2020 Emerging Artist: Chatham Ivy

Cape Cod Art  /  ART Annual 2020 /

Writer: Allyson Plessner

When you think about the true spirit of Cape Cod, what do you think of? Sand dunes? Beetle cats battling the classic Buzzards Bay sea breeze? Maybe a black lab, a surf board, a jeep with the windows rolled down or friends strolling toward an inviting stretch of sand with overflowing beach bags? Whatever it is that you dream of on those chilly winter nights as you long for a summer day on the Cape, it’s likely that Kim Noble has thought of it too.

Chatham Ivy, a lifestyle brand fantastically laid forth in watercolor, began with the musings of a father and his daughters…and ended around a kitchen table with drawing supplies and an eager toddler at the ready. After all, if you really think about it, some of the best ideas start around a kitchen table. “We’d been brainstorming about starting a family business,” says Noble, “and one day, at my dad’s house in Chatham, my sister and her daughter were sitting at the kitchen table drawing these cute sea creatures.” From there, Kim’s production skills along with her sister Katie’s artistic talent came together in perfect harmony to create t-shirts for a local Chatham retailer, Island Pursuit. Today, Chatham Ivy has expanded to include everything from prints and pillowcases to iPhone cases and, just like during those initial months, t-shirts.

“As we moved away from those early days of sea creatures,” explains Kim, “we started talking about making Chatham Ivy into a celebration of New England. The images became more about people’s fondest memories of the Cape complete with dogs, jeeps, and vintage surf mobiles.” The original Chatham Ivy tagline was even, “Chatham Ivy, wicked preppy.”

Each winter, Kim and Katie work together to come up with new concepts that they then communicate to Chatham Ivy’s two staff watercolorists: Kurt McRobert and Beth Briggs. The artists then create initial sketches that eventually become hand painted watercolors which they photograph and adjust on the computer until the image is ready for direct to garment printing. And, every spring Chatham Ivy rolls out three to four new images. “We listen to what people ask us for,” explains Kim about the process. “A lot of people are drawn to Chatham, but we also want to represent all of New England. I think the most popular image is one of a black lab hanging out the window of a red jeep with surfboards on top—everybody loves a lab!” she laughs. 

Even though Katie is no longer one of the painters for Chatham Ivy, she’s still very much involved in the collaborative process, and almost every image has something personal to the sisters included. “We had a house on a small island in Wellfleet growing up,” says Kim about their bond with the region. “We would work hard all school year just to get to those treasured moments of freedom on the Cape in the summer. I think that still inspires us.”

Kim says that her favorite part about Chatham Ivy is watching it grow from that hint of an idea on that day in Chatham, a loving family enjoying some time together around their kitchen table. Kim and Katie’s father passed away in 2014, and having been probably the biggest supporter of Chatham Ivy, it’s heartwarming to know that he was able to see the brand begin to flourish. As the art world continues to change with the ever-expanding influence of computers, Chatham Ivy is an incredible example of the intersection between art and technology, one that effortlessly and vibrantly captures the true spirit of Cape Cod. – Allyson Plessner

See more at chathamivy.com or on Instagram @chathamivy

Allyson Plessner

Allyson Plessner is a former editorial intern for Cape Cod Life and now works for the publication as a staff writer and digital media coordinator. Born in Florida, Allyson has been a lifelong summer resident of the Cape. She is a recent alumna of the College of Charleston, located in Charleston, South Carolina, where she completed bachelor’s degrees in both English and Spanish. In her free time, Allyson is an avid sailor, beach-goer, and—like her fellow Cape Cod Life colleagues—a dog-lover.