exceptional wallpaper collection.
Naomi’s focus is on naturalist elements, painted in gouache and crafted with painstaking detail to render a luxuriously lifelike effect. We’re excited to share more about her and her wallpaper with you today.
Emily: Hi, Naomi. Thanks for chatting with us. For our blog readers, can you tell me about your background and how you got into art?
Naomi: I started making art as a kid. I was always cutting up my books and adding to them or working on a collage or drawing. I can remember looking at a picture of the Mona Lisa and asking my mom how DaVinci got his paint to look so smooth and shiny.
In high school I had an amazing teacher, Tatiana Garmendia, who encouraged me to take my painting further and taught me some traditional techniques like underpainting. I was too young to really get it at the time, but this traditional technique would come up again years later. In graduate school I had another wonderful teacher, Brett Reichman, who taught me traditional oil painting technique, and at that time I could fully absorb the information.
Around then I was looking at a lot of early naturalist artists like John James Audubon and Maria Sibylla Merian. Observational nature painting started to become my focus, though at the time it was much more surreal and juxtaposed with other allegorical elements.
I taught drawing at my undergrad alma matter for five years after getting my masters and continued to paint, but in a sort of unfocused way. Those years were tough, I didn’t make much money teaching and had to wait tables to make ends meet, which left very little time for my own work.
"Those years were tough, I didn’t make much money teaching and had to wait tables to make ends meet..."
It wasn’t until I took a job making art for the home décor industry that I was able to get my stride back and begin painting again every day. I worked for a company that produced art on a mass scale for furniture retailers like Crate and Barrel, Ethan Allen, and Cost Plus World Market. In this position I was able to paint 8 hours a day for a living and, as an added bonus, I was combining two loves that I didn’t see as related before — interior design and art.
This was challenging and fun, making art for specific clients, and creating for design trends. We looked at mood boards and trends in design and fashion mags and made work that fit. I loved it.
Around this time I got commissioned by The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to do an illustration for some tee shirts and other merchandise which was used to benefit their conservation arm. That one illustration led to commissions from them for many more species illustrations of native plants and animals.
I continue to work for them today as a contracted illustrator. The combination of these two experiences along with my yearly contract with Department of Game led me to decide to start my own business, Thicket Design, creating custom illustrations and home décor products with my art. Thicket Design is a fusion of fine art, naturalism, and home décor.
"...I was combining two loves that I didn’t see as related before — interior design and art."
E: I know home decor murals are a big part of your work at this time, and that you were recently featured in Design Sponge for a commissioned mural. The way you incorporate nature into a home, bringing the outside inside, but in a way that elevates style, is really special. Which makes us curious...what about your home? How would you describe your decor style?
N: Modern Victorian Surrealist Cabinet of Curiosity [laughs]
E: Do you have a favorite decor item in your home right now?
N: We have a MCM loveseat that we bought at a thrift store and a friend reupholstered for us in green watercolor fabric. I also have a lot of specimens and some taxidermy bought from second hand sources that lend a Natural History museum vibe to the place.
E: Not many people aim for “Natural History Museum vibe” for their home, but I think it suits you perfectly! Which of your wallpapers or murals do you think best matches your decor aesthetic? Do you have a favorite?
N: It’s tough to pick a favorite — I really like them all! But the dark floral wall mural, For My Love, is pretty striking. That painting was made from a photograph of a bouquet that my friend grew. She has a flower and medicinal plant farm and photographed the bouquet for me to paint from. Such a fun collaboration! I like how it turned out and I think it sort of feels like you are inside a painting instead of just hanging a painting on the wall. We have this one up in our living room, with an emerald velvet sofa in front.
"...it sort of feels like you are inside a painting instead of just hanging a painting on the wall."
E: Yes! We actually show a photo of it on the website! I love how you’ve styled it. Are you working on any new wallpapers or murals? Any new endeavors?
N: I have a ton of commissioned murals coming up, and we are releasing our new line of products at Thicket Design later this summer. I’ll also be working on some new chinoiserie paintings with birds and flowers.
E: I’ve been waiting for a new chinoiserie mural from you! Maybe something like your Design Sponge feature? Selfishly, I think it would be perfect for my dining room, which has a big bay window looking onto the woods. Speaking of upcoming products and art, where do you find inspiration for new wallpaper designs? You seem to have an endless supply!
N: In nature! I love pouring over naturalist prints and biological reference books. Home décor blogs and magazines, as well as very traditional wallpaper, like de Gournay and Gracie, also provide a lot of inspiration.
E: Do you listen to music while you paint?
N: Yes, I’m always making mixes to listen to while working. Currently on my mix is:
- Emily King
- Mulatu Astatke (from the Ethiopiqes Vol 4 compilation of Ethiopean jazz 1969-74)
- John Maus
- Bonnie Raitt (Streetlights)
- Youssou N’Dour
- AA Bondy
- Francis and the Lights
- Le Tigre
- Weyes Blood
E: Nice! I think I’ll be making a Naomi-inspired playlist in the near future. Thank you so much for chatting with us, Naomi.
You can connect with Naomi on Instagram @thicketdesign and see her full collection of wallpapers and murals here.