We’ve long been fans of Cat Coven, the online shop of Brooklyn artist Kjersti Faret that features her art hand-printed on clothing, accessories, and all manner of home décor. Her signature and logo of sorts is a large cat face with a pentacle on its forehead—perfect for witchy ladies everywhere—and cats populate many of her designs: cats riding on broomsticks, cats gathered around a cauldron, cats dressed in armor, cats surrounded by a bright moon and stars, cats leading a séance. Faret even sells catnip pillows printed with her designs, and she and her wife share their home with two cats of their own.
Cats aren’t the only magical beasts featured in Faret’s art. She has a penchant for enchanted beasts of every variety. This illustration, “Free at Last,” was part of a collection she made for Cat Coven in 2018 called Myths & Magick. She’d taken a trip to the Met Cloisters and fallen in love with a tapestry of a dragon on a leash, with the arm of the person holding the leash visible. “I created a little story in my head that the dragon freed himself by chopping the arm off and becoming his own master.” Based on that, she made her own illustration: “I added the arm in the mouth to really show the taking back of one’s ownership. I gave him some little demon friends to cheer him on. It’s really about being free to be yourself, unchained from others or obligations and finding where you belong.” Also: Don’t ever try to keep a dragon on a leash.
The illustration Rebirth, which you can see above, was part of a 2017 series called the Enchanted Armor Collection. Faret was inspired by historical armor and themes of strength, but she focused on mortality. “I find solace in knowing I’m part of something greater,” she says, “part of an eternal cycle of renewal. With that knowledge one can hopefully live a little easier and trek through this life with more strength.” She explains that the ouroboros is an old motif for the cycle of life, juxtaposed with the poppies behind it, a symbol of death. Luna moths represent transformation and life. Acorns, which eventually grow into giant oak trees, symbolize potential and strength as well as immortality and life in Nordic and Celtic cultures. The overall shape is based on a medieval gorget, which is a piece of armor that protects one’s throat.
Her Saint Margaret illustration and the banner at the bottom of the page were created for a fashion show in collaboration with garment designer Kelsey Hine of I Do Declare, with Hine designing the clothing and Faret creating the illustrations printed on it. They included Saint Margaret because they both enjoy stories of strong women—especially ladies accompanied by (unleashed) dragons.
Faret’s inspiration comes largely from art history: medieval manuscripts, expressionism, Tove Jansson, folk art, fairy-tale illustrations, children’s books, decorative architecture, art nouveau, and historical embroidery like the Bayeux Tapestry. “I could go on forever, but those are some main ones right now,” she says. “I also have strong ties to my Norwegian heritage, so I’m always looking at Nordic history and visuals too.”
And how does Faret stay enchanted? “Through art! To me, art is a form of real magic. Whether I’m creating or consuming the works of others through books, TV, or even Instagram, art is what keeps my life enchanted. The fact that our eyes can look at a 2-D image and be transported to new worlds or perspectives is the best.”