For over two decades MacKenzie-Childs Creative Director Rebecca Proctor, leads the iconic global brand of the MacKenzie-Childs design team. They introduce upward 700 items each year, emulating the artisan-handpainted pottery creations at its production studios in bucolic Aurora, New York. “We have artists and poets and all kinds of talented people there,” Proctor said of the company, which has its headquarters on a 65 acre farm nestled in the heart of the Finger Lakes Region in Central Upstate New York.
MacKenzie-Childs Creative Director Rebecca Proctor began working with the collection in 1991 and looks back on it as the most incredible opportunity of her life. “I was hired by the founders of MacKenzie-Childs and I got a very interesting inside view of the brand traveling and working with them,” Proctor said. “They left the company in 2001 and then Pleasant Rowland, founder of American Girl, bought us. I was also excited to work with her. Then in 2008 Rowland sold MacKenzie-Childs to Lee Feldman and Howard Cohen and they are wonderful to work with as well. They’re so supportive of the design process and they’ve really taken a tabletop company to an exciting lifestyle brand.”
Working swiftly and growing every season, the collection went from launching 24 designs a season to an impressive 300 new items. This is no accident. The brand is overflowing with magical qualities just like Proctor herself. Design rules are tossed out the window, patterns are mixed with cheerful spontaneity and the passion of the MacKenzie-Childs collector is unceasing.
“The world is filled with stuff you can find anywhere,” Proctor said. “Our point of view with this brand really sets us apart. Our customers say our designs make them happy. Making people feel good is the core of our mission and it’s really important to me. They come to us for playful creations. We’re the court jester in the room.”
There’s something very regal about the line’s iconic black and white checkerboard pattern called “courtly check.”
“This pattern started as a tiny design accent painted on furniture in the ‘80s,” Proctor said. “In 1993, I started working with the founders on handmade black and white checkered enamel plates. We love handmade things at MacKenzie-Childs because no two are alike. We originally called the pattern ‘roasted marshmallow.’ Now we call it courtly check and it’s become our signature pattern. This pattern has a major place in history and it’s beautiful but at the same time, oddly a neutral.”
In addition to courtly check, MacKenzie-Childs offers a variety of enchanting patterns for enamelware and accessories such as a vibrant flower market pattern and piccadilly ceramics. The Aurora pattern is an homage to the brand’s home-base and production studio that was once a dairy barn in Aurora. “We have highland cattle grazing on our fields and extraordinary gardens. Every window is like a framed piece of art,” Proctor said. “This 65-acre farm is a tremendous source of inspiration for us. We have a fantastic design team with high energy people. Many of them have also been with the brand since 1991. Inspiration is every where. It comes from dinners and conversations with friends and travel as well.”
The latest pattern to take flight in the MacKenzie-Childs family is the butterfly garden enamelware. “This pattern was inspired by the gardens on our property filled with butterflies and we wanted to incorporate all of our other patterns into the butterflies,” Proctor said. “I love to cook and entertain and when you place food on a plate, you want the food to be the star. With the butterfly garden enamelware, the butterflies appear to be fluttering around the plate.”
In addition to charm bracelets and travel accessories, MacKenzie-Childs is now tapping into the young mother’s market. “We’ve introduced a diaper bag, nursery items and baby dishes,” Proctor said. “We also make beautiful, hand-sewn quilts for cribs. It’s a really exciting time for us. Our owners are so open minded, the sky is really the limit for MacKenzie-Childs.” http://www.mackenzie-childs.com Excerpts adapted from the SunSentinel.com article by Joanie Cox-Henry