Inspired by Water

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Nancy Hammond’s Chesapeake Connection

By Laura Boycourt

From her upbringing along New York’s Finger Lakes, through school in the Ocean State at the Rhode Island School of Design, and on the Chesapeake Bay and her home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, water has motivated Nancy Hammond. 

Her work is distinctive, even iconic, as is her imprint on Annapolis. “I wanted my style to be absolutely recognizable from across the street,” she says. And it is. There’s no mistaking her silk-screened prints, posters, cut paper, and various other works. They give themselves away the moment you lay eyes on them.

Hammond began her retail output with a series of silk-screened prints. Her crisp designs are often ideal for imprints on custom goods such as neckties, etched crystal, linen, notecards, and the like, which you will find in various renditions in her gallery. Her prints are Giclée and silk-screened editions, signed and numbered on archival paper with archival inks. Her large cut-paper works are also available there and online. 

Before opening her Annapolis gallery, she took a step back. “I decided I wanted to have a very distinct style, and I only wanted to do the stuff I really, really loved. I took two years off and just played,” she explains. During the hiatus, she fell deeply in love with crayon and cutting paper. A self-described “paper fanatic,” Hammond found that controlling paper with a “sharp line,” as she calls it, was most achievable with scissors. In the end, she learned, “When you completely lose track of yourself, just floating along, that’s when the good stuff starts rolling into your brain.” Thanks to the time bobbing about on an ocean of creativity, Hammond’s style developed and helped set the course to where she finds herself today.

As an longstanding part of the art scene in Annapolis and the greater Bay region, Hammond has gathered plenty of wisdom that she’s pleased to share with new artists. “My major advice to young artists,” she says, “is start out with play or explore, but don’t judge it. Keep all judgments away. Do some more terrible stuff. Don’t wait for a moment of inspiration.” In addition to keeping things judgment-free, she’s found that completing work each day is essential. Stopping isn’t an option. And this applies to more than just artistic pursuits. Conversation and intellectual stimulation are vital, too, especially as the years pass. “Keep a project going,” she offers. 

If she’s not working, chances are good she’s swimming or chatting with friends around her pool. She says, “The conversation that happens when everybody’s feet are in the water…I don’t know what happens! It’s amazing! Something about water…”

The Bay is remains a steady source of inspiration for Hammond, who most often features Chesapeake life in her pieces. In Race, a torrent of blue hues permeates the space as sailboats yield to the wind. A simple waterside homestead, picket fence, skiff and the Bay tell the story of a way of life that’s central to so many in the region in Waterman’s Half Acre. In USNA Winter, U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen gather as snowflakes dust their thick black coats. In Herons in Gold, lanky blue herons are camouflaged in the fall marsh grass.  

  Race  by Nancy Hammond. (Courtesy Nancy Hammond)

Race by Nancy Hammond. (Courtesy Nancy Hammond)

Hammond says the Bay has become a part of her, not just part of her work. She adores it not only for the subject matter it consistently supplies but also for its ability to inspire connections on a human level. “It is so grand and so expansive, that when you get out on it, your mind just opens up,” she says. “I love the fact that it’s an entry into the world. This isn’t just a lake or a body of water. This is going places.”

She recalls an outing on the Bay years back. A freighter hailing from the United Kingdom was anchored nearby and Hammond’s mates happened to have a British magazine aboard. The group offered the reading material to the freighter’s crew, who accepted and lowered a bag down to the smaller boat via a monkey’s-fist knot. The sailors hoisted up the magazine, and Hammond’s boat headed out. “When we looked back, they were waving ‘come back, come back, come back.’ So, we went back, and they lowered a bag full of English beer.”

Each year Since 1997, Hammond has produced limited-edition, Chesapeake posters. “The first annual poster, Chesapeake Noah’s Ark, sold out by Christmas,” she said. “It was a quiet beginning.” When the Millennial poster came out in 2000, a line formed the day before and grew throughout the night. The 2019 poster will be released on October 20th and will be available that day only at the gallery at a price of $75. The next day, the sale will open to phone and internet orders, and the price will increase to $200 and will increase each day until gone. 

Last year, on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s (CBF) 50-year milestone, Hammond created a series of four prints featuring four Bay creatures—the diamondback terrapin, blue crab, great blue heron and osprey—to celebrate the work and tenacity of the grassroots organization. $100 from the sale of each print goes to CBF for its Save the Bay mission. 

Throughout Hammond’s life and career, water has brought out her best. 

Nancy Hammond’s gallery is at 192 West Street in Annapolis, and her work can be seen online at nancyhammondeditions.com.

Laura Boycourt is a freelance writer, mom to two little pirates, and lifelong boater from Annapolis who’s perpetually in need of a large coffee and a salty breeze.