Poster artist ready for the final sale

Popular print series ends with gallery owner's move to the Eastern Shore


October 03, 2003|By Stephanie Tracy | Stephanie Tracy,SUN STAFF

When area residents begin lining up outside the Nancy Hammond Editions art gallery in Annapolis early Sunday morning for copies of the artist's latest city poster, it will be a bittersweet time for fans of Hammond's work.

Having moved to the Eastern Shore, Hammond will close her Annapolis gallery on State Circle Dec. 31 and end a brief but popular tradition of selling hundreds of copies of an annual limited-edition poster, many at a big discount, on a first-come, first-served basis.

As she prepared for a celebration to mark the introduction of her latest work, Hammond said it was the right time to end the series.

"I just felt insincere still doing Annapolis when I'm living out here in the country on the Eastern Shore," Hammond said. "This allows me to be more tried and true in the long term."

The Annapolis series has generated a significant following since the first one was unveiled in 1997. The first few posters were limited to 350 prints each, but the number gradually grew to 500 prints each year, and two editions have sold out.

Many of Hammond's Annapolis posters adorn the walls of local homes and doctors' offices.

Hammond remembers the first time the lines outside her State Circle gallery started to grow. The idea of people lining up for art baffled Hammond and her staff.

The day the poster for 2000 went on sale, Hammond was walking to her shop when the caterer she had hired to provide refreshments pulled his truck over and told her that she should hurry to open the gallery.

"I asked him what the problem was, and he told me there were people lined up around the corner," Hammond said. "I was weak-kneed and overwhelmed from that point on."

Hammond started the poster series after watching patrons leave her gallery disappointed because they could not afford her work.

The series of posters became a "present to the city of Annapolis," she said, a way to thank the city for embracing her business.

"Everything in the gallery started at $300, and I just finally decided that there had to be a better way," Hammond said.

Five hundred prints of the new poster - of the painting Eventide - are available. Hammond priced the first 100 prints at $45 to make her work more affordable. The price increases from there, topping out at $3,000 for print 500.

Hammond plans to start a new series of posters, Chesapeake, next year.

She said her recent move to the Eastern Shore motivated her to end the series and begin a new one.

"I see so many different scenes out here, like log canoe races, soybean fields, herons and long stretches of just nobody that I decided it was time to celebrate the Chesapeake," Hammond said.

As a "transplanted Northerner," Hammond said, her experience in Annapolis and on the Eastern Shore has made her "more a part of Maryland than I ever would have been."

To celebrate the end of the series, the gallery will sponsor a raffle and provide refreshments, said manager Sarah Luisi.

Luisi said in a news release that the events were planned because the release of the poster is "the last of a tradition people love."

Hammond attributed the posters' large following not just to their discounted price, but also to the atmosphere in her gallery.

"We wanted the gallery to feel like a living room and really tried to maintain that attitude," Hammond said. She said patrons often bring family members to the gallery during the December holidays to introduce them.

After Hammond's gallery closes, she will shift to an entirely Web-based business. Hammond wanted to spend more time with family and her 6-month-old grandson.

She developed her talent growing up in upstate New York and spending many childhood summers on Murray Isle on the St. Lawrence River. She majored in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design and has spent significant time traveling the Chesapeake Bay and in the Bahamas.

The gallery's works are devoted strictly to Annapolis, the Chesapeake Bay and related topics such as sailing and regional wildlife. Merchandise available on the Internet will retain the same themes but will feature products in addition to art, Hammond said.

Despite finding galleries "the most egotistical thing in the world," Hammond was determined to find an outlet for her work.

After spending 10 years in the business, Hammond said, she learned "the art of having a business and the business of selling art."

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