Terrell and Carmel Swan, the principals of catstudio, are a husband and wife design team who bring with them interesting and varied experiences. Both have anthropology backgrounds, because of a shared love for world culture. Terrell did a stint at law school and then attended graduate school in anthropology, while Carmel majored in anthropology, then switched to art.
Carmel, a native of Hawaii, grew up in a family who liked to travel. By the age of 18, she had visited Canada, Mexico, Europe and Asia with frequent trips to the US "mainland." When she settled down in Los Angeles after college, she pursued a career with Arista and CBS recording companies, on jobs that took her to exotic locations. While in the Artist Development department, she managed staging, costuming, TV and video appearances for talent including The Jacksons, Charlie Daniels, Patti Labelle, and Ozzie Osbourne, among others.
Born in California, Terrell grew up in Texas and Mississippi. At an early age he experienced a strong wanderlust (which has yet to be sated), and this urge carried him to many places around the globe (India, the Far East, Galapagos Islands, to mention a few). He rode camels and elephants, caught old steam engine trains, swam with seals, hauled Murano glass and Persian carpets halfway around the world. Eventually, when it was time to come home, he found himself in New Orleans, where he opened the third Earth Shoe store in the United States. Then, in 1975, he added a Roots Store in Houston. Three years later, in 1978, he opened a retail clothing store in Houston that sold the then-revolutionary concept of garment dyed clothing. According to an article in Esquire magazine, his was the first modern store in the U.S.A. to carry all cotton merchandise. In 1988, Terrell and Carmel created Swan & Swan Design, a women's sportswear company, so they could pursue their first loves: for Terrell, drawing and design; for Carmel, art and textiles. Their clothing was sold internationally under the Swan Magic label, and it quickly became the premiere resource for original, whimsical designs, and high quality hand embroidery. They established a niche market that developed a cult following.
It was during this time that the Swans decided to put their mutual love for travel onto cloth, in the form of hand embroidered maps. Not just any maps, mind you, but extraordinary, breathtaking works of art that were also fun and colorful decorative pillows. Each one took weeks of research, drawing and redrawing, coloring and re-coloring, sampling and resampling. Finally, being very pleased with their new pet project, the Swans decided it was time to get serious about it. It was then that they moved on from apparel to the home furnishings & giftware markets. The new company, catstudio (carmel and terrell), took off immediately. They seemed to have invented another significant niche market, and their customers' pleas for "more and more" keep the Swans very busy.
The Geography Collection presently encompasses all 50 states, plus many cities, regions, resorts, national parks and countries. Taking their inspiration from the vintage souvenir pillows of the 30's and 40's, the Swans have tried to keep the integrity of a locale, while featuring both historical figures and kitsch local icons, and points of interest. Of course most major cities can be found on their maps, but if they like a name, for instance, "Loveland" in Colorado, they're likely to include it. Based on the market response, they soon knew these pillows had hit a chord in the hearts of the public. Not only are they mementos of a past you don't want to forget, like a sun-kissed summer spent in Martha's Vineyard, or your honeymoon in San Francisco, they also represent the places you hope to visit, like the vacation you're saving up for to see real cowboys in Montana, or the dream of going to Ireland. They also happen to make fantastic gifts, and are quite the conversation piece!
Today you'll find the Swans living in picturesque Petaluma, a quiet Northern California town nestled amongst dairy farms and rolling hills. Of course, they continue to travel to all parts of the world - you could say it is their business, and you would be right. Besides the iconoclastic Pillows, there are Drinking Glasses, Dish Towels, Totes, Trays and Aprons in the product mix. Tees and Beach Towels are the newest exciting additions. Future plans include expanding The Geography Collection onto a line of Rugs and Stationary. Believe you me, think of any surface at all, and the Swans have thought about how they could incorporate that into the life of catstudio designs. Their story to be continued….with a happy ending!