Ellicott City's Cotton Duck draws attention to art with T-shirts

  • Jereme Scott changes out a t-shirt at his store, Cotton Duck Art & Apparel, in Ellicott City.
Jereme Scott changes out a t-shirt at his store, Cotton Duck… (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun…)
September 30, 2014|By Julekha Dash | For The Baltimore Sun

The Doberman sits on the edge of a bed, oblivious of the remarkable view from the floor-to-ceiling window. Modern high-rises peep out from a dense forest dotted with palm trees and shrouded in mist. Artist Jereme Scott says his painting was inspired by a 1957 photograph in National Geographic.

At 66 inches by 50 inches, “The Watcher of Suite Singapore” is the largest item on display at his store, Cotton Duck Art & Apparel, in Historic Ellicott City. The shop, which opened in March, also sells T-shirts, hoodies and tank tops Scott designed, and jewelry made by designers from the Mid-Atlantic. 

Scott, 28, studied fine arts at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and received his master’s in studio arts from Howard University. He has also worked in management at The Mall in Columbia stores Abercrombie & Fitch and Michael Kors. 

Located diagonally across the street from the Phoenix Emporium restaurant, the eclectic 200-square-foot shop seemed to Scott like a good fit for Main Street in Ellicott City.

“It was always a place in my mind that had a lot of potential. It always had the possibility of a younger vibe,” he says.

Debra Korb, executive director of the Ellicott City Historic District Partnership, says Cotton Duck and its next-door neighbor, The Good Roll Shop and Gallery, are likely to pull younger clientele to Main Street. 

“It’s a nice little anchor to that part of town,” says Korb. “We love the edge down there.”

Opening the store is a chance for Scott to showcase his work and that of other artists. He started the shop with an investment from a friend.

“I’m really just trying to make good stuff and get more work out there,” Scott says. “It was so hard for me to get my foot in the door to show at a lot of places. It seems like the way to bypass the middleman completely.”

The bet has paid off. He sold two paintings within his first four months of opening the store, compared with his average of one a year. He expects to repay his investor in three years. It helps that he has low overhead, as he designs most of the items himself.

Scott describes his style as surreal and whimsical.

“I try to create a mood,” he says. “With a lot of the larger pieces, I really try to isolate the viewer so the viewer really feels like they’re alone when they’re looking at the piece.”

At $11,100, “The Watcher” is the shop’s most expensive item. The shirts and hoodies cost between $23 and $42. 

By selling T-shirts, Cotton Duck’s most popular item, Scott says he appeals to a wider audience.

He points to a T-shirt with a playground on the front that reads “Saturday culture.” The shirt is designed to appeal to moms who spend their weekends at the playground as well as to kids who might think it’s the name of a band.

“It’s an everyday item that’s never going to go away,” Scott says of T-shirts. “It seemed like a good thing to get into.”

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