Lara Björk, a talented, seasoned art consultant, has launched a new business that both kids and adults can appreciate. The Letters NYC, are a series of artful alphabet portraits, covering multiple cities, using each letter to match with an iconic, artful place/landmark within the city. Lara comes up with the letter references and visuals and her partner illustrates them, using bright colors that appeal to children of all ages. These special works of art are wonderful baby gifts and birthday gifts, and each comes with their own explanation sheet to teach your children the meaning and history behind the art. Lara has partnered with the Soho House to create a new weekend activity called “Kids House,” where children can express themselves through art and creation with her team, we are excited to try it out!
How many years have you been in business in NYC?
I have worked in the fine art world for 10 years.
How did you get your start and what was your initial inspiration?
I was looking for a super-creative, beautiful, but art-driven, baby gift for my niece and god son that was related to ABCs for each of their birthplaces, and couldn’t find one anywhere! Being an art advisor, building and managing private art collections across the globe, my friends have always asked for art suggestions for their nurseries, and it was all either too expensive, or not nursery appropriate. I came up with the letter references and visuals, met Pauline, my illustrator, who came highly recommended through a friend of mine who went to art school with her, and I launched the company.
What do you feel differentiates you from others in your field?
I love the Pixar/Dreamworks concept of having bright, engaging visuals for children, and adult appropriate content, so it’s fun and engaging for everyone. I applied the same principle to my content, and for each of the letters in the print’s alphabets. The references I used were interesting and relatable enough for both children and adults, and fun, pop culture references and facts that one may or may not have already known.
What do you feel gives you longevity in this big city with so many options?
I was raised by an artist mother and a Swedish father in an art collecting family, so we never went to Disneyland and did ‘kid things’ like that. When content is geared just towards children of a specific age group, it has an expiration date. When content is targeted towards a broader audience and age range, it remains relevant for a longer period. The prints are archival and framed with UV plexi, so the colors will stay fresh over time, and as children get older, the visuals will remain fun and relevant and not just nursery appropriate.
How do you positively impact your clientele?
It has been stated that 80% of what children learn occurs visually, which I wholeheartedly attest to, as I still remember seeing my first Alexander Calder mobile in the National Gallery when I was only 5 years old. If I can teach children about art or interesting, not-boring, facts about their surroundings, with memorable visuals and connect the dots later in life, then I feel that I have done right by my buyers.
Our partnership with Ludlow House/Soho House launched recently. We have designed a series of
bespoke coloring pages that are always available to the children at Ludlow House to entertain them. Crayons and coloring supplies are also there for them to use and enjoy.
The Letters NYC is also hosting childrens' art programming events one Saturday/Sunday a month which will be open to the members' children called ‘Kids House,’ including drawing classes, museum visits, and open art sessions.
Recently the Super of my building asked if I knew of any drawing classes in the East Village/Lower East Side for his eight year old son. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find anything that was affordable, easily accessible, and not totally intimidating, so through our partnership with Soho House, we will also be engaging and inviting the children in the surrounding community to our future Kids House events.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The Letters NYC is a wonderful creative outlet for me. I get to create something of my own versus selling the created object, outside of the professional pressure of my advisory company. As an art advisor, although constantly looking at art and using my creative side, I rarely get to exercise the ‘making’ side of my brain, so making the print with my team, who is equally as passionate about the project is really fun. Of course it has its stresses and pressures, but it’s a new kind of that for me, which I enjoy. Plus, it feels good to think that I may be growing some little art lovers just as I was!
What is your favorite secret NYC spot?
It’s not so secret, but I joke that Il Buco Alimentari is basically my kitchen.
How do you benefit mamas?
The print is educational and interesting for mommies too! Especially the Art ABC Print. In the past, before The Letters NYC was born, I gave everyone The Art Book for Children. And the response, every time, was ‘Oh! I’m so excited, now I can learn for me too!’ and that is totally it. I hope that the easily referenced visuals will educate the mommies and daddies too so that they can build their own knowledge-base and the confidence to hopefully take their children to the art museums and galleries. It’s up to the parents what their children watch and learn after all.
What is the most memorable feedback a client has given you?
See above! Each print comes with a one page, front and back, letter reference sheet with 1-3 sentences explaining each letter and visual. I love the idea of building confidence in adults so that they can carry it forward and teach their children. It’s easy to put children in front of a tv, but I hope that building confidence will encourage parents to take their kids off the screen. Knowledge builds confidence, and art can be scary if one didn’t grow up in an art loving, appreciating household.
Pay it forward and name your top colleagues in the same field or related field.
I am absolutely wild about the Mudpuppy’s ‘Little Feminists’ board book set, ‘Ab to JayZ’ book by Danny & Jessica Chiha, and Eva Chen’s ‘Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes.’ And my artist duo friends of Friends With You just made a pre-school show with Pharrell called ‘True and the Rainbow Kingdom’ on Netflix.
What is the best advice anyone's ever given you? Or what is your "mantra" / words to live by?
‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’ -Maya Angelou
‘Listen to the voice inside you and go with that.’ -Gloria Steinem
I have always been true to my path and listened to my ‘belly button,’ (aka. my gut). It’s rarely the easiest or most direct path, but it’s certainly never dull.
As moms, the day can escape us, what is your best time-saving trick?
Always have fresh ‘peelable’ and portable foods - apples, hard boiled eggs, walnuts that you can throw in your bag that won’t spoil during the day. Unpack your suitcase the moment you get home. And AMAZON PRIME.