- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2000

Nancy Hammond, owner of Nancy Hammond Editions in Annapolis, is proof that a strong-willed woman can turn a passion and talent for painting and design into a profitable business.

For years, she lived the life of an "inconspicuous artist in the back alley" in upstate New York and then Annapolis. She was also juggling art with caring for a husband and a son.

An native of upstate New York, Ms. Hammond earned a degree in painting at Rhode Island School of Design. In 1976, she moved to Annapolis.

Six years ago, shortly after a divorce, she took the big step and went to the bank. The loan was approved how she doesn't understand and $40,000 started an artisan shop that made $1 million this year.

The first year Ms. Hammond made only a quarter of that. She says the shop is very profitable.

The property on State Circle that houses Nancy Hammond Editions dates from the Civil War. Ms. Hammond rents it from the same family that lived there over a hundred years ago. The wooden, white, spacious and full-of-light building in the front is the shop. A red-brick building in the back is used for office space and storage: The bricks used are the same type used in construction of the Maryland State House.

Ms. Hammond says opening Nancy Hammond Editions was an act of anger at the art world.

"I was angry," she recalled with a loud laugh. "I was tired of begging people for space in their galleries, and of making sure they didn't bury my paintings in the back. So I directed my anger to figure out how to make money out of art."

So she started her own business, selling her own art.

At first Ms. Hammond worked mostly on sailing tropical scenes. This made sense, she thought, because it would appeal to Chesapeake Bay residents.

"I like people and I like to have conversations with them through art. I like to converse with the public through my art," said Ms. Hammond. "And I love to paint and design. So it goes back and forth."

The target clients were "tourists with taste", she said, meaning the shop carried anything from dog bowls, boxer shorts, ties, silk scarfs, pillow cases, place mats, paintings, which she only makes on silk screens, and fridge magnets "as long as they were tasteful and well designed."

But in the past year, the artist began an exploration of flowers, birds and landscapes.

"They like it all," she said referring to the public. "They don't try to keep you in a little box."

Mostly pastel hues purples, greens, blues, reds and grays dominate Ms. Hammond's flora and fauna works. The tropical scenes feature yellow, red, green and black, while the sailing landscapes use white, red and blue most often.

It's colors that look good on her that she uses, says Ms. Hammond. Yet she wore beige khakis and a lime green shirt, which emphasize her bursting personality so much more.

Ms. Hammond does not run her business alone. She hired Sue and David Reduzzi to manage the shop, and now she spends more time in her studio on the Eastern Shore, in Centreville, where she resides.

A spontaneous, lively woman, Ms. Hammond has Mr. Reduzzi to thank for keeping records, making the business decisions and organizing the shop.

"A lot of people think I am terribly brusque," she said, waving a small, thin hand as if dismissing the statement as just another stereotype assigned to artists.

The Historic Annapolis Foundation, a nonprofit preservation group, is one of Ms. Hammond's patrons; The foundation's museum store carries a variety of her works, from prints to silk scarfs and silver broaches.

"We consider her one of our leading local artists," said Lynn Manwaring, marketing director for the group. "She is both artistic and commercial in terms of why we carry her."

Ms. Hammond's energy is endless. Three years ago Ms. Hammond decided to do something special for the century turnover. So created a poster (her only print and non silk-screen work) with a theme for the year.

This year's poster, based on an Edward Hicks painting, "The Peaceable Kingdom of Annapolis," became a favorite and a collectible among Annapolis residents, said Ms. Manwaring.

Although she doesn't think of herself as a business woman, Ms. Hammond's poster idea was brilliant, according to Mr. Reduzzi. "It was three in the morning and I was walking to the fridge," Ms. Hammond recalls.

Only 500 numbered posters are printed each year. The first 100 sell for $45 apiece, with the price increasing for each successively sold, until the last in the series is priced at $3,000.

On Oct. 7, her 58th birthday and the first day of the millennium poster sales, Ms. Hammond was walking toward her store a little after 9 a.m. when a truck driver pulled alongside her and told her she should hurry to the store. She followed his advice, and found a line wrapping around the block people waiting, hoping to buy the first 100 posters.

This year's poster has almost sold out. In the middle of last week, sales were on number 470.

"It's the thrill of fooling around with color and design it's a kind of high," said Ms. Hammond about what drives her.

What does the future hold for Nancy Hammond Editions?

After she remarried a few years ago, Ms. Hammond says she learned a big lesson from her husband the lesson of looking for the bottom line.

That line for the future of Nancy Hammond Editions is "perhaps opening one or two more stores."

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