Artist Sophie Sevigny Is Turning Reclaimed Nautical Rope into Chic Pieces for the Home

Lauren Wicks
·4 min read
Photo credit: Christian Anwander
Photo credit: Christian Anwander

With a sailor for a husband and a home in a charming seaside town in Connecticut, artist Sophie Sevigny is no stranger to seeing coils of nautical rope piled around her. But one day she realized the rope's full potential as a new creative medium while perusing a book on sailor's knots.

"One day, I discovered an illustration of these knotted mats [made with nautical rope] in a book and was so mesmerized," Sevigny says. "I immediately wanted to make one for myself and loved it. I got addicted to making them right away, as they felt almost meditative to work on."

Born in Austria to shopkeepers who sold beautiful home goods and educated at Central Saint Martin's in London, she worked for art galleries like Luhring Augustine and artists in New York for several years before becoming a full-time artist herself. At the time, Sevigny was still working for an art gallery, and one day, she brought in a few of her creations for a colleague who was looking for a new mat for her kitchen. It was Christmastime, and her co-workers ended up purchasing all of the pieces Sevigny brought in that day, and she knew she was onto something.

"I had to figure out how to get a lot of rope because it's very expensive, and I thought it would be great to work with reclaimed rope," says Sevigny. "My husband had his boat in a rigging place over the winter, and I noticed all this rope lying around that they just held on to after people didn't want it anymore, and I asked if could have it. It all started to become an actual business from there." Soon after, SerpentSea launched online, and it has recently been relaunched, as Sevigny now has more time to dedicate to her craft with her two sons school-aged and more independent. As her business has grown, Sevigny has also started utilizing reclaimed climbing rope as well.

Photo credit: Christian Anwander
Photo credit: Christian Anwander

Almost all of the mats Sevigny makes are one-of-a-kind because she often gets rope in small pieces and usually doesn't find the same pieces twice. She especially loves to find unique pieces of marine rope on eBay for extra-special projects. Sevigny says every rope that comes into her studio leads to a new experiment, which keeps her engaged in the craft, a necessity, as she crafts all the mats by hand herself. Each mat takes about four hours to craft and significantly longer to design.

"I like to think of the rope as an artist's palette that I can use to make these mats," Sevigny says. "Color is relative, so the way you combine the different ropes make the colors come out in different ways. It was almost like going back to art school and learning about color because I have such a limited palette with this medium, and it's all about making the most of colors I have."

Photo credit: Christian Anwander
Photo credit: Christian Anwander

When it comes to the meaning behind SerpentSea, Sevigny says a dear friend who is a branding genius came up with the logo and name one day and emailed it to her. Her friend is also Austrian, and there is a German word, schlangenmeer, that literally translates to "serpent sea," which reminded him of her studio that was full of tangled and twisted piles of rope.

SerpentSea currently offers not only versatile mats (she has heard of customers use them everywhere from in the kitchen to by the bathtub to poolside and as wall hangings), but also key rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and even bespoke needlepoint creations. And if you're not seeing just what you're looking for on the site, Sevigny says nearly half her sales are commissions. She is also hoping to launch more pieces for the home later this year and into the next, and is currently working on perfecting a prototype for a chair. She also dreams of creating stools, daybeds, and even beach baskets in the future.

"I've tried not to limit myself in doing things only one way," Sevigny says. "I really want to branch out and am very motivated. Things will always be the same though when it comes to a rotating inventory and being sustainable in stocking it."

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