Homefront: Pop Artist

Childhood summers in Maine imprinted their bright and beautiful colors on Amy Van Aarle’s consciousness — colors that live on in her vivid designs for stationery and dinnerware.

Childhood summers in Maine imprinted their bright, beautiful colors on Amy Van Aarle’s consciousness—colors she now uses in vivid designs for stationery and dinnerware. “The grass was so green, and the sky so blue,” she says. “And it was all so short-lived that you really appreciated it.”

Van Aarle recycles those summer memories as sunny flowers and vibrant citrus fruits for the stationery and design venture that bears her name (it was formerly known as the Little Paper Company) in Manchester-by-the-Sea. She first applied her collage-like sensibility to the advertising and marketing world—a field in which she still works—but would come home nights and experiment with cutting out designs. A year after moving to the Massachusetts coast in 2000, she launched her own stationery business.

Colorful and fun, like Matisse’s paper cutouts but infused with a hip “chick lit” style, Van Aarle’s designs create modern icons: sushi, a cupcake, a simple flower with bright petals. The cards caught the eye of Livia Cowan, owner of Mariposa, the Cape Ann-based tableware manufacturer, and in 2004 the company introduced Van Aarle’s blue-and-white “Let It Snow” line of dishware in time for the holidays. Two more lines, “Fresh Cut” (with flowers) and “Fresh Squeezed” (sporting citrus sections), are now in production, with more on the way.

Next up: Van Aarle is seeking a licensing partner to put her witty designs on textiles. Whatever the medium, color remains key. “Color has its own language,” says Van Aarle. And colorful design, she says, belongs in every aspect of the home. “I grew up feeling like being creative was something you do in life.”

>>Amy Van Aarle, Manchester-by-the-Sea, www.amyvanaarle.com.