I was born in 1952. I grew up with one brother and four sisters in Plymouth, Massachusetts where most of my large extended family still lives. My pals were the horses, dogs, cats, chickens, pigs and cows that populated the fields surrounding us. My inspiration still comes from them as well as the turtles, bullfrogs, fish and dragonflies on Forge's Pond. In those days we shared Plymouth beach with fewer inhabitants; mostly seagulls, terns and a small herd of swollen overturned fishing boats ripe with starfish, barnacles and tiny crabs.
My name is real. It once belonged to the daughter of Elder William Brewster, the spiritual leader of the Mayflower and my eleventh great-grandfather. As children we were humbled by the story of outcast pilgrims making a treacherous journey toward freedom worthy of sacrifice, landing on an icy Plymouth beach in stark December, with no shelter, no provisions, nor promises to greet them. My family is descended from Love Brewster.
My first real job was as a guide in the Harlow House in Plymouth. Dressed as a pilgrim, I showed tourists how to take a handful of wool or flax clean it, spin it and weave it into cloth.
As far back as I can remember, I drew pictures. When my sister Marlee went to Rhode Island School of Design, I thought it was amazing that there were colleges just for art. I later attended Philadelphia College of Art. I had two exceptional teachers there, Doris Staffel and Lilly Yeh whose words I still hear today.
My degree in printmaking and bookmaking qualified me for immediate employment as a cook, a teddy bear salesperson, and a barmaid. Next I ran an antique store and gallery. All the while I was a closet painter, heaping up a towering portfolio.
In 1977 I married Holland Chauncey Gregg and, a year later, he was the one who convinced me to come out of the woods and take some of that portfolio to New York City.
Knees knocking, I met with rejection and delight. Random House and T.Y. Crowell both asked me to write a picture book. I did just that. My first story was so bad that it went to live in a drawer for ten years (when I finally edited it down to "Rabbit Inn").
Fortunately, in the meantime, T.Y. Crowell gave me my first book called "Dame Wiggins of Lee and her Seven Wonderful Cats" to illustrate.
Clarion published my second book, which I wrote, called "Ellsworth and the Cats from Mars."
My children, Holland and Marietta, were born in 1979 and 1981 and became my constant companions and artistic assistants.
These days I am working on my card line, Christmas ornaments, and paintings for gallery exhibits.
I am lucky to belong to the best writer's group in the world. It guarantees me one amazing day per month of rapid-fire conversation and intense concentration. I absolutely love listening to the wild, weird, spooky, thought-provoking, hysterical, and tender words created by Tedd Arnold, Mary Jane Auch, Bruce Coville, Cynthia DeFelice, Robin Pulver, Ellen Stole Walsh and Vivian VandeVelde.
If you are a child, or have a child who needs great books to read, try some books by these authors and I promise you will not be disappointed.
When my children were approaching college age, fear of tuition prompted me to supplement my book illustration work by dabbling in greeting cards.
I illustrated cards for several card companies and it was a nice quick way to work for a taller audience. I could complete a project in days rather than months.
People seemed to like my images but I could not convince my art directors to use my words. I was always edited and often disappointed to find my finished card with a greeting I would NEVER EVER have written.
I also found that even though art editors liked some of my more interesting or quirky work they did not think that the general public would "get" it.
This went on for six years and my frustration grew. I wanted to create a cohesive line of work and I kept hearing promises but only received piecemeal work. My little quiet cards were hard to find scattered here and there, drowning in a sea of bright and bold neighbors on the rack.
In 2000 I discovered through the grapevine that Department 56 was interested in making some of my cards into ornaments. What a surprise!
It turned out that they not only liked my designs but, for the first time in history, they trusted me and trusted the public. They did not ask me to change a thing. When the first little Krinkles arrived from the Philippines, I was amazed. They looked exactly like the ones I had made and painted myself!
Incredibly enough, they just flew off the shelves. The line sold out immediately. So I made more Krinkles and have been making them ever since.
From 2000 to 2002, I dedicated all my spare time to compiling a rather large body of work. I painted about twenty or thirty illustrations and submitted them to the card company I had been working with for years. I was very excited to see this turn into a line of cards. Guess what? They turned it all down.
Well, that lit a fire in me. I was about to turn fifty and I decided this was it: I was going to launch my own card company.
I twisted my husband's arm to help me. He devised a realistic business plan and we borrowed some money from my wonderful, supportive mother.
In 2002 we gathered a pile of sticks and made furniture and arbors from which to dangle my ornaments. I covered panels with gold leaf and wired them up to display my new "line" of cards and went off to the overwhelming New York Stationery show. We had printed up actual catalogs, but the cards were just dummies, pretend cards.
It was all very, very scary and, in hindsight, very, very fun, and all in all, it turned out to be a really good idea.
Now I am spending all my time designing cards and ornaments while working on my annual original art show with my sister on Martha's Vineyard. (Just for the record, there are still couple of stories waiting patiently in my drawer. They whistle to me from time to time. One of these days...)
My husband and I live in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
Our beautiful daughter, Marietta, works for us now in international sales. She is also the magical elf who answers many of your questions and inquiries. She has become an artist in her own right.
All of our lives will never be the same, however. We lost our beloved, beautiful son and brother to Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2005.
Holland graduated from the Mechanical Engineering School at Vanderbilt University and was charging into his new life with gusto in 2002 when he was diagnosed and staged at 4B. This happened three months after we started our card company. He came to work for us and added his energy and brilliance to the creation of our business.
Constantly brave, positive and productive, he worked through his treatments and the three bone marrow transplants that followed. He often carried on work in a hospital room on the phone where no one hearing his deep melodious voice would ever know. He lived every second of his twenty-six years with a full and generous heart. We miss him desperately.
The three of us have dedicated our lives and our work to carrying on the spirit of his love, inclusiveness and awareness.
I cannot write about my life without including its most important part, my family, and our most important chapters.
To help us celebrate and commemorate the life of Holland, please click here.