Walking into the Morgan and Kydd studio in Peconic, it’s clear creative minds live here. In the open floor space of the whitewashed converted barn is a massive table. On it are scattered remnants of different stationery collections, boxes, Mason jars of brushes and rollers and carved-out sheets of linoleum with different patterns. This is where Rachel Rushforth-Worrell and Andre Worrell make their art.
The husband and wife team started their company, which is a combination of gift packaging, candles, cards and prints, in 2017, right out of their home. The idea was that someone could shop their brand and find everything they need for a gift, from the gift itself to the paper the product is wrapped in, to the card that explains what the gift is for. What connects them all is the medium used — lino block printing, a type of printmaking that uses a carved-out sheet of linoleum, like a giant stamp.
The pair start by collaborating on a design. Once they decide on a final sketch, Worrell uses transfer paper to get the design on the sheet of linoleum and then carving tools to etch out around the design. From there, he mixes up paint and rolls it onto the stamp to be printed on packaging, paper or other products. The creative process, however, begins long before a sheet of linoleum is brought out.
“It’s about the strength of simplicity. We work on the images over and over and over until they’re correct and they’re not cluttered and busy. There’s a real strength in having it simple but correct.”— Andre Worrell
On a recent visit to the studio, Worrell pulled out a sheet of linoleum he had already cut — three arrows side by side, the outer two facing down and the middle one facing up. On a piece of hard, clear plastic, he squeezed out two drops of blue paint. With a small paint spatula, he started mixing the paint, spreading it out and scraping it back up. Next to the rich blue, he added a small drop of teal. With a roller, he pushed the colors back and forth until they seamlessly faded together. He then took the roller, now covered in the two colors and rolled it onto the linoleum. On a scrap piece of paper, he flipped over the arrow pattern and pressed down. Peeling the paper away, a vibrant transition from blue to teal revealed itself in the arrows.
“The storytelling is really important to us,” said Rushforth-Worrell, who spent much of her previous career in the fashion industry. “We look to historic influences but then we give it a modern and contemporary edge.”
To do this, they gather inspiration from their travels and surroundings, observing and photographing the intricacies of churches. Rushforth-Worrell said they’re especially inspired by the design of hand-carved tombstones: “There’s an irregularity to that, a sort of an imperfection to it, that we always loved.” With lino block printing, they can get that same handcrafted look.
As a couple, they seem to balance each other out. Rushforth-Worrell is energetic and friendly, excited to show off all of the company’s products, while Worrell is quiet and thoughtful — he doesn’t speak often, but when he does, it’s captivating. While working together, Worrell does the drawing while Rushforth-Worrell thinks about how the design will look and how it will fit into the brand.
“We always knew that the hand-painted aspect was something that we both love,” Rushforth-Worrell said. “In the beginning of the creative process, we work a lot on the creative intent and then we go apart then and we come back together again.”
As for the company name: Morgan is Rushforth-Worrell’s mother’s maiden name and Kydd is Worrell’s mother’s maiden name. But they also suggest the names of two British captains, Henry Morgan and William Kidd, who sailed the Caribbean in the 17th century — men who “worked for the highest bidder, sort of like an independent contractor,” as Worrell put it. Thus their moniker simultaneously pays tribute to Rushforth-Worrell’s United Kingdom roots and Worrell’s West Indian roots and expresses the inspiration they get from history.
“We come from two different backgrounds,” Rushforth-Worrell said. “But we can work together where we get to a place where it is about the product.”
Rushforth-Worrell immigrated to New York City in the early 1990s when she got a job working for DKNY Jeans, while Worrell moved in the 1980s with his family from Trinidad and went to School of Visual Arts in NYC studying fine art. The pair have been collaborating since they first got married in 1992: While exchanging gifts for holidays, anniversaries or birthdays, they would always pay just as much attention to the packaging of the gift as the gift itself, adding funny faces or designs to the wrapping paper. Eventually, friends asked them to make packaging for their gifts. They continued this for years, while Worrell worked as a musician and artist and Rushforth-Worrell in the fashion industry, until moving to Peconic in 2017 in search of a quieter life.
These days, they also look to their current setting for inspiration. Original wooden beams frame the high ceilings. Huge windows that face the south let in natural light that illuminate the entire space and frame the tree’s changing foliage just outside. The space, Rushforth-Worrell said, is a place where painters in the turn of the century would spend hours crafting. They even had the barn turned to face the south so the light would be best.
The symbol for their brand came from inspiration right on their property when they moved in. “This peony is actually a signature print for us,” Rushforth-Worrell said, pointing out a canvas bag with a repeated black flower design. “When we came to the house, there were so many peonies growing in our garden.”
One of their most popular products is their cards. Along with the typical birthday and thank-you card, Morgan and Kydd has a card for those circumstances that are more complicated. “Maybe you’re in an impasse with a friend or a lover or a parent,” Rushforth-Worrell said, holding a card that has the words “no words” on the front in a graffiti drip design. “And it’s actually a way of kind of breaking that ice. It’s a different way of saying something that maybe is complicated for people.”
Other non-traditional cards say things like “trouble maker,” “it’s complicated” or simply a bunch of broken hearts. Inside all their cards are empty, an open space for the giver of the card to fill in the blank. “We think that it’s really important that the person writes their sentiments in it,” Rushforth-Worrell said. The idea is to leave space for the card giver to find their own unique words, replacing “sorry for your loss” clichés with something that goes deeper.
Morgan and Kydd products are sold online at morganandkydd.com, through their Instagram @morganandkydd and in a soon-to-open store in Sag Harbor, Sage and Madison. The ultimate dream is collaborating with a bigger company like Target or Restoration Hardware to amp up their production, allowing for both high-end hand-printed designs and lower-end manufactured products that would be affordable to nearly everyone.
For now, they hope to turn their property — the house, the studio barn and a small cottage, some of which they rent out currently — into a Morgan and Kydd destination where customers can come to shop for their products and artists can come to collaborate.
“[The house] is Morgan and Kydd studios, so someone can actually come in and buy products straight from us,” Rushforth-Worrell said. “We love the fact that we’re working in a place where other creative people have worked and sharing that with other people.”