Beautiful Artwork with a Beautiful Purpose: An interview with Erin Cherry of My Pretty Peggy
Erin Cherry’s artwork is very precise. Using a 20/0 liner micro-detailer by Princeton—one of the tiniest paintbrushes you can work with—she creates wooden peg dolls that include details that are astonishing. Her work is special not only in its excellence—but, as you’ll come to find out—also in its ability to help heal broken hearts. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to artist Erin Cherry of My Pretty Peggy—who in real life is as charming as her artwork is!
How did you get started as an artist? Is there a special memory of when you were first starting out?
I have always been surrounded by art. My mother, Sue Westin (www.galleryonthemarsh.com), is a wildlife artist and I have always been encouraged to draw. I had aspirations of being a children’s book artist as a teen but opted to study music education in college instead. But even in college I attended life drawing sessions and led the art club. I started My Pretty Peggy when my middle child was turning 1 year old. I loved being home with him but I felt very isolated and my mind was atrophying. My good friend and artist, Ingrid Kinnunen encouraged me to take my new hobby, peg doll painting, and turn it into a real business. She coached me on ordering packaging, setting up an etsy shop, brainstorming, etc.
What is the one (or two or three) things you love about painting?
I love all the things! I love having time set aside during the week for being creative, I love the way my mind works while I’m painting. I enjoy working with color and the tactile nature of wooden dolls. And, of course, tiny details delight me.
I know you’re a mom—is making artwork part of your routine helpful in balancing the busyness of raising young kids?
Haha! I don’t know if it helps me balance my time well! I sometimes suffer from “mommy guilt” that My Pretty Peggy takes up a good deal of my time. I have a mother’s helper who watches my young ones 6 hours a week to give me time to paint and I also paint a lot after they’re in bed. The guilt comes in when I’m taking care of them and trying to package dolls or edit pictures at the same time. On the other hand, this small creative business has been so good for my mental well-being and need to connect with others. I find all aspects of the business very satisfying and my humble peg doll income is helpful to my family as well.
Could you describe the direct engagement with your patrons via social media? It seems to be a wonderful new modern way to interact with those who admire your work.
At this point social media, primarily Instagram, is driving my business. As much as small businesses complain about the dreaded algorithms, as a free and widely used app, it’s a fantastic place to create a gallery of your work and connect with potential customers. There are so many other artisans and mothers who have become friends and supporters through social media. Currently, I would say over half of my sales are made through private messages via IG. The ability to instantly communicate with customers is wonderful, although as a mom I am finding that my social media tasks (photo editing, captioning, commenting, replying to messages) is best done in batches twice a day – typically once in the morning and just after they go to bed.
I know you have something special on your heart you wish to talk about regarding how your art is helping those who have gone through recent trauma. Share what that special journey has been like for you.
Yes, I have a passion for supporting women going through miscarriage. Personally, it was very hard to build my family and we researched every option out there. Now I have three children, but over 7 years, I suffered 7 heartbreaking miscarriages and numerous treatments. I created an item intended to be a grief support gift for other women going through this. It includes a tiny wooden baby, a letter for the mother written by me, and a notecard for the gift giver to keep track of important information such as what to say, the child’s name, due date… I hope I have created an item that makes it easier to walk in a mother’s grief in a way that allows her to grieve in her own way and potentially offer a form of closure. I have found through talking with many, many women that there are some unique aspects to grieving a miscarried child – this not knowing WHERE the child is physically, WHY the loss occurred, the fear of recurrent losses, etc make it an abstract but very real pain. From my angel baby gift set, grew many custom orders for other losses and I now often paint people, most notably children, that have passed away. It has become a special niche in my business that I never anticipated. To me it is a ministry and a form of healing for myself. Occasionally I am up late messaging with mothers, hearing their grief stories and I don’t mind at all. Our culture is so uncomfortable with grief and I feel like my experiences have prepared me for this unique work.
What are some other artists that you would like the readers to know about and support? A couple of your favorites that come to mind?
There are so many talented craftspeople out there. Here’s just a handful of folks creating work that feels rather timeless. On Instagram: @email@example.com@missmollysdollsandtoys@northernrootsjewelry@rustyandingrid, @salleymavor
Any advice for aspiring artists who wish to follow in your footsteps as far as creating and selling their artwork?
I would say take advantage of free online selling and marketing tools such as Instagram and Etsy but, as best you are able, set time limitations for yourself because both can quickly become time consuming. Also, don’t try to create what you think people want to buy. Create what interests you. There IS an audience for everything and you might find a niche that isn’t too saturated with similar items. Always work ethically, meaning don’t copy other artisans’ work or designs and be transparent with your customers about what you can realistically accomplish for them. If you worry that you aren’t original enough, keep a little notebook or notes on your phone to keep track of your ideas. A lot of my ideas occur while I’m working on other things so I jot them down to return to later.
What’s next for My Pretty Peggy? Any creative new developments your patrons can look forward to?
One word: UNICORNS
Though not a stranger to fun and whimsy, the thing about Erin Cherry’s work is that it reminds you that art can be so much more than mere aesthetic. Her dolls reach out in a person’s darkest moment to tell them something more–that they are loved, cherished…and not alone.