Creative Director for MacKenzie-Childs has a Vivid Imagination
Walking into the MacKenzie-Childs gift shop in Aurora, New York, is like venturing into the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
Not only can you find the company’s iconic checkerboard tea kettles, which have graced the stoves of celebrities like Oprah, the Kardashians, and Helena Bonham Carter (the Queen of Hearts herself), but there is also almost anything you can think of — serving dishes, hat boxes, umbrellas, and even furniture — all in the signature courtly check pattern. The pieces are mixed and matched with the butterfly garden, flower market, and picadilly patterns to create a visual extravaganza.
Rebecca Proctor ’84 is responsible for the two major product launches MacKenzie-Childs produces each year. As creative director, she keeps the products fresh while maintaining the company’s aesthetic.
Being a "Visionary"
Proctor said her favorite part about the job is being able to design and produce a product as well as work with every visual aspect of the business.
“I’m involved with all things visual in our brand identity, from the color of our farmhouse to the build-out of our retail stores. I manage a team of designers, and we have a good mix of seasoned professionals and shining new talent,” she said.
Prior to her role as creative director, Proctor worked closely with the founders of MacKenzie-Childs, first in sales and then as a personal assistant. Eventually she worked her way up to creative director when Pleasant Rowland, creator of the American Girl dolls, owned the company.
Over the years she has learned the culture of the company and deepened her understanding of the company’s processes.
“There is an expectation of MacKenzie-Childs that we do things that are visually stunning, that break with the ordinary, that speak to a sense of whimsy and delight, and this provides me with great opportunities to exercise my imagination,” she said.
Finding Her Way, from College to Career
While at Ithaca College, Proctor created her own major through the planned studies program, combining her interests in art, theatre, and sociology. She credits her college professors with encouraging her to develop her skills while exploring different areas during her time at college.
“I wasn’t one of those kids who showed up freshman year really knowing what I wanted to be doing,” she said. “So college for me was a place to explore different areas and really develop my abilities.”
Although Proctor did not know what career path she wanted to pursue as a college student, she said her passion for travel and lifelong learning has contributed to her work with MacKenzie-Childs.
“I’m in a field where you really need to participate with everything you’ve got, so your work really becomes a product of your accumulated experience,” she said.
Proctor’s inspiration has come from her many travels and the idea that the concept of “home” is the same to everyone everywhere she has gone. This is where her notions for new designs and products arise. She finds unique materials in various places around the world—rattan furniture in Indonesia, carpets in India, tartans in Scotland, glass in the Czech Republic—and combines them in new and interesting ways.
“I’m inspired by the way people can immerse themselves in preparing a special meal for family and friends. I’m attracted by tradition and how it provides a through-line to our past,” she said.
All of the MacKenzie-Childs designs continue to thrive under Proctor’s leadership, which she said resulted from forging good relationships with the people she has met along the way. Currently, Proctor is preparing designs for the fall 2017 collection.
“Producing collections of home furnishings to delight our customers from season to season is sort of like putting on a major theatrical production. So it’s funny — all my cumulative experience and world travel has brought me back to producing a kind of theater,” she said. “It’s almost like I’ve come back to where I started.”