Brittany Zeller-Holland, the Michigan artist behind Two if by Sea Studios, joined our talented team in April 2016. Since making her Painted Planet debut at Surtex in May, Brittany's artwork has quickly been proven popular among our licensing partners. Her fresh and versatile patterns, illustrations and hand-lettering lend fashion and flair to a wide range of products, and are available for stationery, greeting cards, tableware, gift products, fabric and more!
I am incredibly lucky to have an abundance of creative memories as a child. My family members were very encouraging of my need to build, paint and draw all the time. I drew on my bedroom walls, painted and glued gems to my phone, built things in the woods, and made greeting cards for every celebration from very early on.
What do you draw inspiration from?
Most consistently, I find the forms in nature to be most inspiring. It’s amazing how a simple brush stroke can be the shape of a leaf, petal or cloud. A trip to a museum or library is also endlessly inspiring! I have folders full of photos I’ve taken of artifacts and artwork from around the world. I love all the textures, patterns and icons found in those ancient collections.
Do you have an art education or are you a self-taught?
I have a formal art education. In high school I was lucky enough to have encouraging art instructors and also attended classes and camps outside of the school system including figure drawing, photography and painting classes in high school. After graduation I attended Kendall College of Art & Design and majored in Illustration with a Digital Media focus, ultimately landing an internship at Hallmark and then my first full-time job at Kathy Davis Studios.
The consistent elements in my work are the hand drawn illustrations that are the starting point for every design. Even if the final product is ultimately created on the computer there is something about the edge of a shape drawn with a pen that has a more organic feeling. There is also an energy that comes from most of my designs – they tend to be lively and bright! I often play with watercolors and markers to create layering elements for many collections, which add interest and depth to the compositions.
What medium(s) do you enjoy working with?
I love starting with ink, watercolor and different kinds of markers before scanning elements into my computer and composing them digitally in Photoshop and Illustrator.
Describe the most difficult part of your process.
Getting started!! I have so many ideas in my head each day that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not start anything.
Describe your studio.
I have a small 10x10 studio in my home that never has enough surface space for all my projects and creations. I inevitably end up with piles of ideas scattered on the floor and product and supply boxes overflowing the room. The space is painted a neutral color and has two great windows on the main wall that let lots of light in through the day. Our home is from the 1920s and the floors are the original, so they creak and groan a lot as I move around and have strange gaps. The coolest part is that it’s the first time I’ve had a closet dedicated just to my supplies and product storage! It has a very cute Dutch door and some cowboy wallpaper from the '50s that our landlord won’t let anyone remove and I love.
Do you work in silence or with music?
I listen to podcasts most often. The conversational nature of most makes it feel like I’m in a work space with other people, so I don’t get so lonely and disconnected feeling. Some of my favorites are Note to Self, The JV Club with Janet Varney, The Longest Shortest Time, Stuff Mom Never Told You, On Being and Why Do We Have Things.
Is there a piece or project that you are especially proud of? Why?
I was especially excited when Rock Your Baby contacted me from Australia to use one of my patterns on a dress for little girls. I’ve always thought so much of my work would work well for children’s clothing and to have that come to fruition was thrilling! I would also say that I’m most proud of my leap to become my own boss full-time. It was really hard to make the transition from being part of a team, and I do miss it sometimes, but the creativity and freedoms I enjoy now are well worth the struggles and moments of doubt that creep in on occasion.
What are your goals for the future?
Consistent growth as an artist, collaboration with other makers and continuing to find joy in the work I do every day are my goals.
I would love to work with another maker to develop a line of products, especially something handcrafted in the United States or even locally in Michigan. Partnering with a ceramicist on some tableware pieces incorporating my illustrations or providing patterned textiles to a furniture designer would be a dream!
What is your favorite color?
I always default to cool colors like turquoise and aqua, but it really depends on the season. Right now I’m draw to really deep navy blues and olive greens.
If you were not an artist what would you do?
I would probably be working at a non-profit or doing something related to social justice and awareness in our communities. There is so much need in the world and I often feel my career doesn’t contribute to bettering the community as much as I would like.
What are your hobbies (besides art)?
I LOVE to travel and especially to remote destinations! Planning trips could be a full-time passion project for me if my husband, Dylan, and I could take more time off from work. Researching a destination and planning the point-to-point travel within a country or region is probably my favorite thing to do besides drawing and painting. I always say I feel most like myself when I’m traveling. The goal is to not only find spots where we can’t hear a car or see another person on a hiking trail, but also to learn about the world and see how other cultures live differently. It keeps you grounded in what really matters and how simplifying life can create an advantage as the world around us evolves. On an average weekend I spend my free time reading, taking yoga classes and getting fresh air with our dog, Nellie. (And we just got a canoe, so that will be added to the list soon!)