Kirsten Sevig is an illustrator from Minnesota who loves to paint. She has become known for her gnome watercolors that appear on her popular stationery sets from her brand, Striped Pear Studio. She currently lives in Vermont with her husband and son. You can find all of Kirsten’s products here.
“I definitely believe, very strongly, in the power of having joyful things around you, and color.”
Kirsten Sevig has a “ridiculously Norwegian” family: her mother from Kristiansand, on the Southern tip of Norway, and her father’s parents from Karmøy. In the summers they would travel back from Minnesota to visit relatives and keep up their language skills. Kirsten can still get by with her Norwegian but admits that after a short while, she gets the occasional weird look.
Kirsten’s parents, Mike and Else, are musical performers and have published CDs and books featuring Norwegian songs. Kirsten and her sister Mari also took part in the “family band” as kids.
On the cover of Mike & Else’s Norwegian Songbook, all four are posing in bunads. Kirsten has a memory of tilting her head and pursing her lips just so, to emulate her sister’s classic pose. To her disappointment, Mari was simply smiling for the camera. “I started performing with my parents when I was three years old. Sometimes I would be pulled out of school, if my mom had laryngitis, and I would do the duets with my dad if he had a gig.”
Art and creative expression have always been a part of Kirsten’s life. She talked about going to the laundromat with her mom,
“My mom would give me a pair of scissors and I would really happily cut things out of the magazine. I would cut actual objects out and follow the outlines of things, and I could entertain myself for a long time with that. My mom was a home-ec teacher and an art teacher so she always gave me plenty of things to create with, and I was always drawn to it as a kid. Anything creative I was drawn to. Performing, dancing, singing, drawing, anything like that.”
As times of isolation and quarantine have been difficult for all of us, I asked Kirsten if the pandemic has been a time for creating or collecting her artistic work. “I haven’t been able to do as much of my creative work and that usually has always helped me feel better and given me more balance.” Kirsten was isolated, or in a mini “pandemic,” before COVID came to the United States. She moved to Vermont from Minnesota and shortly after had a baby boy, Huckleberry. Along with navigating a new social scene and a new family member, her husband was diagnosed with celiac disease. Restaurants were no longer an option and cooking at home became the new normal. In a way, she felt prepared for pandemic life and not much changed. She is grateful for the distraction that caring for another person provides. “I’m someone who suffers from anxiety and it’s really nice to have a little kid to focus on, it takes my brain away from panicking or feeling sorry for myself.”
“Huckleberry has been such a bright spot in my life, he’s just really adorable, really cute; it’s so fun taking care of such a happy cute kid.”
Before she started her own brand, Striped Pear Studios, in 2015, Kirsten and her husband Chris lived in Reykjavík, Iceland. They experienced life there before the big tourism boom, which peaked in 2017 as visitors overtook fishing as the largest economic industry. Kirsten couldn’t work and spent her time painting freely and thinking about the future of her work. She began posting more frequently on Instagram and grew a large following. By 2016 she had the idea to design a line of stationary with her designs on them, which continue to be wildly popular! When asked if she intended to market her designs to the Scandinavian population, Kirsten said it wasn’t a conscious decision, but the places she gets her inspiration and the culture she grew up in were influential.
Kirsten’s products are extremely intentional and reflect many common Nordic values. “I wanted to find paper that felt like what I paint on, I didn’t want anything shiny, everything recycled, printed locally, earth friendly inks, to make a product I was proud of.” In addition to several card series, Kirsten has had her designs printed on wine bags, totes, and has dreams of designing a knit blanket with her illustrations. She also hopes to write and illustrate her own children’s book!
Kirsten still finds ways to experience joy, in ways big and small inside her home. Huckleberry has started to paint and has his own book of paper. Kirsten began to add things on top of his paintings, in a collaboration. She’s enjoyed seeing how he holds the brush and is learning things from his style. Painting on cardboard is another project Kirsten has played around with during quarantine. “Everyone orders things online!” She emphasized that you don’t need anything special to create, we can all use what we have available to us.
As far as other future products in the works, Kirsten hinted at a series of porridge bowls featuring some of her gnome designs. This month, she released two new card packs: Up North Notes and Springtime Gnome Notes! In them you’ll find watercolor images of cabin life, local animals, and gnomes foraging, jumping into puddles, and more. The Springtime Gnomes have also found their way into a book, available here.
Her entire collection of products that Ingebretsen’s carries can be found here!